As the weather starts to improve and the sun has finally decided to join us, thoughts turn to a change in clothing -hanging up your coat and finding those shorts at the bottom of the draw!
If you are anything like me you will be looking at your untoned, pale legs and wondering if you are ready for the shorts yet! 🙂 But with some effort in the gym and in the kitchen, let’s get those legs ‘summer ready’! Below are my top 5 leg exercises that not only work really well at toning but don’t require a huge gym with loads of funky machines. To help further, I have demonstrated these exercises on my Instagram account as well:
- The squat – an absolute classic! Ideally with some weight. If you don’t have access to weights at all, then it will be volume for you! Lots of reps with less or no weights will still work your muscles well. Try tempo work as well to change it up and keep your muscles guessing! I love a 3-0-1-0 tempo – Slow on the way down and faster on the way up.
- The lunge – I quite like keeping this exercise moving, so if you walk your lunges forward, this tests your balance a little more as well and you can add to your steps at the same time 😉 Adding any weight to your forward lunges as well does make this more challenging still, either two weights either side or holding one weight to your chest.
- Bulgarian split squat – this move is a variant of the two exercises above. Find a piece of furniture that is no higher than a dining room chair to rest your back foot on. Jump your front foot away from the chair, creating a ‘split’ in your legs. Bending both knees, lunge down towards the floor creating pressure on your front quad and back hip flexor. A good level of balance is required for this move as well – if you are wobbling, use the wall or another chair to assist.
- Straight leg deadlifts – Looking at the hamstrings now, ideally you do need to add some weight to a SLD to feel the full benefits but even if you don’t have anything, this is still a well-needed stretch for the back of your legs. Make sure to keep your legs straight but unlocked and your back straight. Push your bum back so your weight comes down, not out, and keep this move fairly slow to get a full stretch at the bottom of this move.
- Inner thigh squat – the adductor muscles are smaller muscles than the quads and the hamstrings, and are more difficult to work in daily movement. Similar to the bulgarian split squat but to the side instead, place one foot on your chair and keep this leg straight. Pushing your bum backwards and bending the leg you are standing on, holding onto weight if you have it. You will feel this on the inside of the straight leg.
A note on Knee injuries:
If you suffer from any kind of knee injury, then some of the above will need some adaptation. For example, with your squat, keep your weight back as far as you can by sitting backwards and to a bench to help with taking pressure off the front and sending it towards your glutes instead. Please see your PT for any adaptations you will personally need for your leg exercises.
You can’t out-run a bad diet:
I can’t emphasis enough though that if you work hard in the gym but eat really poorly, your system is never going to work as efficiently and your results will be much slower. Make sure you are eating; a balanced diet with plenty of fresh veg in a variety of colours, a good level of protein (if you are working out more than usual then increase your protein levels) and enough carbs to keep your energy levels up. Keep your meals as varied as you can so you don’t get bored with what you are eating and ensure you are in a small calorie deficit if you are looking to lose weight at a steady pace.
Looking forward to seeing those toned ‘pins’ out in your shorts soon!