Whether you want to wear shorts or slip into a pair of skinny jeans, it helps to have shapely legs. But sculpted quads and calves are not the only reason to work your gams. Strong legs are vital for everyday stability, proper poster, standing for a long time, and picking up heavy stuff.
To help you build the strongest legs you can, we asked professional athlete and sports conditioning coach Andia Winslow to share her favorite leg exercises. Try adding these moves into your workout regimen at least once or twice a week.
Lie flat on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor about a foot in front of your butt, arms down at your sides. Squeeze your core and glutes as you push through your heels to lift your butt, hips, lower back, and upper back off the floor. (Shoulders and head remain on the ground.) Hold for two seconds, then slowly lower. Do 10 reps.
2. Split Squat
Stand with your feet hip width apart. Step your right foot out about 2 feet in front of you, bend both knees and lower your body until your right knee is directly over your right ankle and your left hip is directly over your left knee — both knees bent at 90-degree angles. Keeping your feet where they are, lift back up to standing. Immediately lower again. Do 10 reps, then switch legs.
3. Step Up
Stand in front of a step, bench, or box. Keeping your core tight, step your left foot up onto the top of bench. As you push through a flat foot to stand up fully on your left leg, bring your right knee up toward your chest. Bring your right foot down to the floor and then your left foot down to the floor. Repeat 10 times on that side, then switch legs.
4. Squat to Lunge (Alternating)
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, toes pointed slightly outward. Bend your knees and sit back and down into a squat, pressing your knees back, not allowing them to track forward past your ankles. Push through your heels to stand back up. Step your right foot out about 2 feet in front of you, bend both knees and lower until right knee is directly over the right ankle and the left hip is directly over the left knee, both knees bent at 90-degree angles. Push back to standing. Repeat the lunge with the left leg. Continue alternating, doing 10 squats and 10 reps with each leg.
5. Hip Flexor Lift
Stand with your back against a wall, feet hip width apart. Push your back into the wall behind you and transfer your weight into your left foot. Keep your right leg straight as you lift it in front of you, until your foot is in line with your hip (or as high as you can lift it. Flex your foot and hold your left up for 10 seconds. Switch legs.
6. Isometric Squeeze and Hold
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Keeping your toes forward, lift your left leg slightly off the ground, flex your foot and push your heel about 6 inches backward. Squeeze and hold for five seconds. Lower left leg and repeat with right leg. Continue alternating, completing 5 reps with each leg.
7. Lateral (Walking) Hip Abduction
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Keeping your knees in line with your ankles, push glutes back and down into a quarter squat. Stay in the quarter squat position and step your right foot about 6 inches to the right. Follow with the left foot. Take 10 steps to the right, then repeat the exercise while moving to the left.
Want more? Download the best exercises for women over 40.
Photos: JoJo Quintanar