By Darren Floro-Bryant
When it is cold outside, a lot of focus is put on the upper body when training. We often forget about our greatest assets: our legs. They seem to be an afterthought because they are covered up and as they say “outta sight, outta mind.” Well, I’m here to shine a spotlight on these overlooked, neglected pillars of strength just in time to show them off!
The good news is, it’s never too late even if you skipped leg day. Leg muscles respond quickly, and there are many ways to help them develop and grow – some even with body weight alone. Squats, lunges, wall sits, calf raises, and butt (glute) exercises can all be done at home, at the gym, or outside while enjoying the weather. If you want bigger gains or more development, these same moves can be enhanced at the gym, in a fitness class, or by adding some additional resistance equipment and training.
Before attempting any of these moves, engage your core, keep your shoulders back and down (no shrugging), chest up, and back straight.
Start with your feet planted hip-width apart, toes slightly turned out in a natural stance. Start bending at the knees, stick your butt back, chest up, and heels firmly planted on the ground. Your weight should stay on your heels, not your toes. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, and keep your back flat throughout the move. The movement should be similar to sitting down on a chair. Straighten back up to the standing position by driving your heels into the floor, keeping your chest up. At full standing position, be sure to keep your knees slightly bent to avoid hyperextending.
Start with your feet hip-width apart toes pointing forward on both feet. Keeping your left foot in place, take a large step forward with the right leg by lifting the knee and extending the foot out in front of you, stepping down onto the floor and softly landing on the heel. Your left knee should be bent, and lower to the floor. Don’t let your right knee go past your toes. To get back to the starting position, lift your toes on the front foot and push back up with the heel of the front leg. Repeat with the left leg.
Start with your back against a wall, feet about a foot and a half away from the wall. Similar starting stance as a squat, but now you’re leaning back against a wall. Slide your back down the wall and stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor, like you’re sitting in a chair. In this position, curl your toes up in your shoes, keeping your heels driving into the floor. Flex the muscles on the top of your legs and resist pushing your lower back or tailbone into the wall. Hold in this position for a set amount of time, and then slowly push yourself up to the standing/leaning position.
Find a step or ledge to use as a platform. Place the balls of your feet on the edge of the platform. Ideally, find a spot where you will have something to hold onto for balance. Lower your heels slightly down past the platform, then lift your whole body up onto the balls of your feet, pause, and then lower back to the neutral or starting position. Repeat.
Lay on the floor, on your back. Bring your hands, palms down, by your sides on the floor. Bend your knees, so your feet are flat on the floor. Press your heels into the floor as you drive your hips up to the ceiling, squeezing your glutes at the top of the move. Then lower your hips and glutes back down to the floor. Repeat.
As mentioned, all of these exercises can be done with just your bodyweight or intensified by adding different forms of resistance. For best results and to help reduce the risk for injury, please consult with a fitness professional to learn proper form, technique, and different variations to help maximize results.