By Sarah Klein
So you want more defined quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves in 2015, but you’re sick and tired of squats and lunges. We hear you.
Squats and lunges are some of the most well-known — and most effective — lower-body moves, but it’s never a bad idea to shake up your workout routine. And if shaking it up will help you stick with it, than we’re all for trying something new.
For anyone looking to give their gams a leaner, meaner look in the new year, here are a few lower-body exercises you’re probably not already doing.
Stability Ball Hamstring Curl
Any classic glute bridge can be kicked up a notch by using a stability ball as your base, which requires added core and glute work. But you can really take it to the next level with a hamstring curl. Start with your heels on the top of the ball, in line with your hips. Focus on keeping the core muscles engaged as you lift your hips off the floor, pressing your heels into the ball. The lower back should not arch, but your hips should not be sagging, either. Aim to keep the body in a straight line from your heels to your shoulder blades. Bending your knees, pull the ball toward your body until your feet are flat on top, keeping the upper body as stable as possible. Then press the ball away from you until you’re heels are once again on top of the ball. Keeping the hips lifted, try for 10 completions before lowering yourself back to the ground.
You’ll strengthen your lower body while increasing balance and stabilization of the lower body and core with this marching-like movement. Step one foot up onto a box, bench, staircase or even a sturdy chair. Bring the trailing leg up into a 90-degree angle in front of the body as you balance on one foot. Gently return the lifted leg to the ground and repeat on the other side. Keep your shoulders up and back and the knee of your standing leg in line with your second toe. Try for three sets of 12 on each side, or go for 30 seconds. Up the challenge by holding a dumbbell in each hand.
Starting on the floor with your hands under your shoulders, fingers pointing toward your toes, press through the heels as you move your body into a table position, squeezing the glutes throughout. When your hips are parallel to the floor, hold for a brief pause, then slowly return to starting position. Aim for three sets of 10. You can also do this with your shoulders resting on a bench at the gym, and/or with a barbell resting on your hips for added resistance.
Single-Leg Deadlift With Bar
You can work just about every muscle group in the body with the perfect deadlift. But confining the movement to a single leg requires more balance in that gam. While standing on one leg with a little give in the knee, hinge at the hips as you lower your barbell toward the ground, raising the other leg behind you. Squeeze the glute of the lifted leg, and then, using the hamstrings and glutes, lift your body back to starting position. Keep the back flat throughout the entire movement. Aim for three sets of 10 on each leg.
Target the glutes and outer thighs by starting on your right side with legs stacked and knees bent. Keep the left hand on the floor in front of your torso and extend the right arm straight up by your ear or bent at the elbow to support the neck and head. Keeping the feet together and squeezing the glutes, lift your left leg. Slowly return it to starting position. Aim for three sets of 12 on each leg. For an extra challenge, tie a resistance band around your legs, just above the knees.
Lateral Box Jumps
Plyometrics exercises like box jumps can help make you faster, more agile and stronger. Start with one foot on a box or an aerobics step. Jump sideways to switch feet on top of the box. Keep the core engaged and an athletic stance and be sure to bend the knees as you land. Start with 30 seconds at a time — or incorporate it into a Tabata routine.
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