The fact that many guys tend to neglect their legs during their regular workouts is a grave mistake. Ask any straight woman or gay man: there are few parts of a man’s anatomy that are sexier than a set of firm, muscular and toned thighs and calves.
The good news is that it’s really easy to exercise your legs and you don’t need any fancy equipment or an expensive gym contract to get them into shape. In fact, you don’t even need to leave your house. An added bonus is that most leg exercises actually work out your entire body and will help you burn calories and lose weight at the same time.
Here’s our selection of the five best leg exercises that you can do in the comfort of your own home. If you have dumbbell or barbell weights, you can use them, but it’s not a necessary requirement on your way to great looking legs. It is important to remember, however, to do a good stretching session both before and after the exercises.
With your feet at shoulder-width and your toes pointing forward, slowly bend your knees and hips until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Hold this position for two or three seconds and then stand up again. Try to keep your feet flat on the ground and be careful not to let your knees move forward or sideways – always keep them inline. To keep it straight during the entire squatting motion, you may want to stand with your back against a smooth wall. Squats can be done while holding a dumbbell, hugging it to your chest with both hands, or with a barbell resting on your shoulders behind your neck.
2. Heel raises
Start with your feet flat on the ground and shoulder-width apart and then slowly lift your heels off the floor so that you’re balancing on your tiptoes for a few seconds before returning to your starting position. You can do this exercise while holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms handing straight down against the sides of your body and your palms facing inward. Start by doing three sets of eight to ten repetitions and work your way up to three sets of 40 repetitions.
3. Leg lunges
While holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing inward and arms hanging down at your sides, take a long step forward, bending both knees. Your front heel should be directly below your knee and both legs should be bent at the knee at an angle of approximately 90o before you return to a standing position by using your leg muscles to push yourself up. If you suffer from knee problems, a smaller forward step is recommended. Now repeat the manoeuvre starting with the other leg. Begin with three sets of eight to twelve repetitions and work yourself up to three sets of 30 repetitions.
4. Dead lifts
Take a slightly wider than shoulder-width stance and grip a barbell firmly with both hands in front of your body while bending your knees but keeping your back straight (if you don’t have a barbell, try two shopping bags filled with sand). Drive up with your leg muscles, keeping your back straight and pulling the weight upward without bending your arms. At the top of the motion, contract your glutes – i.e. squeeze your butt – and then lower the weight back to the ground in reverse.
5. Step ups
Step up onto a raised platform, a wooden box or the first step of a staircase. Make sure you land your foot on your heel and not the toes. Push off on your leading foot and place your second foot onto the step. Return to the ground level by reversing the motion and then repeat staring with the other foot. Once you’re good at these, you can combine step ups with heel raises as you step onto the raised level.
You’ll find many more excellent illustrated leg exercises here.
(Andrew Luyt, Health24, August 2011)