Your legs are an important part of your body, but just because you use them everyday may not get you the workout you're looking for. In this part of our at-home fitness series, we'll be focusing on targeting legs and glutes.
How Much do you Know About Your Legs?
Yes, our legs are what we use to move our bodies. But did you know there are many different muscles that make up your legs? Most of your leg muscles are long, and contract and relax to make your body move. Some of these muscles include your quadriceps (thighs), hamstrings (your upper back legs/thighs), and calves. There are also smaller muscles and ligaments that help stabilize larger muscles, stabilize joints, and other smaller movements.
What Are my Glutes?
We're pretty sure you know what your legs are, but the term "glutes" is short for gluteus, which is your bottom. Your glutes are made up of three muscles, the gluteus minimus, medius, and maximus. These three muscles extend the hips, abduct the hips, and does internal and external rotation your hips.
Strengthening your glutes can greatly improve posture and reduce back pain, which is especially important if you do a lot of sitting at work. In doing so, strengthening your glutes can better support your spine and pelvic area. If you're an athlete, having strong glutes can lead to better athletic performance and prevent injury.
Five Leg & Gluteal Exercises
Lunges are a great movement to target your hips, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and even your core. If you haven't done a lunge while working out before, it's likely you've done it in your everyday movements. A lunge is similar to bending down with one leg to pick something up, or tying your shoes.
How to do it: Start with your legs hip-width apart. Take a step forward with your right leg, and shift your weight forward onto your right leg. Bend forward until your right thigh is just about parallel to the floor. Your feet should be flat on the floor. To return to starting position, push off your right heel. Repeat the movement with your other leg. For your workout, do 3 to 4 sets of 15 lunges (on each leg). If you can't do 15, reduce total lunges to 10 on each side. You can watch a video on how to do lunges here.
2. Body squats
Although squats are largely focused on strengthening your legs and glutes, they also engage your core. Squatting can increase mobility and balance, while helping prevent injury by strengthening your muscles. There are many variations of squats, from jump squats to back squats. But we're going to focus on a simple body squat, which you can always modify by adding weight or additional movement.
How to do it:
Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight and your feet centered under your knees. Try not to lean forward with your upper body, and breathe in as you bend down, and breathe out as you come back up. Slowly bend your knees until you reach a 90-degree angle. Push yourself back up to starting position. For your workout, you can do 3 to 4 sets of 15 squats. You can watch a video on how to do a body squat here.
3. Single-leg bridge
Single leg bridges, also known as lifts, are a challenging move. They target your glutes, while also forcing you to engage your core and use your legs.
How to do it:
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lift one leg at a 45-degree angle from the floor, in the air and hold it there. With your other leg (still bent), squeeze your glutes and use your hips to push yourself off the floor toward the ceiling. Hold yourself in that position, then lower your bent leg to return to your starting position. Once you've done your set of bridges on one leg, do so with the other. For your workout, you can do 3 to 4 sets of 15 single-leg bridges. You can watch a video on how to do single-leg lifts here.
4. Rainbow rear leg lifts
Rainbow rear leg lifts target your glutes, and engage your core, legs, and shoulders. It's namesake comes from the movement your legs will make, which is similar to that of a rainbow.
How to do it:
Start on all fours with your knees hip-width apart and your wrists underneath your shoulders. Extend your right leg with your toe pointed, and reach with your foot toward the ceiling. Slowly lower your leg to touch the floor on your right. Squeeze your glutes as you lift your leg back to starting position, then lower your leg to touch the floor to the left of your kneeling foot. Return to starting position to complete the rep. For your workout, do 3 to 4 sets of 15 rainbows. You can watch a video of how to do rainbows here.
5. Hip bridge
Hip bridges mainly target your glutes, while also engaging your core and legs.
How to do it:
Lie flat on your back with your knees bent about hip-width apart. Place your arms next to your sides with your palms facing up. Make sure your heels are several inches from your glutes. Lift your hips, hold, then return to starting position. For your workout, you can do 3 to 4 sets of 20 hip bridges. You can watch a video on how to do hip bridges here.