#06 – Sea Legs

We are coming into the last week of March, which leaves about 5 months to go until I go to Hawaii and hopefully, show off all my hard work. Hopefully, you too, will be able to show off those lean glowing bodies of yours for whatever event you are going to!

This week, I want to go into my leg exercises. If you’ve spoken to anyone who is into fitness or goes to the gym, you’ve probably heard of the dreaded ‘leg day’, but really – training legs is nothing to be afraid of! Yes, I admit – it’s not my favourite muscles to work out, but it’s essential. Nobody wants to train all the other body muscles and make them big and strong to have your legs be weak. Just as our diets and lifestyle choices should be balanced, our bodies should be too. Proportionally balanced.

So why should we train our legs? Well, just as with our other body parts – we need our legs to function. Everyday. In the smallest and easiest of tasks. They are our biggest muscle group in our bodies. That’s why it is key to train them to build up our strength to avoid strain or injury in future. It’s also going to help our core. A lot of leg exercises are classed as compound movements. Compound movements are exercises that work many muscle groups together. One of the muscles that is also targeted? Your booty. Building strong glutes will help avoid lower back injury, plus who doesn’t want their butt to look good in a pair of jeans?

A lot of leg exercises also engage the core, so it means that you’ll also be building those 6-pack abs whilst training legs.  As well as building our core, leg exercises will also make other exercises easier, such as cardio. You’ll be able to perform so much better in activities that involve running or cycling because your legs will be able to handle a lot more pressure and tension. Better legs = better performance.

So you can totally see the advantages of working out legs?

SQUATS (6 sets x 10 reps)
This is an example of a compound movement I mentioned above. The squat is a great all-body exercise to really strengthen your hamstrings, thighs, your butt and stabilise your core. You can either do this at the gym with a barbell or at home, perhaps holding a bottle of water in each hand, in front of you.

Squat with dumbbells. Courtesy of iStock

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. If you’re using a barbell, then position the barbell on your shoulders, behind your head, keeping it steady with your hands. Put a weight on each end of the barbell that isn’t too heavy. We want to increase our weight gradually through the upcoming weeks. If you’re at home, then stand shoulder-width apart and hold a water bottle or weight in each hand and stretch out your arms in front of you.

With both variations above, you then want to slowly bend your knees and squat down in a controlled motion. Think of it like sitting down on an imaginary chair, but keeping your back as straight as possible. Try to go as low as you can, before coming back up to starting position. That’s 1 rep! Now keep going to do the full set and repeats for the further sets.

DEADLIFT (6 sets x 6 reps)
Another compound movement that will work many different muscles – hamstrings, quads, your butt and even your neck!

Deadlift. Image courtesy of iStock

Stand behind a barbell with even weights on each side. You want to stand just a little bit wider than shoulder width, with half of your foot underneath the barbell. Grab the barbell with your arms at shoulder width and bend your knees (as if you’re doing a squat). It’s important to keep your back straight. Deadlifts are easy to incur injury if they are not done properly, so make sure your form is correct before lifting too heavy!

You then want to stand up straight, lifting the barbell with you. Remember to keep the movement controlled and try not to force to lift the barbell with your arms. Your legs should be pushing you into a standing position, and your arms should naturally pull the barbell up. At the top of the movement, squeeze your butt and stick your chest out. Bring the weight back to starting position, squatting and keeping your back straight as you lower. Hooray, that’s 1 rep! Now repeat.

SINGLE LEG DEADLIFT (6 sets x 10 reps)
So for all of you people who don’t have access to the gym and can’t do the deadlift above, here’s an alternative variation, which you can do at home!

Single leg deadlift. Courtesy of Bicycling.

Grab a water bottle or weight and hold in one hand. Stand on one leg, same side as you hold the weight. Keeping your knee slightly bent, lower your body forwards, sticking out the other leg to balance you. You want your body to be parallel to the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and then, in a controlled movement, bring your body back up to starting position.

WALL SIT (hold for 30-60 seconds)
I always love to finish off my leg workouts with a wall sit. They may look easy, but don’t be fooled. Similar to a plank, we are working that core stability as well as making our legs feel the burn of the exercises we have just completed. You can do this exercise at home.

Get into a seated position and lean your back against a wall. Have your feet shoulder width apart and sit as if you’re sitting on an invisible chair. Hold that position for as long as possible, aiming to reach at least 30 seconds. Each time after, you want to increase by 5 or 10 seconds.

Wall sit. Courteous of iStock