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Strengthening Your Legs: Trainer-Endorsed Tips

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  • Post last modified:September 26, 2023

Your lower extremities are the simplest and fastest place to establish slender muscle. You possess more than 200 muscles beneath your waistline, including the largest muscle in your body — the posterior muscles. So rise from your posterior and get your lower body in motion with everything you do. Ready to achieve robust, lean legs? Just understand one thing beforehand: deliberate exercise and nutritious food choices aid in developing strength and lean muscle while reducing body adipose tissue to grant you robust legs.

Does that make sense? Yes. Still prepared to invest effort? Absolutely! Here are 30 tips approved by trainers to fortify your legs, construct lean muscle, and genuinely define your hard-earned lower body expeditiously.

Establish Leg Day Every Day

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Although you can perform a variety of exercises to obtain robust, lean legs, it’s much easier than that. Simply begin demanding more from your lower body during each movement. For instance, balance on one leg while performing shoulder presses or perform squats during biceps curls.

The more you exercise your lower half, the quicker you’ll observe outcomes. Equally imperative? Executing the movements accurately. So prior to lowering your posterior, acquaint yourself with the correct technique for squats to optimize the benefits of your exercises (hint: relax!).

Challenge Your Core

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You’ve probably heard numerous times about core training and the significance of core strength, but were you aware that it’s impossible to target your midsection without also engaging your legs?

Forget about mundane crunches and hasten your progress with core training such as this incredibly difficult obliques workout or the 30-Day Plank Challenge created by Kira Stokes.

Attend to Muscle Imbalances

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“Begin by working your weaker side first — which for many individuals is the left side,” suggests Michele Olson, Ph.D., the creator of the Perfect Legs, Glutes & Abs DVD.

When you are new, you utilize superior form and tend to execute additional repetitions.

Master the Ballerina Lunge

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Lunges are among the finest exercises to fortify your lower limbs, but this lunge inspired by ballet will shape those legs in a significantly shorter duration, asserts Laurie Alfano, education director for Xtend Barre.

  1. Position one leg forward and one leg backward, ensuring that both heels are touching the ground
  2. Elevate both heels off the floor and subsequently perform the lunge
  3. Execute 10 minor surges (raising and lowering a few inches in each direction)
  4. Switch legs

Remember to maintain an upright chest and engaged core. If you require additional stability, grasp a ballet barre or chair. “This compact stance lunge performed ‘en releve’ (on the balls of the feet) will target the thighs, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.”

Incorporate Explosive Movements into Your Training

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If your aim is to develop robust and slender legs, “elevate yourself from the ground and witness your outcomes soar,” suggests Alex Figueroa, an independent fitness specialist. Figueroa recommends elevating your typical leg regimen by incorporating plyometric (or power) exercises such as squat jumps or single leg lateral ski hops.

“First, become proficient with proper form through an impeccably executed squat, and then ascend, both literally and metaphorically, to the plyometric variation of virtually any leg exercise.” And if the childlike amusement of leaping upwards and downwards hasn’t convinced you, power plyometrics will facilitate quicker firming.

Fuse Strength and Power

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“To cultivate lean and powerful legs, you require a blend of strength and power, which will also expedite calorie burning,” remarks Marta Montenegro, an exercise physiologist based in Miami, Florida.

  1. “Execute lunges in a circular motion, starting at 6 o’clock and concluding at 10 o’clock (which entails a side lunge)
  2. Perform 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions
  3. Immediately afterwards, engage in split jumps (without weights, alternating the leg position upon landing for 15 counts) to maximally activate all muscle fibers.”

(On that note…did you know that Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) workouts can assist you in recruiting more muscle fibers too?)

Cover More Ground with Your Cardiovascular Exercise

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Either love it or loathe it, cardiovascular exercise is a fundamental element of a workout routine — irrespective of whether your aim is toned legs or not. While High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been dominating the scene for quite some time now, you should not completely disregard steady-state cardiovascular exercise. Steady-state aerobic activity maintains a continuous, unchanging effort (unlike interval training) for a prolonged period (30-60 minutes). It is an excellent way to keep your blood flowing on rest days and also serves as an effective cooldown after training, as it aids in the regeneration and conditioning of muscles.

