The Thigh’s The Limit

by Joy Karley, MA, CPT

As spring turns to summer, hemlines rise with the temperatures and legs are the center of attention.  Feeling insecure?  We’re here to help.  A combination of cardio and strength training will firm, tone, and shape your legs, leaving you confident enough to wear the hottest of hot weather styles!  Whether you walk, run, bike, or dance into your cardio zone, be sure to stick to your program and get your heart racing for at least 30min, 4-6 times each week.  Add in these leg strengtheners to shape and tone your gams so they are ready to show off!

We’ll target the following muscles to sculpt your thighs:

leg-muscles

Quadriceps:  This is the group of four muscles that form the front of your thigh.  Their primary function is to straighten the knee, helping you to stand up, sit down, climb steps, ride a bike, and just about everything else you run around and do all day.

Hamstrings:  This group of muscles runs down the back of your thigh and both flexes (bends) the knee and extends the hip (pulls the thigh back).  These muscles are often much weaker than the quadriceps, potentially making the knee more susceptible to injury.

Adductors:  These are the infamous “inner thigh” muscles that pull the leg toward the midline of the body and help stabilize the knee.  Many women are particularly concerned with keeping these toned.

Adductors:  These are the “outer thigh” or hip muscles, which pull the leg out to the side.  These are important for side-to-side movements, balance, and they also help shape the hips.  Enough said – we’re definitely going to work these!

Glutes:  These exercises will also work your glutes, specifically, gluteus maximus, the muscle that forms your derrière.  I think we are all onboard for that!

Let’s get to work on those legs!

 

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Aylio 3 Loop Bands for Exercise (Light, Medium, Heavy) – $16.99

 

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Black Mountain Products Resistance Band Set with Door Anchor, Ankle Strap, Exercise Chart, and Resistance Band Carrying Case – $32.99

 

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lungeLunges (no band):   Stand with feet hip with apart, lift your spine tall, engage your abdominal muscles, and take a big step forward with your right foot, keeping feet parallel to each other.   Your step should be so big that your back heel is lifted.    Place your hands on your hips or reach them out to the side for balance.  Inhale as you bend your knees, as if you are going to place your back knee on the floor, then exhale as you push into the front heel and return to the standing position.   Keep your abdominals engaged, torso lifted upright and tall, and bend your knees to a 90° angle, front knee aligned over your shoelaces.  The front knee should not bend forward beyond the toes.   Repeat 10-15 times then reverse.
Targets:  Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes.

Curtsy Lunge (no band):  Stand with feet in a “V” shape, or Ballet 1st position, heels together, toes slightly apart.  Shift your weight to your right leg, and reach the left leg across behind you to the right heel elevated.  Your left knee should be “hiding” behind your right knee if you are looking in a mirror, knees facing slightly outward.  Place your hands on your hips or reach them out to the side for balance.  Inhale as you bend your knees, as if you are going to place your back knee on the floor, then exhale as you push into the front heel and return to the standing position.   Keep your abdominals pulled in, torso lifted upright and tall, and bend your knees to a 90° angle, front knee aligned over your shoelaces.  The front knee should not bend forward beyond the toes.   Repeat 10-15 times then reverse.
Targets:  Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, Abductors, Adductors.     |  

Untitled-1Sidestep Squats:  Tie your band or tube securely around your ankles, allowing several inches between the feet.  (you can also use a circular band or tube) Place your hands on your hips or reach them out to the side for balance.   Take a step to the right, slightly wider than shoulder width, knees and toes facing forward or slightly turned out.  Inhale as you squat down, as if you are trying to sit in a chair that is too far behind you.  Keep your abdominals engaged, back straight, and allow your hips to reach out behind you.  Exhale as you press back to standing and pull the left leg in next to the right.  Do 10-15 reps on each side.
Targets:  Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, Abductors.

Adductor Squeeze:  Loop your band around a secure bar, pole, door, or other stable object at about ankle height.  Tie your band or tube securely around your right ankle (you can also use a circular band or tube).  Place your hands on your hips or reach them out to the side for balance.   Take a big step to the side with your left foot, feet parallel to each other.  Exhale as you pull your right foot in next to your left, then inhale as you slowly return to the starting positon.  Keep your abdominals pulled in and your torso lifted upright and tall.  Repeat 10-15 times then reverse.
Targets:  Adductors     |     photo source: dailylifeplusfitness.com

glute-bridgeBridge (no band):  Lie face up, feet parallel, flat on the floor, hip width apart, arms down by your sides.  Take a breath in to prepare, and exhale as you lift your hips up off the floor, pressing your feet down as if you are making footprints in cement.  Take a breath in at the top, then exhale as you slowly lower the hips back to the floor.  Keep your abdominals pulled in as you bridge, and lift only to the shoulder blades (avoid lifting shoulders off the mat or “popping” ribs out).   Repeat 10-15 times.
Targets:  Glutes, Hamstrings

Single Leg Bridge (no band):  Lie face up, feet parallel, flat on the floor, hip width apart, arms down by your sides.  Take a breath in to prepare, and exhale as you lift your hips up off the floor, pressing your feet down as if you are making footprints in cement.  Lift your right leg up toward the ceiling and hold it there as you inhale and lower the hips toward the floor, then exhale as you press your hips up again.  Keep your abdominals pulled in as you bridge, especially the left side (opposite of lifted leg) for stability, and lift only to the shoulder blades (avoid lifting shoulders off the mat or “popping” ribs out).   Repeat 10-15 times then reverse.
Targets:  Glutes, Hamstrings      |     photo source: fitplusdaily.com

th (2)Side Leg Lift:  Tie your band or tube securely around your ankles, allowing a few inches between the feet.  Lie on your side, body in a straight line.  Rest your head on your bottom arm, as if you are going to sleep (place a small pillow or cushion underneath if you need support) and place your top arm on the floor in front of you for support.  Pull your abdominals in as you exhale and lift your top leg several inches to stretch the band.  Inhale as you slowly lower the leg to the starting position.  Keep your shoulders relaxed and hips stacked one on top of the other.  Repeat 10-15 times then reverse.
Targets:  Abductors      |     photo source: well-girl.com

Inner Thigh Lift (no band):  Lie on your side, body in a straight line.  Rest your head on your bottom arm, as if you are going to sleep (place a small pillow or cushion underneath if you need support) and place your top arm on the floor in front of you for support.  Keeping your hips stacked one on top of the other (try not to roll forward) and place your top leg on the floor in front of you.  Exhale as you pull your abs in and lift your bottom leg high enough to feel your inner thigh muscles working.  Inhale as you lower your leg.  Keep your shoulders relaxed as you lift and lower your leg.  Repeat 10-15 times then reverse.
Targets:  Adductors      |     photo source: popsugar.com

About the Author

Joy Karley, MA holds a Master’s degree in Biomechanics and Athletic Training from San Diego State University and a Bachelor of Science in Modern Dance from Kent State University. Her background includes extensive training in classical ballet, jazz, tap, Latin, and theater dance. She studied at the School of Cleveland Ballet and has performed with companies in Ohio, California, Washington DC, New Jersey and New York. Joy is also a Pilates Method Alliance Certified Pilates Teacher (PMA, CPT) and an AFAA & IFTA Certified Fitness Instructor & Personal Trainer. She teaches Pilates, fitness and dance classes throughout New York City.

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