I am often asked how to tone a specific part of the body. I almost always say the same thing: Do squats and lunges. “But I want to tone my tummy.” Do squats and lunges. “I want better arms.” Squats and lunges. Really?
As with most “quickie” fitness tips, I am oversimplifying. But I cannot stress enough the value of strength training the lower body to produce most of the benefits people are looking for. So, while the following workout will be filed and tagged as a “butt workout,” know that by faithfully performing leg workouts 2-3 times per week, you are burning more overall calories than by just doing sustained cardio and upper body or some combination thereof. You are also setting up your body to build lean tissue (muscle) where it is best able to do so: below the waist, where it carries 60% of its overall mass. Increased lean tissue equals increased metabolism which, combined with a proper eating plan, will lead to burning body fat all over, including those trouble spots.
Today I’ll give you 3 basic exercises that target the major muscles of the lower body: quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals. Perform these leg exercises 2-3 times per week.
With your feet shoulder width apart, toes pointing straight ahead and arms extended straight in front of your shoulders, lower your body by bending your knees, hips and ankles. Get as low as you can without the heels coming off the floor or leaning forward excessively. Thighs parallel to the ground is a good guide but you may go lower if your flexibility allows. Just don’t “bottom out” by sitting on your heels. Go slow and controlled on the way down, and a little quicker on the way up and be sure to squeeze the quadriceps and glutes at the very top of the movement. Be sure to pause 1 second at the bottom. 3 sets of 12-15 reps. If your body weight is not challenging enough, hold dumbbells at your side or a barbell across your traps/ upper back to add resistance.
Start with your feet in squat position, shoulder width apart. Take an easy step backward with one foot and get the back heel off the floor. An excessively long stance on this exercise is counterproductive. Shift all of your weight onto the front foot and use the back leg simply to balance. Lower your body onto your front foot by bending your front knee, hip, and ankle. Pause 1 second at the bottom and return to the top a bit faster than you went down. Slow on the way down, pause 1 second, and “exert” the way up to the top of the movement remembering to fully extend the knee at the very top, fully engaging the quads and glutes. Do both legs for 3 sets of 12-15 reps. Add weight by holding dumbbells at your side or barbell across your traps / upper back.
Stiff Legged Deadlift
Hold a barbell or dumbbells with an overhand grip in front of your thighs. This exercise can be done with no weight, but holding something (even if it’s very light) actually makes the exercise easier. Bend forward at the waist. The back is to stay flat, the spine extended. You will feel the hamstrings stretch as you go down. Get as much hamstring length as possible without bending the lower back. Pause 1 second at the bottom of this movement, extend the hips and return to the starting point using only the hamstrings and glutes to perform this action. Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
Dale Dymokoski is a leading fitness expert and celebrity trainer. Be sure to check out Dale Dymkoski’s blog, Changing Bodies,where you can find tons more fitness and nutrition tips!