By Ana Snyder, M.S., Exercise Physiology; CPT, FNS
Do you ever look at your legs and say “This isn’t what I want”? I’ve been there, too. If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time on your feet—and by the end of the day, if you’re not careful, your legs feel totally shredded. These kinds of days used to tempt me to skip leg day, but then I learned a secret.
I used to think all the time I spent running around was a good enough workout for my legs, and that my gym time would be spent better on other parts of my body. At the end of a long day, the last thing I wanted to do was punish my legs even more. With the right plan for leg day, however, I discovered that the right amount of muscle in the right places could make my daily grind easier—and help me build the long, sleek look that helps me rock my skinny jeans.
Keep reading to discover my secret for smooth, defined legs and enhanced, well-rounded glutes.
In used to put in the bare minimum when I worked out my legs. That was such a big mistake. Once I discovered the right way to do my legs, I went from tired and sore to sculpted and lean. Now my legs make me feel like a million bucks.
How you work out is just as important as how much you work out. Sculpting your body can be done in the same amount of time as a regular workout; as long as you intelligently plan your workout routine and apply yourself consistently, you’ll see results in just a few weeks.
One of the most common mistakes on leg day concerns weight: it can be tempting to use heavier weights to save time and get the workout done quickly, but heavy weights can cause swelling and inflammation and make your legs look puffy for hours after your workout. Lifting heavy weights can also add muscle in compact bulges to your legs instead of the long and graceful lines that can make all the difference when you are wearing a skirt or tight jeans. Free weights are also the leading cause of workout injuries, so you have plenty of reasons to use lighter weights and not overload yourself.
Pro-tip: getting your legs to your ideal definition requires dedication—so wearing workout clothes that look good and flatter your figure can add plenty of motivation. My favorite seamless leggings by Gymshark and Jed North are perfect for leg day, because they keep me comfortable and stylish.
If you want the kind of legs that complement a long sleek look, it’s best to stick to high repetition exercises with a low to moderate weight. Heavier weights can lead to bulkier muscles, and even if you don’t put on the bulk, the heavier weights will leave your legs inflamed and puffy for hours after your workout.
A light warm-up, including stretching, can help you avoid injury. Hip flexor stretches are the perfect way to resolve tightness and dodge injuries that might interfere with your fitness and throw you off your game.
Once you’ve warmed up, you have four main areas on which to focus: your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. Women tend to have stronger quads than hamstrings, so a lighter weight on your quads and calves will help you avoid unbalancing your muscles and gain that slender, sculpted look on your lower legs.
Of course, there are times when you want to work out with heavier weights in order to add some compact muscles to give a firm and rounded look. Going with heavier weights will help you add a few pounds in the right places to give your glutes that curvy appeal. My bigger buttocks workout is just the thing to make your butt pop—without adding extra bulk to your thighs.
Because women’s hamstrings are weaker than their quadriceps, a heavier weight regimen will help maintain a good hamstring-quadricep balance. Your hamstrings also frame your glutes, so strong hammies help your butt look great, too.
Not only does that nice round butt look amazing; it helps you walk, too. Homo-sapiens developed large glutes in order to run and walk better, so sculpting your butt adds function to your form and goes way beyond mere vanity.
3 sets of 12-15 reps.
Making minor adjustments in your leg exercises can radically transform your look and give you longer-looking, leaner legs. This method now gets me excited for leg day—because now I truly see the best results.
The high rep, low weight exercises that target my hamstrings and quads give tone and definition to my legs without causing excessive inflammation or swelling. They are central to my secret to sculpting lean legs, and they are easy and fun to do. If you apply yourself consistently, you will put yourself on the fast track to long and slender legs, so give it a try today.