If you have read any of my other posts on fitness you know that I believe fitness should be functional first, and aesthetic second. Basically that means that your first priority should be to get healthy and fit for everyday activities, and that trying to achieve a specific “look” should only come after you have prioritized a healthy lifestyle. That being said, there are some exercises that have both functional and aesthetic benefits. So here are the top 5 exercises that will give you ladies some serious lower body strength, and help shape your glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
Donkey Kicks – When done correctly, this exercise really targets the glutes and hamstrings. I recommend doing 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps, and once that gets too easy for you, add some ankle weights. Even 2-3 pounds can make all the difference. One thing that you really need to focus on while doing Donkey Kicks is to use a slow, controlled motion. You shouldn’t just be kicking your heel up and then dropping your leg down quickly – this doesn’t engage your muscles.
Squats – It has been said that squats are the king of lower body exercises, and with good reason. You can position your feet in a variety of ways to target every muscle in your body. If you keep your feet and knees close together, you will work your inner thighs. If you have your feet wide in a sumo squat, you will stretch your inner thighs and target your outer quads. You can do jump squats, single leg squats (pistol squats), pulsing squats, and many other versions of this exercise to burn fat and build your glute and thigh muscles. Squatting with weighs (whether a barbell or dumbbells) will get you results even sooner, along with a host of other benefits. This 5 minute challenge will have your legs burning like crazy, but you won’t regret it once you see results!
Lunges – Lunges target every muscle in your lower body, but especially your quads. You rely on your quads more than your hamstrings for everyday tasks, so they are usually the larger and more defined of the two muscles. Like with squats, you can vary your foot stance to target every part of your leg, with lateral lunges, forward lunges, reverse lunges, and walking lunges. As with any of the exercise I’m talking about today, adding weight adds even greater benefit by giving you quicker results and even yielding other benefits such as increasing bone density.
Bridges – I first discovered bridges while trying a ballet-inspired workout (check it out here if you are insane). The exercise looked so easy in the video, but I have never been more mistaken. This exercise is tough, and incredibly effective! This one exercise will leave every muscle (including your calves) shaking by the end of a good session. I would recommend 3 sets of 15-20 to start with. Try it with your knees and feet together, as well as apart for the best results.
Kettlebell Swings – Kettlebells are a great way to add weight and variety to your workouts. The most fundamental Kettlebell movement (Kettlebell swings) burn fat and strengthen your core, glutes, and thighs – what more could you ask for from a single exercise?