Regular exercise can yield a host of benefits, including increased muscle strength, enhanced flexibility, and the prevention of injury. Today, fitness trainer Lisa Lynn, who previously shared her techniques for stretching and working out arms, demonstrates three easy exercises designed to strengthen and tone the lower body, as well as three warm-up and cool-down leg stretches. For best results, Lisa recommends doing this routine every day for 2 weeks, then cutting back to 2 to 3 times a week. Be sure to check with your physician first before starting any new exercise regimen.
Always make sure to stretch out before and after you exercise. Again, remember to check with your physician first; the following stretches and exercises should be modified if you have bad knees.
1. Seated Hamstring Stretch
Sitting with your legs stretched out straight in front of you, bend one knee in while you reach for your other toe.
2. Straddle Stretch
With your legs out to your sides, reach forward.
3. Standing Front Thigh Stretch
Hold on to a chair, and pull your ankle toward your buttocks.
Commonly used by ballerinas and dancers, the lunge is ideal for slimming and toning the lower body. It also improves flexibility in the hip flexors (when the hip flexors become tight, they can pull the spine out of its natural alignment and thus cause back pain). When doing the lunge, you can use a chair for balance; start off with 2 sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.
To do the lunge:
1. Take a large step forward, keeping your head up and torso erect.
2. Lower your hips to allow your back knee to drop down almost to the floor.
3. Push off with your back heel to activate your glutes, or "butt muscles"; donâ€™t let the front knee go beyond the toe.
The Box Squat
This move works the inner thighs, hamstrings, and buttocks, increasing your range of motion and firming the legs. The box squat also shows you the right muscles to use when getting up off the floor or out of a car. You can use the bottom stair or any step at your house; start off with 2 sets of 15 to 25 repetitions.
To do the box squat:
1. Stand in front of the stair, with your heels up against it. Position your feet wider than shoulder width. Point your toes out.
2. Try to sit down on the stair, keeping your head erect and your upper body straight; sit down as low as your flexibility allows.
3. Using your heel to activate your glutes, push yourself back up to the starting position; resist leaning forward.
Inner-Thigh Leg Lift
This exercise firms and tones the inner thigh, increases flexibility, and will work the abdominals, if you keep them tight. Start off with 1 set of 30 to 50 repetitions; when it becomes easy, use 3- to 5-pound ankle weights for resistance.
To do the inner-thigh leg lift:
1. Lie down on your back. Placing your hands under your lower back for additional support.
2. Lift your legs up straight, then open and close your legs in a scissor-like motion.