You don’t need a fancy gym membership to build muscle strength. The muscles of the legs are used in almost every movement we make, so are therefore some of the easiest muscles to work. There are many effective exercises that do not require the use of weights or machines, so they can be performed at home, or even in your office on a short break.
Performing a squat activates the muscles of the gluteals, quadriceps and the hamstrings. Position your feet hip-width apart with your toes pointing straight ahead. For the intermediate to advanced exerciser, place your hands behind your head. If you are a beginner or need more practice with balance and core strength, extend your arms out in front of your shoulders, keeping them parallel to the floor throughout the exercise. Center your weight evenly from heel to toe. Without allowing your knees to extend past your toes and keeping your torso up as straight as possible, lower your body as if you are trying to sit on a bench behind you. Once you have reached a bend of approximately 90 degrees, lift your body back up to the starting position without letting your knees move back or forward.
The lunge is another exercise that focuses on the major muscles of the lower body: the gluteals, quadriceps and hamstrings. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and with either your hands on your hips or your arms relaxed in an extended position below the shoulders. Lunge forward with your right leg and place your foot in a straight line ahead of where you started. As soon as the entire foot touches the floor, continue to lower your body until you form a 90 degree bend at both knees. Be sure not to let the right knee pass the toes of the right foot. Pause, and with a controlled movement, push back to the starting position and alternate legs.
The calf raise is a simple exercise that can be performed almost anywhere without the use of weights and is useful for the gastrocnemius. Stand in front of a wall or behind a chair for balance. With your feet hip-width apart and toes pointed forward, raise your heels off the floor until you are balancing on the balls of your feet. Pause and slowly lower to the starting position. To increase the intensity of this exercise, position the balls of your feet on the edge of a step or stair, using a wall or chair for support. Allow the heels of your feet to sink lower than the balls of your feet. From that position, lift your heels until you are balancing on the balls of your feet and almost on your tiptoes. Pause and slowly lower your heels.
The stork stance requires a lot of balance and is an effective exercise for the hamstrings. To begin, stand with your feet hip-width apart and toes facing forward. Extend your arms straight up over your shoulders and soften your knees by slightly bending them. Balance equally on the heel and toes of your right foot and flex forward at the waist as you simultaneously lift your left foot off the floor and straighten your leg. Force your extended arms, torso and left leg to act as a unit as you continue to flex forward until your body is parallel to the floor, forming a “T” with your body from the floor. Return to the starting position in the same fashion.
- ACE Personal Trainer Manual; American Council on Exercise
- 101 Workouts for Women; Muscle & Fitness Hers
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.