After a god-awful winter and no spring season whatsoever, summer has arrived, and it literally has no chill. We totally skipped over denim jacket weather and basically went straight to face-directly-in-the-AC-vent weather, so it’s time to dress accordingly. If you’re putting on your shorts for the first time in a year and notice your legs could use some much-needed toning and tightening, don’t panic. Do these six leg exercises, and once you’re done, repeat the whole circuit another three times to really tone and strengthen your legs. And also, like, try not to cry when you sit down tomorrow. Consider yourself warned.
1. Curtsey Lunges
Regular squats and lunges can get boring and repetitive, so trying out different leg exercises and variations help target your muscles in a different way. Curtsey lunges are great because they hit various muscle groups in your quads and glutes, and they also challenge your body’s overall balance and stability. They’re v underrated. The idea here is to lunge backwards like you would regularly, but instead of bringing your knee directly behind you, bring it in a diagonal direction, crossing behind your other leg. Like a curtsey, get it?? Bend your knees and lower your hips until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Then, return to standing position and do the same on the other leg. Complete 10 reps per leg, and if you feel like it’s too easy, hold a weight in each hand to add resistance.
2. Swiss Ball Hamstring Curls
This exercise is based on using a swiss ball, but if your gym doesn’t have one, this can also work using TRX bands or the rowing machine. Begin on the floor by lying on your back with your feet up on top of the ball. You want your ankles to be on top of the ball when your legs are fully extended. Raise your hips off the ground, keeping your weight in your shoulders and your feet. Then, flex your knees, pulling the ball inward toward your body while squeezing the backs of your legs. Once the ball is “curled” inward, straighten out your legs again, rolling it outwards. Aim for 15 reps.
3. Single Leg Glute Bridges
Glute bridges are a classic butt exercise, but by focusing on one leg at a time, you also hit your hamstrings, which are the muscles that make up the backs of your legs. You’re basically getting the best of both worlds because you’re working your thighs and butt in one simple move. Lucky you. Lying on a mat, keep your hands at your sides and your knees bent out in front of you. Then, extend one leg as you lift your butt off the ground, squeezing your glutes and lifting your hips toward the ceiling. Think about pushing down with your left heel as you lift. Do 10 reps on one leg and then switch to the other.
4. Jumping Sumo Squats
We tend to do a lot of squats and jump squats in our leg workouts, but the sumo squat is a different variation that a lot of people ignore. The idea here is to do a jump squat, but your stance is more like that of a ballerina, with your toes turned outward and your legs further apart than they’d usually be. This way, when you squat down, the resistance shifts from your quads to your glutes, and it becomes more of a butt-focused movement. You’re also getting your heart rate up and burning calories because like, you’re jumping. Duh. Try doing 15-20 jumps without stopping.
5. Elevated Reverse Lunges
Reverse lunges are a staple leg movement, and by elevating your front leg, you’re adding pressure to that leg’s quad muscle, and you REALLY feel the burn on these. The idea here is to find some sort of box or elevated step that you can put your front foot on, and then lunge backwards, bringing the back leg even further down than you would on a regular surface. This way, your quads get more resistance—kinda like when you turn up the torq on a spin bike. Remember to keep your chest up and head straight the whole time to avoid leaning forward. If these are too hard, lose the elevation and just do lunges on the ground. And if they’re easy, hold a weight, like the badass chick in this gif.
6. Wall Sit
Wall sits look relatively easy, but you might notice after a few seconds that your thighs are on fire and you want to die. This is normal. This move is also great because your body is basically in a squatting position, but your back is protected, so you can really engage all of the muscles in your legs to keep you stable. With your back flat against a wall, set your feet about shoulder-width apart, about two feet out from the wall. Slide your back down the wall, bending your knees as low as you can get. Hold the position for one minute, and remember to contract your abs while you’re holding it. Your legs will probably start shaking, but that just means it’s working. Just think about how good your legs will look in your new romper.
