By Jill Coleman
Most of us women struggle with the size, shape or tone of our legs. With the plethora of information out there, how do we discern the correct way to get lean, toned legs? Is it cardio? Weights? Diet? Well, the truth is, it is all three; however, what is most important is HOW we do these things. Here are the tools and techniques I have used throughout the years to coax stubborn thighs, glutes and hamstring muscles out from under the fat, and get some serious sculpt in the lower body 🙂
1) Heavy lower body weight-training is necessary to firm up legs – I like heavy walking lunges the best. Perform 10-15 walking lunges on each leg holding 20-lb dumbbells in each hand. Yes, I know it is heavy but it is what is needed to “coax” the muscles out from under stubborn fat. Rest 30 seconds and do another set. Complete 4 sets. This will not only work all the muscles of the lower body, but will elicit a huge cardiovascular response in order to increase caloric burn.
2) Perform plyometrics like switch jumps, squat jumps and bench jumps. These high-intensity jumping movements develop type 2 muscle fibers in the legs to help burn fat. Do 15 reps, rest 20 seconds and do another set of 15 reps. Repeat 4 sets or circuit each set with a set of heavy lunges. One of my favorite circuits is 10 heavy lunges on each leg, followed immediately by 15 switch jumps on each leg, repeated 4 times.
3) Sprint your way to lean legs! As much as running low distances may seem like the best way to lean out the legs, this will only pull at loose skin and will do little to tone legs. Running burns fat, yes, but does nothing to tighten legs. Think 100 meter sprints instead. With some consistency, these work miracles to bring out definition in even the most stubborn of legs. One of my favorite workouts is to head to a track at a local high school and sprint as hard as I can down the straight-away (100 meters), and then walk slowly along the curve, recovering until I get to the next straight-away. Do 10 sprints on the straight, and walk the curves for a great high-intensity interval training workout.
4) Head to the stadium! Any stadium will do– sprint as hard as you can up the steps, taking the steps 2 at a time, and then walk slowly back down to the bottom. Do 15-20 sprints like that. You can even add weightless walking lunges in between 🙂
5) Correct Nutrition– think lots of lean protein (especially within 30 minutes after a workout!) and veggies. Eating lots of green, leafy vegetables will help you shed water on the legs. And a diet like this will help burn fat and ignite the metabolism.
6) Hydrate adequately. Contrary to popular belief, drinking a lot of water does not help burn fat, but instead helps you shed water, eliminating that “puffy” look. If you are even the tiniest bit dehydrated, your body will hold onto sodium, and thus water also, subcutaneously. The more you drink, the more you will shed. Aim for at least 3 liters per day of straight-up water (no Crystal Light, no diet soda, sweet tea, etc). You can drink green tea and black coffee liberally throughout the day, but it should be on top of the 3 liters of regular H20.
7) Burn baby, burn. You have got to train legs to the point of failure. In other words, hormonally, women tend to store fat in the hips, thighs, and glutes because they are estrogen points 🙂 and luckily, training with heavy weights, and to the point of failure increases testosterone and human growth hormone; both of which increase fat burning and optimize the estrogen to testosterone ratio. Use different weights and exercises to elicit mechanical failure (where the weight is too heavy to be lifted anymore) and also metabolic failure (when the lactic acid burn is so much that you have to rest).
8) Try incline walking. This is one of the newest additions to my regimen, and one with which I have had much success in terms of spot reduction. However, you have to do longer sessions and find a speed with which you can generate a BURN in the glute/hamstring tie-in area. Here is an incline walking program that I do a couple times per week on the treadmill. It is boring, yes, but I have noticed a big change in the cellulite situation on the back of my legs since its introduction. Remember, you cannot do long cardio all the time, you have got to do the short, intense stuff first and foremost!
Minutes Incline Speed
0-9 15.0 3.0
9-10 0.0 7.5
10-19 15.0 3.1
19-20 0.0 8.0
20-29 15.0 3.2
29-30 0.0 8.5
30-39 15.0 3.3
39-40 0.0 9.0
40-49 15.0 3.4
49-50 0.0 9.5
50-59 15.0 3.5
59-60 0.0 10.0
Happy trimming! 🙂 Email me at [email protected] if you have questions/comments! Would love to hear from you!