Think you’ll become bored with all that unwavering constancy? Incorporate more of an incline on the treadmill or exercise bike. Walking or jogging on an uphill slope while still maintaining a moderate level of intensity will strengthen your glutes and hamstrings in a way that a gentle jog on a flat surface won’t.

Give the Rear Side of Your Legs the Intense Workout

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It is time to bid farewell to the term “cellulite.” Not only is it completely natural, but it is also inconsequential. However, if you do wish to address the appearance of cellulite, “ensure to strategically develop muscle,” as Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., author and retired chair of exercise science at Quincy College in Quincy, Massachusetts, previously stated to Shape.

Exercises that target the back of your legs — focusing on your hamstrings, glutes, and abductors — work wonders for this. More specifically? Deadlifts, ladies, deadlifts.

Ditch the Weighted Anklets

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Before you fasten those weighted anklets in hopes of strengthening your thighs and achieving leaner legs, take into consideration this important fact: if not used correctly, they can potentially put excessive stress on your ankles, knees, and hip joints, and strain your ligaments.

If you do choose to utilize them, make sure you are fully familiar with the proper way to use weighted anklets in order to enjoy the advantages (hint: keep the weight light).

Or you can exchange your ankle weights for a weighted vest or walking poles — both of which focus the additional weight where your body can sustain it more effectively and achieve a commendable result in increasing the intensity of your walks.

Vary Your Commute

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Accelerate your results, save money, and contribute to the environment by using your legs to commute to work. If you reside in close proximity, you can stroll, jog, skate, or cycle.

A convenient 30-minute ‘active’ journey to and from work on a daily basis has the potential to accumulate additional calories burned and provide more time for exercising your legs. Furthermore, you’ll arrive at your workplace with endorphins coursing through your body. It’s truly an extraordinary approach to kick-start your day.

Cease Attempting to Target Reduction

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Regrettably, I must bear the unpleasant news that spot-reducing is unachievable in your endeavors to enhance the leanness and strength of your legs. However, you can endeavor to cultivate lean muscle in a focused region — in addition to, naturally, nourishing your plate with nutritious foods.

Therefore, on the next occasion that you find yourself gravitating towards, let’s say, the thigh master at the gym, switch things up with exercises that strengthen your inner thighs, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and core, as well.

Do Not Neglect Your Dietary Intake

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Even the most exemplary workout routine cannot compensate for subpar eating habits. Make sure to complement your efforts at the gym with nourishing, well-balanced meals that provide an adequate amount of calories for weight loss (or maintenance or gain), depending on your objective.

Consume whole, unprocessed foods and hydrate abundantly to ensure your body obtains the necessary nutrients for sustained energy and optimal performance during your training sessions.

Reevaluate the Gym Machinery

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For the most part, those weight machines at the gym may appear impressive, but you can achieve a more efficient workout with functional training and free weights. By performing a side lunge rather than utilizing an isolation equipment piece like the adductor machine, you will burn more calories and engage multiple muscles simultaneously.

“Engaging in a side lunge requires a significant amount of balance and stability, thus resulting in increased exertion by the adductors (or inner thigh muscles). In addition to fortifying the ligaments of the knee, all the other muscles in the legs are also being stimulated — quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

The greater number of muscles being engaged, the higher amount of energy being expended, resulting in more slender, more robust lower limbs at an accelerated pace

proclaims Dominic Lucibello, a knowledgeable specialist in strength and conditioning, and proprietor of Breakthrough Fitness situated in Orlando, Florida.

Protect your knee joints by being mindful of your movements and exercises. This can help prevent injury and maintain their health in the long run. Make sure to warm up before any physical activity and listen to your body’s cues when it comes to pain or discomfort. Additionally, incorporating exercises that strengthen the muscles around the knees, such as leg presses or squats, can provide added support. Remember, taking care of your knees now will benefit you in the future.

Knee discomfort is one of the most prevalent injuries that can sideline you from a satisfactory leg workout. “Aerobic exercise decreases inflammation, thereby reducing discomfort, and resistance training will aid in supporting the knees and the muscles surrounding them,” says Holland.

Just make sure to properly care for your knees and prevent injury by engaging in exercises with correct form, and utilize proper running technique if you are a runner.

