6 floor exercises for lean legs
Our leg muscles are used all day every day. To ensure they are functioning well we must ignite all the muscles surrounding each large leg muscle group. Using the leg muscles in a purposeful way every day will improve our overall biological body. It will ensure all muscles are awakened and will maintain mobility into the ages.
Lean elongated legs are created by keeping the muscles in good function and form. Our legs and lower body are the easiest and quickest place to build lean muscle. We have over 200 muscles below the waistline, including the largest muscle in the body — our gluteus maximus. Getting off our glutes and getting that lower body moving will allow us to feel confident in our skin. Having the feeling of toned legs is so much simpler than we think, and it starts by asking more of our lower body during every movement.
Learning how to reignite the inner thighs is a question many people ask. This dormant muscle is a problem area for many alignment reasons. The often-forgotten muscle can cause knee tracking injuries which may reduce activity. The blame can not only be on this one muscle as our body fuel and genetics also regulate the types of muscle fibres we maintain, which determines our rate of injury.
Cardio alone will also not improve our leg muscles, but cardio with these exercises will ignite the dormant muscles to spark again. Walking cardio is a key component of these leg workouts and adding this daily will ensure toned legs can be attained. The key is to mix up the intensity and speed of your morning walk by adding a slight jog or run. Keep the body guessing with a trail and/or hills and add a set of stairs and steps at least once a week.
It is also vital to identify and train upon our weaker leg muscles, which are generally on the left side for many, but I encourage you to pay attention to all muscle imbalances. By feeling these muscle discrepancies, we will become more successful in our leg elongation chase. Researchers state that lunges are the ultimate body tester to assess the biological age of the body; therefore adding lunges into your daily walking life will increase your mobility. To build lean and strong legs, you need a mix of strength and power, which will also help you reach your goals faster.
Don’t forget to foam roll and stretch. Think about your leg muscles this way: when we pull our jeans from the dryer, they are hard to move around in comfortably, right? Tight muscles feel the same way. Foam rolling acts like a deep tissue massage that can help release adhesions in your muscles that may be limiting your range of motion or performance during your workouts or causing the swelling fatigue from the daily sitting and working. So “roll out the kinks” in your legs before your workout for better exercise performance and, ultimately, better results.
Do the following leg exercises at home on the floor daily, or even in the evenings. Don’t just randomly add a leg day; plan it and add it to your weekly routine.
Complete each for eight to 12 reps for a total of three or four sets. Ideally, try for two days of leg workouts each week, mixing multi-muscle compound movements (think squats and lunges). These six floor leg exercises will target the legs. Feel free to add leg weights to your ankles as you become stronger.
The hundred draw
Draw both legs into chest, hold on to legs, curl your head and chest up to a tight ball. Send legs out to a tabletop position with your knee directly above your hip and shins parallel to floor. Hold on behind thighs and actively curl up, deepening and hollowing out the abs. Hover arms right above abdominal wall and start to pump your arms up and down, taking deep breaths.
Begin on the back with hands either at the sides or underneath the gluteus for added back support. Extend legs out straight, then twist them in and out above each other, or straight up and down — either way, don’t let the legs drop to the mat as you’re working through your reps. Make sure the core is engaged and that the lower back is pressed onto your mat throughout.
Single leg circles
Begin on the back with legs extended straight out in front, and arms stretched out by the sides, with palms flat on the floor. Engage core to press low back into the floor. Extend one leg straight up with toes pointed up toward the ceiling. From here, move raised leg in large, controlled, clockwise circles, as if tracing circles in the air with the foot. Reverse the circles, moving in an anticlockwise direction. Keep your core engaged so your back stays connected to the floor. Lower your leg to the floor and repeat with the opposite leg.
Begin by lying on your back with arms extended above the head. At the same time, bring arms in towards feet, slowly lifting your head, shoulder blades and upper back off the mat. Reverse the move to get back to your starting position and repeat.
Begin by lying on back with arms by sides, legs bent at 90 degrees and feet lifted in air, so shins are parallel to floor. Hinge at the hip joint to lower left foot toward the floor without letting low back lose contact with mat. Lift leg back to start position by engaging low abdominals.
Begin on hands and knees with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Extend left arm straightforward to shoulder height while extending right leg back to hip height. Pause to check that hips and shoulders are still square to the floor. Lower back to start.
Belinda Norton is a health and fitness educator and personal trainer with 23 years’ experience. She is a published author of Fit Mama, health writer and shares her women’s wellness and body alignment expertise. Belinda is a mother of two teens, speaker and children’s health advocate. Connect with her at blivewear.com or Instagram @Belinda.n.x.