Want stronger, leaner legs? Getting them isn’t complicated. It just takes some dedication! The following simple workout incorporates body-weight and machine exercises that help sculpt and strengthen the major muscle groups of the legs. This combination helps reduce fat and increase strength without making muscles get big and bulky.
Your goal should be to incorporate higher reps, moderate loads and functional movement. Frequency is important too. Try to get in five to six sessions per week. Add in cardio to lose more fat, build more strength and retain lean mass.
Secrets to Strong, Lean Legs
In general, using heavy weights, low reps and working to the point of fatigue will encourage muscles to get stronger – but also bigger. By working with moderate weights, higher reps and lower intensity, your legs will get stronger while staying long and lean. Functional movements that work along a connected sequence of major joints, known as a kinetic chain, help keep muscles elongated. For example, an exercise that isolates your calf muscles, such as calf raises, helps them grow larger. A functional exercise that connects your hips, knees and ankles, such as walking lunges, strengthens your calves, quads, hamstrings and glutes without bulking them up.
Start with your feet about shoulder width apart. Step forward and drop into a lunge by bending your front and back legs. Drop down until your back knee is one to two inches from the floor. Keep your chest upright and don’t bend forward at the waist. Keep your body weight back so your front knee doesn’t come forward past your toes. Stand up by pushing up from your front heel, bring your back leg forward and drop into another lunge. Walk across the floor for 30 lunges. Need more intensity? Try jumping lunges, which involve jumping up from a lunge stance, switching your front and back feet midair and landing back in a lunge.
Cable Hip Adductor
This exercise requires an ankle cuff attached to the low pulley on a standard cable machine. Choose a moderate weight; five to ten pounds is a good starting point. Stand to one side of the pulley with your right ankle closest to the machine. Place the cuff on your right ankle so the cable is pulling away from you toward the right. Step out with your left foot into a wide stance, a little over two feet wide. Plant your left leg and move your right leg toward your left leg, pulling against the cable with your inner thigh muscles. Repeat 20 times and switch sides, putting the cuff on the left ankle and pulling toward the right leg.
Cable Hip Abductor
Stand beside the pulley with your feet about shoulder width apart and your right ankle closest to the machine. Place the cuff on your left ankle with the cable crossing in front of you and toward the right. Plant your right leg and move your left leg away from it, pulling against the cable with your outer thigh muscles and glutes. Repeat 20 times and switch sides, putting the cuff on the right ankle and pulling away from the right leg.
Repeat this set three times: walking lunges, hip adductor, hip abductor.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Take a wide step sideways onto your right foot, bend your right leg and reach down with your left hand to touch your right foot. You should be bent over and twisted at the waist, with your right arm pointing up toward the ceiling. From this position, take a wide step sideways onto your left foot and reach down with your right hand and up with your left arm. Picture yourself as a speed skater, using your arms to push off as you “skate” from side to side. “Skate” through 30 strokes. Make this drill more difficult by holding a five-pound dumbbell in each hand while doing it.
Cable Hamstring Extension
As with the hip adductor and abductor exercises, this one uses a cable machine with a low pulley. Try this one with 10 pounds to start. Stand facing the pulley with an ankle cuff around your right ankle. Raise your right leg up and back as far as possible, keeping the knee straight. Keep your core tight and don’t arch your back. Bring your right leg back, so it’s even with your left foot and repeat for 20 reps. Switch to the left leg for 20 reps.
Repeat this set three times: ice skaters, hamstring extension.