Stand up more frequently throughout your day in order to not only engage your legs more, but also to potentially shrink your waistline and enhance your health (consider lower levels of blood sugar and unfavorable cholesterol).

Strive to stand for at least 15 minutes per hour while at work for the most effective outcomes. However, after years of sitting, accomplishing this might be easier said than done. So, think about investing in a standing desk or establishing an ergonomic home office environment.

Foam roll your legs to alleviate tightness. Think of it as a deep tissue massage that can assist in releasing adhesions in your muscles that may restrict your range of motion or performance during exercise. Iron out the knots in your legs prior to your workout for improved exercise performance and ultimately, better results.

Opt for high-intensity interval training (HIIT) instead of spending hours on the elliptical. “Intervals, brief bursts of maximum effort cardio followed by rest periods, combined with resistance training, will boost your calorie burn rate, aid in burning fat, and increase lean muscle to provide you with the tone and definition you desire,” says Geoff Bagshaw, area group fitness manager and instructor for Equinox in Vancouver.

No equipment? Not a problem.

That’s correct: By utilizing your body weight, you can acquire a formidable HIIT exercise at any moment, in any location.

, explains Bagshaw. “To maximize muscle growth and strength, incorporate exercises that challenge your muscles through their full range of motion. This can include exercises like deep squats, Romanian deadlifts, and overhead presses.”

Prioritize Compound Movements

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“When it comes to leg training, compound movements should be your go-to,” says Bagshaw. “Compound exercises involve multiple muscle groups and joints, allowing you to lift heavier weights and stimulate more muscle fibers. Some examples of compound leg exercises include squats, deadlifts, and lunges.”

Don’t Neglect Single-Leg Exercises

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“While compound exercises are great, it’s also important to include single-leg exercises in your leg training,” advises Bagshaw. “These exercises help to improve balance, stability, and unilateral strength. Examples of single-leg exercises include split squats, step-ups, and single-leg deadlifts.

Attempt to finish one iteration with merely 25 percent Range of Motion (ROM), one iteration with 50 percent ROM, one iteration with 75 percent ROM, and one collection with complete ROM. Fluctuate these scope of movements unpredictably within each collection,” advises Dolgan.

Not only can they assist you in overcoming a fitness plateau, but half or incomplete repetitions like these can also enhance your technique and aid in recovery from an injury.

Diversify Your ‘Pushing Speed’

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“The descending speed should always be moderately slow; however, altering the velocities of your pushing phase will assist you in mimicking real-life scenarios,” explains Dolgan. “Try one repetition slowly, one at a moderate pace, and one explosively fast.

Integrate different speeds randomly into your pushing phase.” This is an excellent method to incorporate power training into your strength training regimen and accelerate your results.

Extend Your Legs

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… and you’ll elongate your results. “Research has indicated that stretching can aid in reducing muscle soreness, addressing imbalances, and even maintaining strength when resistance training is not feasible,” says Richey.

“The ultimate goal is that with reduced soreness and fewer imbalances, you can continue exercising those legs and expedite your results.”

Activate Your Glutes Correctly

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“Squats are an outstanding lower body exercise, but only if your glutes are fully engaged,” says Richey. “Here’s a fantastic tip to ensure that your buttocks are being challenged during squats: Perform a set of lying glute bridges before your squats to activate your posterior muscles. (Make sure to concentrate on squeezing your rear end during the bridge).”

Once your glutes are fully ‘activated,’ proceed with your set of squats for twice the results!

‘Pre-Exhaust’ Weaker Muscles

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Fatigue your more powerful leg muscles with an isolated exercise prior to utilizing the legs in a compound movement (one that involves the legs as a whole) to help strengthen the less developed muscles in your legs, according to Adam Wegner, a certified personal trainer.

Say Goodbye to ‘Toning Shoes’ and Give This a Try Instead

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If they’re not already stored in the back of your closet, discard any toning shoes back there. Then, to add an extra challenge and ignite the stabilizing muscles in your lower body in a safer, natural, and efficient manner, attempt walking on an uneven surface such as sand at the beach.

Reside close to the mountains? Opt for a energetic hike or truly step it up by opting for a trail run.

Thanks for your input!