Images: Shutterstock; Giphy (6)
People tend to save ab workouts for like, 10 minutes before spring break when you realize your juice cleanse was pointless so you resort to a few crunches and a 30-second plank. Most people don’t know that working your abs is about so much more than getting a visible six-pack in your bikini. In fact, all the crunches in the world prob wouldn’t give you those sort of results. Having real core strength makes every other workout easier and helps you push yourself harder, burning even more calories. If you’re bored of your classic scissor kicks and can’t do another sit-up, try these underrated ab moves that will help strengthen your core and tone your abs. You won’t be able to laugh tomorrow, but like, at least you have an excuse for your resting betch face.
1. Bear Crawl
The bear crawl is a killer ab move if you’re doing it right, so make sure to feel your abs engaged the entire time. The idea is to stack your shoulders over your wrists like you’re about to hold a plank, but then bring your knees under your hips and raise them just an inch or so off the ground, keeping your back flat and your core tight. At this point you should look like a bear. Get it? Now, start “crawling” forward (Right arm/left foot, etc. Like a bear!) for as far as you can before reversing backwards. This move kills because it engages your lower abs and ensures that your butt isn’t sinking too low and taking away from your ab activation. Use the space you have, or do six to eight “steps.”
2. Army Crawl
For this move you’ll need gliders or two towels and a floor that allows you to move. Usually the regular wooden floor in the group class room of the gym is perfect. Put one foot on each glider or towel, and then get into a forearm plank, with your hands directly under your head. In the plank position, crawl with your forearms all the way forward, and then backward. You’re basically pulling your core with your arms, and you have to keep your hips square the entire time without swaying. Think about keeping a tight core and literally moving your body with only your midsection. Set a 20- or 30-second timer and do the crawls in intervals with breaks in between.
These people aren’t using sliders, because they’re poor. But you get the idea.
3. Ab Wheel Rollout
Most gyms have an ab wheel lying around, and people usually ignore it because they either don’t know how to use it or they think their own bodyweight exercises are more effective. The ab wheel is a hidden gem, and using it in your ab workouts will be an actual game changer. Start on your knees with the wheel in front of you. Hold onto the handles, and roll the wheel outward, bringing your body out as far as it can go without caving in your back. Keep your abs tight as you roll outward, and then roll the wheel back in. Start with 5 reps and then try 10 once you start building strength in your core.
4. One-Handed Plank
The one-handed plank is one of those moves that seems like it would be easy, but once you try to get into position, you realize how much control you need to hold it for even 10 seconds. Just as you’d think, this move is a regular plank, but you only use one hand, so try to do 20 seconds on your right side and then 20 seconds on your left. It’s easier to start with your hand centered in front of your chest, but try to work it back out to under your shoulder as you get stronger. The idea is to keep your body square to the ground without raising your hips on one side. It’s not a side plank, so you shouldn’t be using your obliques. The point is to engage your entire core the whole time to stay straight and tight on each side.
Pike-ups can be done on the same gliders that you used with your army crawls, but a lot of people do them on TRX bands by putting your feet into the strap handles. Either way, the idea here is to start in a high plank position and then slowly bring your feet down toward your head while the top of your head rotates toward the ground, creating an upside down V-shape with your body. Your head should end up in between your arms, looking directly behind you, almost like you’re doing a handstand with your feet supported. It’s important to NOT bend your knees and to use your abs to bring your legs in. Do 8-10 slow reps.
6. Boat Pose With Pulse
The boat pose is great for your lower abs, and adding in a pulse just activates more muscles in the area, so it’s perfect for burning out your abs at the end of a workout. Sounds fun, right? Start in a seated position and rock back so you’re basically sitting on your tailbone (you’ll want a mat for this). Raise your feet up with a bend at your knees and lift your chest while raising your arms out in front of you. Again, your body should look like a V-shape. Then, keeping your hands extended toward your feet, pulse them up and down while keeping your core tight. Try to hold for a minute, alternating between holding the pose and pulsing your hands. You’ll most likely be cursing toward the end, but eventually it’ll get easier. But like, no promises.