I woke up early this morning to prep my ABT (abs, butt and thighs) class for Momentum Bootcamps and it reminded me that I had a related #AskAmanda inquiry a few weeks ago about this very topic:
What is the single best move to tone and strengthen the lower body?
If I truly had to answer that question with a SINGLE best move, it’s easy: just SQUAT*.
*squat heavy, under a barbell, with proper form, like they show you here.
But of course, this would be a fairly crap #AskAmanda entry if I just left you with that – and I know what you’re already thinking. But Amanda – I don’t have access to a barbell! I don’t know how to squat! Squats are boring! Squats make my legs huge! So just sit there and calm down, because mama’s gonna give you some other options.
First of all, squatting is the single best lower-body exercise because it trains a functional movement (hey, ever tried getting up and down from a chair? That’s a squat!), works multiple muscle groups at the same time (hello glutes, quads, hammies, and hips), and builds strength in areas that can protect vulnerable joints (goodbye knee problems, hello thighs of steel).
Second of all, even without weights, you can gain strength and power from squats simply by using different variations of the movement – for example, jump squats (to train power and explosive speed, important for runners), sumo squats (to target inner/outer thighs), and tiptoe squats (to train balance, tone calves, and build ankle stability).
But I get it – sometimes you don’t wanna go to the gym and squat for 30 straight minutes (I mean, you absolutely can, so don’t worry if that IS your preferred program!). So what’s a gal (or guy) to do for the popped-up booty and slimmed-down thighs we all want? Here are some of my other favorite moves to incorporate into a lower body program:
- deadlifts (again, best done with a barbell and under trainer supervision)
- lunges (whether weighted, walking, elevated, or jump)
- glute bridges (whether bench-assisted, single-leg, or banded)
- lateral movements (talkin’ side kicks, side lunges, and speed skaters)
- plyometrics (I like box jumps, tuck jumps, and star jumps for variety)
- climbing (actual stairs are the best; stairmill or step-ups also do the trick)
And finally – a note on cardio options. If you’re dead-set on getting a slimmer, tighter lower body from cardio alone, then you BETTER be doing one of the following two options: running stairs or walking steep (read: 10% incline or above) hills. The elliptical machine won’t do it for ya; the bike won’t do it for ya (unless you’re riding super-heavy in the standing climb position for upwards of 20 minutes, which is not only boring but virtually impossible); even running on a flat won’t make it happen. You must incorporate incline (uphill) training into your cardio routine to see actual muscular improvement in the lower body. Don’t say I never told you.
What are your favorite lower body moves? Are you a squat pro or a squat…no?