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Get Trim Toned Legs with These Moves

July 23, 2014
by Staci Amend

Having strong legs isn’t just about looking great in shorts—although that certainly doesn’t hurt! Your legs contain some of the largest muscle groups in the body, and healthy muscle mass is key to the fat-burning mechanisms in your metabolism. In short: the stronger you are, the more likely you are to maintain a healthy weight. These four all-level moves target the hips, thighs, calves and glutes. If you find that this regimen becomes too easy, simply add five repetitions to each set.

1. Horse-ups
Start with your feet planted firmly, slightly wider than your hips. Turn your toes out at a 45-degree angle, with your knees tracking directly over your toes; try to avoid letting your knees collapse inward. Bend your knees deeply, keeping your shins perpendicular to the ground. This will protect you from knee injuries. Then, keeping your back straight, raise your arms to a “cactus” position, bent at the elbow. Hold for 30 seconds, then pulse ONLY your heels and up and down for another 30 seconds.

2. Bridge-ups
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms down at your sides, flat against the floor. You should be able to almost touch your heels. Place your feet about six inches apart, with your toes and knees pointing forward. Engage your abdominal muscles, tighten your glutes, push down through your heels and lift your hips to full extension. Make sure you tuck your pelvis forward a bit to avoid creating pressure in the lower back. Start with two sets of 15 repetitions; increase as needed.

3. Squats
Even the most advanced weight machine will have a hard time improving upon the simple brilliance of the squat—it’s one of the best body-shapers nature has ever created! Start with your feet a bit wider than hip-distance apart, with your toes pointing straight forward. Keeping your spine straight and your abdominal muscles engaged, sit back into a deep knee bend. Take care not to let your knees splay outward or collapse inward. Keep your heels on the ground, and try to keep your shoulders aligned with your hips. Start with two sets of 15 repetitions and increase as needed.

4. Lunges
Lunges are another all-around leg-toning exercise, with bonus points for creating stability in the hips and core. Start with your feet planted firmly at hip width. Step forward into a deep knee bend, taking care to keep your shins perpendicular to the ground. Your hips should point straight forward, and your shoulders should be aligned with your hips to maintain a straight spine. Your back knee should be 3–6 inches above the ground. To return to the starting position, push through the front heel and bring the foot back so that you’re standing upright again, with your feet hip-width apart. Repeat with the other leg, doing two sets of 10 repetitions.

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