If you are pear-shaped or carry extra weight on your hips or legs, that extra fat can be a constant niggling concern. So how do you lose those unwanted inches on your legs? While spot reduction may have its share of opposition, working those legs muscles with some lower body exercises can’t hurt. Explore a combination of the yoga poses, detailed here, along with the suggested aerobic workouts and leg strengthening exercises and you’ll have yourself a great lower body regimen. So why not get started right away?
Before you begin, you should know that losing weight in isolation only on one part of the body like the legs can be a challenge.1 However, an overall fitness regimen that includes a lower body workout that works the hips and thighs can go a long way in helping you tone up and build muscle in the region.
Your routine should include a combination of muscle-strengthening exercises on two or more days, as well as 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Even yoga stretches and asanas or poses can help work the muscles you are targeting.2
Diet For Losing Leg Fat
When it comes to food and weight loss, the goal should be to use up more calories than you consume. If you ensure a calorie deficit of about 500 calories per day for a week, you should be able to knock off one pound that week. This means keeping your calorie intake to 1,900kcal a day if you are a man and 1,400kcal if you are a woman.3 Remember to stay well-hydrated as you up your activity levels, to compensate for the water loss through sweat.
Foods To Fight Cellulite And Bloating
A common problem for people who are trying to tone up and lose weight on their legs is cellulite. If you are specifically trying to get rid of this kind of fat on your legs, your diet can help.
Avoid refined carbs and cut carb and fat intake: Cellulite leaves your skin looking bumpy like orange peel due to structural changes in your fat cells and connective tissue. This happens due to poor circulation from leading a sedentary life and not exercising, as well as from consuming high quantities of carbohydrates and fats that results in hyperinsulinemia. This increases lipogenesis or the formation of fat.4 Instead get plenty of fresh produce and stick to whole grains.
Limit salt and preservatives: Excessive salt and preservative intake can also cause swelling and water retention in the body, including your legs and cellulite-prone areas.5
Avoid allergens and inflammatory foods: Foods that cause inflammation as well allergens can make cellulite worse.6 Steer clear of common allergens like wheat, nuts, and dairy if you are allergic. Skip processed and refined foods as well caffeine and alcohol because they cause inflammation and could make your already bumpy legs to get even worse.
Getting Active With Cardio
Cardio or aerobic exercise is a great way to get in a high-calorie burn during a workout. Ensure you get in at least the prescribed 30 minutes of cardio five days a week.7 Here are some good options that also engage and work out your leg muscles while also burning calories overall.
- Aerobic dance classes or dance-based workouts
- Elliptical training/cross country skiing
Exercises For Your Leg Muscles
Here’s some help to get you looking your best. These exercises recommended by the American Council on Exercise can build strength in your leg muscles from your hips and thighs down to your calves and make them look more toned.8
This exercise uses your leg muscles as well as hips.9
- Stand with feet hip distance apart and your arms to your sides, core engaged. Move your hips back and down to get that hinge type movement in your knees. Lower until your heels are about to lift off the ground. Face forward and keep the back flat.
- Explode upwards from the bottom half of your body, extending your hips first, followed by the knees and ankles in quick succession. Keep those feet level to each other but parallel to the ground.
- Land softly midfoot and roll into your heels. Keep your trunk slightly forward and your head lined up to your spine. Don’t allow much forward movement because this strains your knees additionally.
Grab a pair of dumbbells for this exercise for the lower body.10
- Grab a dumbbell firmly in each hand, put your arms straight by your side, and keep your palms facing each other.
- Ensure your back is straight as you take a step forward with your right leg.
- As soon as your right foot touches the ground, start to lower your left knee down to the ground.
- Push into the ground with your right foot to stand up and bring both your feet back to the original position. Repeat on the other side.
Get a stable platform onto which you can step for this exercise. You will also need dumbells.11
- Begin by standing with feet hip distance apart, dumbbells in hand, palms facing in. Pull your shoulders back and down.
- Step onto the platform with your right foot, keeping your upper body upright and lining your knee up over your second toe of the right foot. Now push with the left leg to bring your body up to the platform so your left foot is next to your right foot. Take care not to allow too much forward movement.
- Bring weight into your right foot as you step onto the floor with the left foot back to its original position. You may lean forward a little during this stepping down. Load the weight on your left foot now and bring the right foot off the platform back to its original position as well. Repeat to the other side.
This exercise works your hips, legs, and thighs and doesn’t need any equipment. Take care not to step too wide, as this will make it difficult to align your shinbone to your foot.12
- Begin with feet hip-distance apart and abdominal muscles engaged to keep your spine stable. Your shoulder blades must be back and down.
- Inhale as you take a step to your right. Your weight must be on your left heel and both feet facing forward. Once the right foot is firmly on the ground, move your weight to your right foot, bending at the right knee as you do so. You should push your hips back and continue the lunge until you feel your shin is vertical to the ground. Your right knee should line up with the second toe of that foot. Ensure your left leg is straight and weight on your right hip. Keep both heels flat.
- Now exhale as you push away with your right foot to come back to the original position. This time, reverse the transition of weight and movement so you end up with the weight moving to the left foot and left hip.
