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Best Leg Exercises

The strong muscles of your legs help you walk, run, jump, skip, dance and hop your way through life every day. Finding the best leg exercises to shape and tone the legs can be a challenge. Maintaining your leg shape can be just as difficult.

Variety is the key to making your legs looks their best. If you focus too much attention on one muscle group, then you might neglect the other muscles of the legs. Changing up the most effective leg exercises will ensure that you receive a comprehensive workout that works all the leg muscles.

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Target exercises for the various leg muscle groups are an effective way to tone muscles. A well-rounded exercise routine always gives the best results. Try mixing the following exercises with an aerobic workout such as dancing, swimming, biking, running or walking. It's recommended that you do leg exercises on alternate days from other activities to prevent injury.

Squats (glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps)

The greatest thing about a simple squat is that you can add some barbells, light hand weights, an exercise ball or lean against a wall for variation. Move your legs apart a little, and you work your hamstrings harder.


How to do a squat:

Stand with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart and point your toes forward. Your back should be straight, head facing forward and shoulders relaxed. Place your hands on your hips and bend at the knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold for a two-count and return to starting position. Perform 20 repetitions.

Lunges (quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes)

Lunges are just as versatile as squats. Add weights for a challenge or lift an exercise ball over your head and then forward as you progress through the lunge. You're working so many muscles that whichever way you decide to lunge, you'll see results quickly. The bonus is that lunges improve balance too!

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How to do a lunge:

Stand with your feet about 6-8 inches apart. Take a normal-sized step forward with your right foot. Bend your back leg until your knee touches the ground. As your front leg bends, keep the front heel down and the knee directly over the foot. Keep your back straight and your torso aligned over your hips. Perform 20 repetitions for each leg.


Heel Raises (Calves front and back)

Have you noticed the beautiful calves on ballerinas and those sculpted calf muscles on professional basketball players? Both ballerinas and basketball players use heel raises to strengthen the calf muscles to increase vertical lift. Heel raises are the ticket to shapely calves -- and guess what? You'll be able to jump high, too!

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How to do heel raises:

Start with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at the sides and head facing forward. Your shoulders should be relaxed, and your abdominal muscles should be pulled in to protect your back. Lift your body weight up onto the balls of the feet and hold for a three-count. Return to flat feet. Perform three sets of 20 heel raises. A challenging variation of the heel raise involves hanging your heels off a step and then raising and lowering yourself through the repetitions.

Step-ups (Quadriceps)

You can perform this leg exercise anywhere there's something to step up on. Your bottom step or an aerobic bench is perfect. Whatever you choose, this exercise will work your quads, and you will definitely feel the workout in your entire leg. Add some dumbbells or ankle weights to increase difficulty.
How to do a step-up:

Stand in front of the step with a straight back, arms at your sides and shoulders relaxed. Lift your right foot and plant it on the step, landing with your weight on the heel, not the toe. Pull the rest of your body onto the step using your leading right leg, then return to the floor. {relatedarticles}Make sure your posture remains straight; don't lean forward. Perform three sets of 20 step-ups for each leading foot.