Beside rock hard abs, having enviably toned legs and rear is perhaps the most sought-after fitness goal. And as skinny jeans slowly start to replace our shorts, I’m sure everyone is looking for a way to look a bit more shapely in them through the fall and winter. Not only that, but did you know that working on strengthening and toning your lower body will make you appear taller?
As the muscles tone, they perk upwards, making your legs appear longer in addition to actually being leaner. But, as I will always reiterate, choosing to work on any body part should never be simply about appearance. Sure you might shimmy into those leggings a bit better, but in the end its about taking the time to keep your muscles in good working condition.
I’m sure that you’ve heard time and time again that squats are one of the best moves you can do to work your way to a toned-up backside. They work your glutes, quads, and even your back and abs (your stability muscles).
But, if you’re anything like me, doing endless repetitions of squats can get pretty boring very quickly, even if they are delivering results. While I’m not going to tell you to abandon squats entirely, I’m going to show you some variations of the classic plus some other muscle-burning moves to tone your legs and bum all around.
1.The sumo (or plié) squat – This move is performed with a wider stance with the toes pointed outward. You should literally feel and look like you’re about to go into a sumo wrestling match. Remember to keep your butt tucked underneath of you, and not sticking way out to the back. Then perform your squatting movements to target your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and best of all, the hard to get to inner thighs. If you have any trouble balancing in this position, simply hold on to the back of a chair. For a bigger challenge, try jumping lightly.
2. Split squats – Say goodbye to saddlebags with this move! All you need to perform this move is a chair. Stand in front of the chair with one foot behind you on the seat, with the other foot on the floor in front of you. With your foot remaining on the chair, squat down until your other legs forms a 90 degree angle, keeping your knee behind your toes. Return to the starting position, and repeat 10-15 repetitions on each leg. This move is already a killer – but if you want to make it harder, try holding a dumbbell in each hand for a little added weight. To make it easier, don’t squat down as far.
3. Single-leg glute bridges – This move is fairly self explanatory, and probably very familiar to everyone. To perform this move, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Stick one leg straight up in the air, and move your lower body up and down by pressing through the foot on the floor and into your glute and hamstring. If a single-leg glute bridge is too hard, feel free to do a regular bridge with both feet planted. However this move is extremely effective at toning those buns because of the added stress placed on one leg by forcing it to stabilize and bear more weight.
4. Squat jacks – This move doubles as both a strength and cardio exercise, and it is performed like it sounds. Simply get into a proper squat position, and staying as low as you can, pop your legs in and out as if you were doing jumping jacks. The lower you go, the harder, so if this move is too difficult just don’t stay in as deep of a squat.
5. Pistol squat – If you are brave enough to attempt this move, you are as hardcore as they come. A pistol squat is basically a one-legged squat. But if that sounds easy, think again. Most people (including myself) have a hard time performing this one without falling over, so I recommend holding a chair for balance, just don’t let it do the work for you. To do this move properly, squat down on one leg as far as you can, with the other extended as straight out in front of you as possible. You’ll be feeling the burn in no time, I promise.
Regardless of what exercises you choose to perform to blast that booty, remember to keep proper form: head and chest up, shoulders back, hands either on your hips or clasped in front of you, and your back hollowed out (not rounded like a cat).
You don’t need to do these moves every day, but adding them to a workout routine once or twice a week will help you on your way to rocking those skinnies.