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Lunges can add definition to your legs.
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Strong, well-defined legs look good, prevent injuries and can enhance your athletic performance. Targeted exercises can help tone and firm your legs, and don't require fancy equipment. These exercises work the large muscles in your body, also giving your metabolism a boost. Perform them as part of your strength-training routine on nonconsecutive days.
Must-Do Squat Varieties
The squat is a functional, compound exercise: It mimics daily living activities and works multiple muscles and joints simultaneously. Squats mainly target your quadriceps and also engage your hamstrings, calves, glutes and core. During a squat, you bend your knees, push your hips back and lower down as if you're sitting on a chair. Your core is engaged and your knees stay above your feet. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, return to an upright stance. For variety or a challenge, you can perform wall squats with a stability ball, squat while holding dumbbells in your hands, perform front squats with a barbell bar placed across the front of your shoulders in front of your neck, or do back squats with a barbell bar placed on your upper shoulders behind your neck.
Lunge to Sculpt Your Legs
Just like squats, lunges target the muscles in your thighs, calves and buttocks. During basic lunges, you step into a split stance and come up on the toes of your rear foot. Then you lower your hips as you bend your knees 90 degrees and push yourself back to an upright stance. You then step forward with your other foot. Lunges with dumbbells, walking lunges, curtsy lunges, lunges with one foot on a platform in front of behind you, reverse lunges and side lunges can add variety to your routine.
Adduction and Abduction Exercises
You can target your inner and outer thighs with adduction and abduction exercises performed while lying on your side on the floor. To work your adductors, or your inner thighs, you place your lower leg slightly in front of your top leg. Then raise it up as high as you can and lower it back down. After one set, switch sides and repeat the exercise with your other leg. To work your abductors, or outer thighs, stack your feet and hips while lying on your side and raise your top leg. When it reaches a 45-degree-angle, lower it. After one set, switch sides. To make these exercises more challenging, wear ankle weights or tie a resistance band around your ankles.
Define Your Calves
In addition to your thighs, working your lower legs is essential to achieve a well-proportioned muscle balance. The calf raise is a deceptively easy-looking exercise that effectively works the gastrocnemius, the muscle that makes up the largest part of the back of your lower leg. During calf raises, you stand with the balls of your feet on a bench so your heels hang off the edge. Then lower your heels as much as you can before raising them as high as you can. Hold a wall for balance. For an added challenge, hold a dumbbell in your hand or do the exercise with one foot at a time.
Put Safety First
Before engaging in thigh and leg exercises, perform five to 10 minutes of low-intensity cardio to warm up your body. At least twice a week, finish two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions of each leg exercise. The exercises should be challenging enough so the last two reps of each set are hard to finish. If you're new to exercise, see your doctor beforehand to ensure that your exercise routine is appropriate for your physical condition. Also consider hiring a trainer to teach you perfect form.