For box jumps, you will need a 6 to 12 inch high box or a stable raised platform that can take your weight and won’t wobble or topple when you jump onto it. This works your entire leg from the butt and hips, thighs, and calves and shins.13
- Place the box about 3 to 6 inches in front of you on a non-slip surface. Keep your feet hip width apart and arms to your sides. Engage your core and stabilize your spine.
- Move your hips back and down and keep lowering yourself until you feel your heels are about to rise off the floor. Your head must face the box and your back should be flat. Use your arms to give you balance.
- Push yourself up in an explosive movement from your lower body as with a squat jump. Let your ankles, knees, and hips all extend fully. Leverage your arms to propel yourself up and land on the platform/box. During your jump, try and keep feet level to each other and parallel to the floor.
- When you land, ensure you don’t allow too much forward movement in the knees – this could stress your joints. Keep the landing as soft as you can and roll onto your heels, pushing hips back to cushion the impact a bit. As you land, your trunk should be forward a bit, your back flat, and your head aligned to your spine.
Yoga Poses That Work Your Legs
Yoga can help you stretch your body, improve flexibility and range of motion of your limbs, and also work those muscle to help you tone up. Some standing asanas or poses
that are designed to engage your lower body include utkatasana, trikonasana, and virabhadrasana II.
Utkatasana Or Chair Pose
Like a squat, this pose helps strengthen your buttock and quadriceps.14
- Begin the pose in tadasana or the mountain pose with your arms raised above you, parallel to each other and palms joined or facing in.
- Exhale as you bend your knees to bring your thighs as parallel to the floor as you can. Your knees should be out over your feet. Your torso should make a right angle with the top of your thighs. Let the head of each thigh bone press down to the heels of your feet. Allow your tailbone to go down to the floor and into the pubis so the lower back is long.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Straighten your knees to exit the pose, exhaling as you let your arms come to your sides in the tadasana.
Trikonasana Or the Extended Triangle Pose
This pose is designed to stretch and strengthen your hips, thighs, knees, as well as ankles.15
- Begin in tadasana and then exhale as you lightly jump/step so your feet are 3 to 4 feet apart. Lift your arms up so they are parallel to the floor and out on your sides, palms facing down.
- Turn the left foot a little to your right while moving your right foot further right at a 90-degree angle. Your left and right heels must be aligned. Turn the right thigh out so your right kneecap is aligned to your right ankle at their central points.
- Exhale as you stretch your torso to your right so it is over the right leg, taking care to bend from your hip (instead of the waist). Press your outer left heel into the ground and strengthen this leg. Now rotate your torso to the left, ensuring both sides are equally long. Bring your left hip ahead a bit and feel your tailbone lengthen to the back heel.
- Let your right hand rest on the floor/ankle/shin depending on what you can manage without losing the lines of the torso. Bring your left arm up to reach for the ceiling, aligning it with the top of your shoulders. Let your eyes linger on the left thumb as your head remains neutral or slightly turned left.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds before inhaling to exit the pose, pressing your back heel firmly into the floor and reaching your upper arm to the ceiling as you do so. Repeat on the other side.
Virabhadrasana II Or Warrior Pose II
The yoga equivalent of a lunge, this pose uses your leg muscles and works hamstrings, gluteals, and quadriceps – essentially everything from your calves and shins, to the thighs and buttocks.16
- Start in tadasana and exhale as you step 3 to 4 feet apart, arms parallel and out, palms facing the floor. Move your right foot a bit to its right and the left out at 90 degrees. Align both heels and line up the center of your left ankle and left kneecap.
- Exhale bending your left knee above the left ankle. Your shin should be vertical to the floor and thigh parallel to the floor. Straighten your right leg and press that outer heel firmly into the ground to stabilize the pose.
- Stretch your arms so they are parallel to the floor, your torso long and shoulders over your pelvis. Turn your head to your left and allow your gaze to move over your fingers. Hold this for 30 to 60 seconds and inhale as you exit the pose before repeating on the other side.
|↑1||Targeted Fat Loss: Myth or Reality?. Yale Scientific.|
|↑2||Weight-loss and Nutrition Myths. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑3||Work out how much weight you need to lose. NHS.|
|↑4, ↑5||Leszko, Marta. “Cellulite in menopause.” Przeglad menopauzalny= Menopause review 13, no. 5 (2014): 298.|
|↑6||Avram, Mathew M. “Cellulite: a review of its physiology and treatment.” Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy 6, no. 4 (2004): 181-185.|
|↑7||American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults. American Heart Association.|
|↑8||Summer Boot Camp: Legs Workout. American Council on Exercise.|
|↑9||Squat jumps. American Council on Exercise.|
|↑10||Lunge. American Council on Exercise.|
|↑11||Step-up. American Council on Exercise.|
|↑12||Side lunge. American Council on Exercise.|
|↑13||Box Jumps. American Council on Exercise.|
|↑14, ↑16||Bauman, Alisa. Get A Leg Up. Yoga Journal, Sep 2004.|
|↑15||Lasater, Judith. Extended Triangle Pose. Yoga Journal, Jan 1988.|