Who hasn’t dreamed of a more defined lower body? Who has seen the results they would be ecstatic to have but were unable to achieve them because they were at a standstill on what workouts would yield results? Let’s start out with leg workouts for women. We’ll cover different methods to achieve the lower body you’ve been waiting for with easy to follow, fool proof steps.
Circuit Training – Be Ready for the Burn!
We have all seen someone performing a circuit; whether it was in high school gym class or training in the gym. Why do we see it so often? Easy- because of the countless benefits, especially when it comes to defining your lower body.
Circuit training is an amazing way to sculpt your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and calves. Circuit training has countless benefits while in the gym:
- Increases heart rate
- Improves blood flow
- Increases perspiration
- Increases flexibility
- Keeps you engaged
- Great for beginners and pros
- As challenging as you make it
- Fast paced
The list goes on and on and on!!
Let’s talk about how to build the best circuit for legs. We want it to include:
- A body weight exercise
- A jumping exercise
- A weighted exercise
It’s time to talk about what each of these exactly means; so here goes!
Body weight exercise– an exercise where you only use your own body weight to perform it. Examples include lunges, squats, single leg squats, leg kick backs, calf raises (have your toes on a flat weight plate with your heels hanging off) and much more. These exercises encompass basically anything that contracts your muscles without using weight.
Jumping exercises include anything where you are in a bent knee formation (lunges, squats, etc) and you jump out of it so your feet come off of the ground. You can either land in the same position or a different one- or on a completely different surface- like a bench. These are similar to some body weight exercises but you add in an explosion from the bottom to really intensify and maximize the contraction of your muscles.
When you add in an object that you are holding- dumbbells, barbell, kettle bell, or even gallons of milk at home, you are now performing a weighted exercise. There are numerous variations to this type of exercise as well, weighted squats/lunges/bench step-ups/deadlifts etc.
You will begin to notice that many exercises are repeated in each type of exercise- that is the fun part! There are variations to each and everything we perform.
Building Your Own Circuit
To build the perfect circuit takes a little creativity and you are the one that calls the shots! You will take an exercise from each group listed above(body weight, jumping, weighted) and place them together- in total you will have three exercises.
The next step is to gather the equipment needed for all exercises and place it in an area that will allow you to move from on exercise to the next easily. If I chose body weight squats, bench/box jumps and weighted lunges, I would need to gather all equipment and put in a place so I was not walking all over the gym, or my house to gather supplies mid-workout.
Body weight squats- beautiful! Just me!
Bench/box jumps- I need the bench/box I will be jumping on
Weighted lunges- let’s say I am in the gym performing this circuit; I will need to grab the barbell/kettlebell/dumbbells I plan to use
The goal of a circuit is to be able to perform 10-12 repetitions of each exercise and then move into the next exercise- so make sure you are not grabbing the heaviest weight when starting out. The goal is to use heavy enough weight to feel a burn and start to sweat, but not to the point that you can barely get to 8 repetitions.
After gathering appropriate equipment I am set to rock and roll. I can now start my circuit and perform 10-12 reps of each exercise and take a brief break at the end of all 3. I will aim to run through the circuit of 3 exercises, a total of 3 times. Then I am done with the circuit!
Squatting – A Necessity for Stronger, More Toned Legs
Squatting, and all of its numerous variations is crucial to obtaining stronger, more defined legs. Weight lifting is essential to growing and then maintaining lean muscle mass.
First we will cover the appropriate technique and form for squatting. If you have never squatted before, please make sure to practice this numerous times with your body weight. When you feel like you have the form correct and that you are ready to move onto weighed squats, ensure that you have a knowledgeable person to spot you for your safety.
The first step to squatting is standing with your legs slightly wider than shoulder width apart, toes facing forward or slightly outward. Next, you lower your bottom half until your hamstrings and glutes are parallel with the floor. The entire time you should make sure that your torso and upper half do not fold in half to meet the top of your legs; they should remain upright with your shoulders back. A great weight to practice squat form without weight is to use your arms as a counter balance so you do not feel as though you are going to tip backwards while squatting (holding your arms out straight in front of you while performing the exercise).
After reaching parallel, it is time to squeeze all muscles in your legs, and contract your abdominal muscles to push upwards and stand up. Make sure that you are not locking out your knees (completely straightening your legs) at the top of the exercise.
Congrats! You have just completed 1 repetition.
Once you move onto weighted squats, you will follow the same exact form. If you are using dumbbells the best way to hold them when you are starting out is simply by your sides.
When you are using a barbbell, it is important to make sure you have centered yourself under the bar so that when you lift it you are not tipping to one side. There are usually markings on the barbbell to help you ensure that you are in the middle.
Practice Makes Perfect
Try to not allow your legs to go below parallel as you can begin to hurt your joints if you begin to go too low. A great way to practice getting your legs to the correct point is to look in the mirror and stop yourself when you see your legs at parallel. Another method is to find a bench that only allows your legs to go until they are parallel. When using the bench method do not sit down while practicing, but rather just have your bottom touch the bench and that will be your key that you are low enough and that it is time to move your body upwards.
As you practice squatting more, you will not even need to look in the mirror or use a bench for depth as your muscles begin to remember and feel when they are at the correct place throughout a squat.
Increasing Your Squat Weight
We previously mentioned that squatting is key to stronger, more chiseled legs. This includes increasing your weight when possible to make your legs stronger. The best approach to this is to find a weight that you are comfortable performing roughly 8 reps with. Once you are able to comfortably complete these reps with a that weight, it is time to increase the weight by 10 pounds- always ensure that you have someone available to spot you for your safety when increasing your weight.
If at this weight you can still complete 8 reps; move up again 5-10 pounds. The goal is that it will be difficult at the higher weight so that you are only able to complete 4-6 reps. Once you are at the appropriate weight where you can complete about 6 reps, aim to complete 4 sets. After a few weeks of heavy squatting 1x/week at this weight, you will be able to complete more than the 6 reps.
You are then at the point where you want to add more weight again. As you continue to do this every couple of weeks-months, you will undoubtedly gain more muscle mass and therefore, leaner legs.
Exercises that Focus on Glutes – C’mon Who Doesn’t Want a Bigger Booty?
Exercises that focus on engaging your glutes and upper legs are a hot topic right now. Who wouldn’t want to see that part of their body become stronger and more rounded/shapely?!
In addition to circuit training and squatting weekly, we must think about those exercises that solely target our booty!
We want to think of exercises that when you perform them you will only feel the burn, or mostly, in your booty. Exercises like this include sumo squats, light weight straight leg deadlifts, good mornings (here you use a light barbell on your back and keep your legs straight, with a slight bend, and bend at the waist until your upper half is parallel with the floor) and much more.
These exercises can often be done in a circuit formation of 10-12 reps and completing about 3 sets total. By the end you are sure to have your muscles burning and the sweat dripping.
Wrapping Things Up
Using any variation of the exercises listed above will help you move closer to your lower body goals. The key is consistency. Don’t give up if you are feeling like an exercise is challenging! Continue to work at it and I assure you that it will get easier with time.