For some people, leg exercises mean very little else than a long walk or some yoga poses to stretch out the muscles and keep the weight off. For others, it can get more serious than that. If you have gotten into your fitness regime and improved your tone and strength in your upper body, you may feel that it is time that your legs caught up. A little more definition in your quads and calves or strength in your hamstrings can go a long way. However, it isn’t always obvious how best to achieve this with your standard fitness machines at home.
Below are some tips to help you improve your leg workout routine. First, there are tips for using more traditional machines and then some recommendations for equipment specifically designed for the legs.
Leg exercises with traditional fitness machines
A lot of your common at-home fitness machine will help you to work the legs pretty effectively as you build your cardio and general fitness. However, those only really work to a certain point.
You are working your muscles and getting the blood flowing as you exercise if you like to use a treadmill. There is a repeated motion that means that you can slowly build tone and strength in these areas. If you like the simplicity and familiarity of a treadmill then you can find ways to increase your output and work on toning your legs further. You can increase the incline or the pace so that you have to work a little bit harder and really feel the burn. You can also work on the intensity through HIIT sessions – either manually or by enjoying a pre-set program.
There is a similar approach if you like to use a rowing machine. These machines are better at providing a full-body workout than you might imagine. The repeated motion of the extension of the legs and the bending of the knees does play its part. Make sure that your rower has the right length rail and comfortable footplates so that you can get the best out of this motion. Again, you can improve your output by altering the speed of your strokes and the resistance on offer.
Elliptical trainers will always be popular when it comes to leg workouts because of the motion on the footplates and the resistance provided. There are some that now offer a 360 degree motion that allows you to move your legs in a circular motion and tone the muscles of your inner thighs too.
The exercise bike
Finally, there is everyone’s favorite for leg exercises – the exercise bike. Whether you prefer an indoor bike that mimics road cycling, a spin bike or something a little more traditional, you can work your legs for long sessions with these machines. Spin bikes are great because you can really push yourself and stand up for intense sessions. Regular work on these machines can go a long way to improving the tone and strength of your legs at home.
Other specialist machines for your leg workout
However, there are other machines that are designed for leg exercises. If you want to really focus on a specific muscle group and improve the look and strength of your legs, you might want to consider the following.
The leg press
The first is the leg press. The basic idea here is that you use the force of your legs to lower and raise a platform. Bring your legs to your chest to lower the platform and then push it back up. This tests the strength of your quadriceps. You can adjust the weight to increase the resistance and effort needed. You can also choose how many reps you do.
The leg extension
Next is the leg extension. You sometimes see these bars on other pieces of gym equipment as a way of diversifying a workout. You get comfortable on the seat with your feet hooked under the padded bar. Then you simply extend your legs out straight, pushing the bar up. As with most of these machines, it is all about the weight and resistance.
Inner thigh machines
If you like the idea of working your inner thighs, but don’t like the idea of the 360 degree elliptical machine, there are specialist machines for this too. Again, you can sit quite comfortably in the best models while you let your legs do all the work. This time the pads sit by your knees and upper thighs as you bring your legs together. Adjust the weight of the machine to make it as easy or as hard as you need it to be.
The squat rack
Finally, there is the option of the squat rack. This is a piece of equipment that you might overlook when thinking about leg exercises. Squats are such a great part of a leg workout because they really test the strength of your muscles and improve tone quite quickly. One way that you can increase the intensity is to perform weighted squats. A weight rack is a good idea as you can increase the weight and balance it safely. However, it is advisable to have a spotter in this situation to be as safe as possible because of the free weights.
Choosing the right equipment for your leg workout
There are plenty of ways that you can improve your leg days and really work on the strength and tone of these muscles. If you don’t have the space for a new machine specifically for your legs then look into ways of improving your workouts on your treadmill, exercise bike or elliptical trainer. If you do have the space, pick a machine that you know you can use with ease on your own.
The worst thing that you can do in this situation is over-exert yourself and risk an injury. Start slow, work your way through different weights and resistance levels and increase your reps. Before long, you should start to notice the difference in the feel and appearance of your legs.