Performing exercises that target your legs and lower body can help you to improve your stability and strength.
And when it comes to starting to focus on performing lower-body strength exercises, Dr. Allen Conrad, BS, DC, CSCS, said it’s important to start by perfecting just a few, mastering the proper posture and form for each. By establishing proper form, Conrad told INSIDER that you can see better returns on your hard work and also reduce your risk of getting injured.
Here are 10 leg-targeting exercises you can do at home or at the gym, according to experts.
For this move, Conrad said you’ll want to hold a dumbbell in each hand, ensuring they are weights you can easily lift.
Then, perform lunges. With one dumbbell in each hand and your arms lowered, step forward with one leg and lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor. Your front thigh should be parallel to the ground. Next, step forward with your rear leg to perform the next repetition. Repeat as desired.
While standing on your right leg, slightly raise your left leg off the floor. Then extend both arms in front of you to act as a counterbalance.
Lower your hips and bend your right knee and then lower your body as close to the ground as you can. As you lower your body, your back foot should slightly move back and skim the ground. Return to the standing position. Do repetitions as desired and then switch to raising your right leg while balancing on your left leg.
Conrad said you can hold light weights as you perform this move in order to make it more difficult.
First, stand on a step or raised platform with just your toes touching the surface. Conrad said you’ll want to lower the rest of your foot down so the backs of your calves stretch. Then stand up on your toes and hold the position for a second. Be sure to keep your legs straightened as you perform this move. Repeat as desired.
Conrad said for this move you want to perform calf raises but keep your toes pointed about 10 degrees inward. By doing so, you will target the outer part of your calf muscles.
Corey Grenz, a master trainer at Life Time Chanhassen, said that if you’re short on time, the kettlebell swing is probably one of the most effective exercises you can do. Since it is a dynamic movement, Grenz told INSIDER that it is technically a total-body exercise that will primarily target your glutes and hamstrings.
To try this move, place a kettlebell in front of you and hold it with both hands. Then, with your legs slightly spread, minimally bend your knees, hinge at your hips, and straighten your back.
While holding this position, in an explosive manner, quickly move the kettlebell backward, putting it between your legs. Again, in an explosive manner, move the kettlebell forward until it reaches shoulder height. Repeat these movements as desired.
Grenz said this alternative to a traditional squat will target your quads and glutes.
To try this move, use both hands to hold the kettlebell in front of your chest. Put your body in a sitting position, simultaneously bending your knees and hips until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the floor. To help you achieve this position, you may want to imagine that you are sitting on an invisible chair.
Extend your knees and hips upward until you are back to standing position. Repeat these steps as desired.
Geoff Tripp, CSCS, ACSM EP-C, CPT, and head of fitness at Trainiac said this move is great for hip stabilization, core endurance, and lateral hip strength.
First, get into a standard side-plank position by leaning with one forearm on the ground directly beneath your shoulder. Resting on this arm, raise your legs and prop yourself up so your body is in a straight line from your head to your toes.
Drive your hips off of the ground using your core muscles to support them. Using your glute muscles, lift your top leg up 6 inches to 10 inches into the air. As you do this, keep your hips raised. Slowly lower your raised leg to meet your other leg. Do as many repetitions as you’d like before performing this same movement on the other side of your body. Repeat as desired.
To do this move, get into a stationary lunge stance, placing one foot in front of you and one foot behind you. Then slowly lower your body downward, bending both of your knees at the same time. Without leaning forward, raise your body into a standing position. You should feel a stretch in your back leg and front quad as you stand.
To make this move more difficult, you can hold dumbbells as you perform it. Complete reps as desired, alternating which leg is in front of you and which is behind you.
For this move, you will hold a kettlebell or pair of dumbbells and stand on one leg while raising the other leg slightly off of the ground.
Hinge at your hips and extend your slightly raised leg back as you lower your body toward the ground. Maintain a slight bend in your working leg, keeping your opposite leg straight and your hips level. Raise your body up using your glute and the hamstring of your working leg. Complete reps with both legs as desired.
For this move, take a large side step with each leg so you have both feet pointed straight ahead and your legs spread slightly apart. Slowly shift 70% of your body weight to one leg, bending the knee of that leg at the same time.
Push your hips back, sinking into a squat position, resting on one leg as you keep the opposite leg straight and pointed to the side. Drive off your working leg to return to your initial position and then switch sides, bending your other knee while keeping the opposite leg straight as you squat.