Summer is just around the corner and that means it’s almost time for shorts and skirts. After a long, cold winter aren’t you tired of wearing long pants and floor length skirts? Summer makes us want to run free and that means the hot and heavy clothes are out! But… is there something holding you back from feeling awesome in a sundress?
To strengthen and tone your legs plus gain the confidence to show them off, you’ll need to learn abut your leg muscles and which exercises are effective at targeting them.
Let’s take a look at the upper and lower legs:
There are two major muscle groups in the upper leg, they are the Quadriceps and the Hamstrings.
The Quadriceps are the muscles located on the front of your thighs. Their main function is knee extension, the movement that straightens the legs.
The Hamstrings are the muscles located on the back of your thighs and their main function is knee flexion. Knee flexion is the movement that brings the heel up towards the buttocks.
The two major muscles in your lower legs are the calf muscles which include the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, and the dorsiflexors.
The gastrocnemius and soleus, otherwise known as the calf muscles are located on the back of your lower legs. They are involved in plantar flexion, which allows us to extend our ankles and point our toes.
The dorsiflexors are located on the front of your lower legs and are primarily used for dorsiflexion, the movement in which you bring your toes up toward your shins. When someone says they have “shin splints”, it is the dorsiflexors that are affected.
Here are a couple moves to strengthen and tone both upper and lower legs
Pendulum Lunges: This is one of my all time favorite moves for strengthening the legs and also developing core strength and dynamic balance.
Stand with the feet hip width apart. Take a big step back with your left leg, bending your right knee so your right thigh is parallel to the floor (keeping your right knee behind your toes) and your left thigh is perpendicular to the floor (backward lunge). Exhale, and pressing with your right foot swing the left leg back up and in front of you into a forward lunge so your left thigh is parallel to the floor and your right thigh is perpendicular.
That is the technical way saying that the stationary foot will not move and the “swing leg” will alternate between forward and backward lunges. Do a full set of 8 to 12 reps on each leg.
Plie’ Hops: A heart pounding, fat burning, plyrometric move for chiseled legs.
Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, with your feet turned out and knees slightly bent. Place your hands on your hips. Lower your hips so that your knees bend to about 45 degrees.
I like to do Plie’ Hops in a four count. While counting in your head, do 3 deep plie squats and add in the hop as you come up from the 3rd squat. In one explosive movement, push from your feet to straighten your legs and hop into the air. Both feet should come off the ground. The 4th count will be the squat that results from the landing of the hop. Repeat.
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