Toning your legs and booty doesn’t have to be a series of complicated & confusing movements. Nor does it require equipment. Using equipment is optional, and only includes one dumbbell or kettle bell (when you do it my way). You can stick to basic moves and still reach your goals and get the results you want.
Squats and Lunges
are two moves that will effectively target the biggest muscles in your body. Your leg muscles are dense and expansive, making them highly effective calorie burning machines. Furthermore, when you work these muscles, you are elevating your heart rate and increasing your metabolism. This will help your overall health, fitness and ability to keep fat off.
There are many different squat variations; my favorite of which is the sumo (or plie) squat. Here are some key pointers to keep in mind while you perform a sumo squat.
1. Walk each of your legs out so they are a bit wider than shoulder-width apart.
2. Point your toes away from your body at a 45 degree angle.
3. Keep your posture strong with your butt back, shoulders back and chest out.
4. Bend your knees and drop your butt down so that your knees form 90-degree angles.
5. Do not let your knees drift farther forward than your toes. (Letting that happen will encourage knee injury).
6. Drive your weight down through your heels and push your body upright.
Sumo squats target the inside of your quadriceps and your glutes a bit more than a traditional squat does. Refer to the above picture for depictions of the correct form. Proper form is crucial in effectively engaging all prime movers (muscles) as well as preventing injury.
As pictured, you can add weight to this move to make it a full body workout. Driving weight above your head in combination with the sumo squat move will engage and tone your shoulders. Making the move an explosive jumping motion is another way to exhaust those muscles for a quick, challenging workout (while also engaging your calf muscles). If you fancy yoga, you can hold this pose with weight (as pictured) and will feel the same burn!
Lunges are an absolute powerhouse move for toning the back of your legs and glutes. They also happen to be one of my favorite exercises. I love the added challenge of balance, especially when using weight. Just like in performing squats, there are some key pointers to keep in mind when lunging:
1. From a standing upright position, take a large step forward with one of your legs.
2. Bend & drop your back knee so that it touches (or comes very close) to kissing the ground.
3. Like in performing squats, do not let your knee exceed your toe.
4. Make sure you are maintaining a strong posture through the duration of the movement. Keep your shoulders back, butt back and chest out. As you fatigue, you will be tempted to lower your torso each time you drive your leg down. Challenge yourself to keep your torso perpendicular to the ground the entire time.
5. Drive your weight down through the heel of your front leg, push your body back to an upright standing position.
Refer to the above picture for depictions of lunge form.
Something that applies to both squats and lunges: when you are driving your weight back up, the part of your foot that you are driving weight down into will target different muscles in your legs. For example, if you drive your weight down through your toes in performing a squat, you will feel your quadriceps (the front of your thigh) engaged, whereas if you drive your weight down through your heels, your hamstrings and glutes will be more engaged. I generally recommend pushing your weight down through your heels (as I love a great booty workout) but it also tends to keep your center of gravity more controlled and keeps you more stable. I urge you to experiment with both!
Add weight! Adding weight ups the challenge, which makes you stronger, which makes you leaner, etc. You can also incorporate a trunk twist mid-lunge to challenge your core and engage your oblique muscles. To take it up another notch, try lunge jumps. In a lunge jump, you are propelling your body into the air each time you drive that front heel down. In other words, you are jumping up from a lunge position and landing with the opposite leg in front of you. This will incorporate your calf muscles and elevate your overall heart rate in a hurry. Like with merely any exercise, you can morph a lunge into a yoga move by holding this lunge pose for as long as you can. You will work the same muscles, while also improving muscular endurance and overall balance & flexibility.
Happy squatting & happy lunging–challenge yourself to get your patootie firmed up for summer time!