In part one of this two-part series, we discussed and described some simple exercises that can help to tighten and tone your legs, giving you those long, slim legs you’ve wanted for oh so long. Here in part two, we’ll talk about more simple exercises for you to try out, and soon enough you’ll have legs that will turn everyone green with envy.
Single Leg Circles
Previously we talked about thigh kicks, where you prop yourself up on one leg and swing the other leg forcefully from side to side. That move works your quads and adductor muscles, and now, single leg circles will do the same with the added bonus of working on your abs.
To start, you’ll want to stand straight up, rest your weight on your left foot, and stick your right leg out straight in front of you — make sure your knees are not bent. With the toes on your right foot pointed straight, rotate your right leg in a clockwise direction — this will keep your leg muscles engaged. Repeat this circular motion 10 times, then switch legs and repeat the same with your left leg. All this while, you should keep your back as straight as possible, and the effort you use to stay straight will work your core, which can help to tone your abs at the same time.
If you find this difficult, especially the part where you need to balance yourself, you can hold on to a wall or chair to start with. However, this won’t work your core as your weight is supported using your hands.
Pliés are quite similar to squats, in the sense that your knees will be bent and your thighs will be slightly parallel to the floor. Where they differ is the range of movement — with squats, you’re basically in a fairly static position and moving your body down with your butt out, and this focuses on working your glutes. With plié squats, the movement mainly focuses on working your adductors, or the muscles in your inner thigh, as well as your quads and calves.
The starting position is different too — instead of keeping your legs shoulder-width apart and pointing forward, stick them out wider than your hip-width and point your toes at 45-degree angles away from your body. Your upper body remains straight with your shoulders relaxed. Instead of sticking your butt out and down like a squat, bend your knees and bring your upper body down straight. You can use your arms to push your knees back — this will let you feel your thigh rotating and working the muscles. Otherwise, keep your arms up and parallel to the ground to help you balance as you move up and down.
Repeat this movement for a full minute, and that counts as one set. Try for at least 2 or 3 sets and you’ll be feeling the burn on your inner thighs. If you want more of a challenge, lift yourself up and balance on your toes instead of having your feet flat on the ground. Your calves will benefit from this.
Yet another great exercise for your lower body is lunges. It tones the whole lower body, including your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and even your core. Lunges are also easy to do anywhere and you won’t need equipment for basic lunges.
The basic lunge starts off with you putting one leg in front of the other. The upper body is kept straight and your hands should be by the side. Keep your body weight focused on the leg in front, then slowly lower yourself by bending the knee of the leg behind till it is almost touching the ground. Hold it there for a second or two before standing back up to the start position. That counts as 1 rep for one leg — you should do 2 sets of 10 reps per leg.
For advanced users who want to get more out of their lunges, try jumping alternating lunges. When you’re in the lunge position, launch yourself up into a jump and switch legs in mid-air, before landing and immediately lowering yourself back into the lunge position, then repeat the whole process.
Standing Forward Bends
If you prefer less aerobic activities, certain stretches can help to tone your thigh muscles too. Performing a standing forward bend trains your quads, hamstrings, abs and glutes, but it also helps with your balance and flexibility.
You’ll need to be standing straight with your feet together. Tense up your core and keep your hands on your waist. Take a nice, long breath in and bend your upper body forward and down slowly. All this while, your legs should remain as straight as possible if you want this exercise to be effective. When you’re bent as far down as you can go, keep your hands on your shin and bring your head as close to your legs as you can — it might be difficult for first-timers, but if you continue to practice, you should get it eventually. Hold that position for 2 seconds then slowly raise your body back to the starting position. Repeat for 5 reps and you should be feeling the burn on your legs.
If you find this too difficult, you may choose to keep your feet apart at shoulder-width, and this should help you to maintain balance.