Celebrity trainer and fitness expert for OH! Magazine, Michelle Bridges gives the lowdown on the limbs down low, and how to ensure they look their best this summer!
Nothing, but nothing, is quite as tough as leg training. Even for a hardened long term exerciser like myself, an impending leg weight training session creates the odd butterfly in my stomach as I walk through the gym door, knowing that I’m about to put myself through 45 minutes of, well, pain really.
There’s no escaping legs. The leg muscles – quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves form a full 60 per cent of our total body musculature, so you can look forward to your heart working overtime pumping blood to fuel the movements, and your lungs frantically keeping up with the rapid oxygen depletion that comes with bending and straightening those puppies.
But, the truth is legs use so much energy when they’re worked, so you can actually end up burning calories like crazy in a relatively short time. Plus there’s the added benefit of a shapely pair of pins to show for your efforts of course!
Which brings me to the tetchy subject of size. I hear a lot of girls tell me that they don’t train their legs because they don’t want them to get large. Big mistake! Leg training will make your legs shapely, taut, even svelte, so unless you’re sweating it out in the local powerlifting club you’re not likely to be rocking a pair of tree stumps any time soon.
My own trainer (‘The Inflictor’) identified that my hamstrings were quite weak, and adjusted my routine accordingly, with intensive workouts focusing on them. The result wasn’t that they got bigger, rather that they just got a better shape about them. The other great thing about leg training is that you can frequently use your bodyweight to give them a good workout. Squats, Swissball squats, lunges and step-ups can all be done either with or without the added resistance of weights.
Best bang for buck though, and my personal favourite, would have to be lunges. They can be done in several different ways – stepping backwards, stepping forwards, or statically (i.e., just staying in one spot). And for that extra bit of grunt, rest a light barbell on your shoulders or for a little more stability, hold a couple of dumbbells by your side.
You can also apply the same rules to step ups: stand by the side of a low bench and step up with alternate legs 20 times, and increase the resistance with the help of a barbell or a couple of dumbbells.
These exercises will sculpt and shape your legs like no other; and they have the added benefit of significantly recruiting your glutes. Get your personal trainer or gym instructor to show you how, and then – look out summer! It’s time to dig those shorts out of the drawer!
This article is republished from Issue 4 of OH! Magazine, the FREE (or fully customisable) member magazine for health clubs in Australia and New Zealand.