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Lower body exercises are meant to improve muscle and build strength throughout the entire lower body. Exercises for this area target the hips, butt, and legs, and can also improve strength and flexibility of the feet and ankles. There are many excellent lower body exercises that can be done with or without equipment, and the proper blend can quickly result in increased strength, improved muscle tone, and more stable balance.
Targeting the hips can be difficult for some, as this area of the body is relatively inflexible and not easily exercised with machines or free weights. Squats, one of the most popular lower body exercises, can help trim and tone hips while working the butt and thighs as well. To perform an effective basic squat, stand with feet hip width apart and arms extended forward at shoulder level. Lower the body, bending knees but resisting rocking forward, as if sitting down in a chair. To prevent knee stress, make sure knees do not push forward in front of toes.
Squats are endlessly customizable and can be tweaked to target specific areas. Some people prefer to do several repetitions of the movement, while others choose to get into a squat position and hold it for a set amount of time. Squats can be turned into a full body exercise by holding weights in extended arms, or can target thigh muscles by adding a sidestep in squat position.
Another great set of lower body exercises includes lunges. To perform a simple lunge, stand with feet apart, one in font of the body and one behind. Bend knees until the front thigh and back calf are parallel with the floor; knees should both be at a 90 degree angle. Again, be certain to keep weight balanced by making sure that the front knee does not go in front of the toe. When rising back up, tighten butt and thigh muscles. For a beginner, some fitness experts recommend starting out with three sets of ten lunges on each side.
Strengthening ankles and feet is key to avoiding injury. A very simple exercise for these areas simply involves repetitions of rising on tiptoe. Using a table, ballet barre, or chair for stability, rise on the toes and hold, then lower. For added stretch, perform this exercise on a block or even elevated sidewalk. After rising on tiptoes, sink heels down, stretching the back of the ankles.
Not all lower body exercises require endless repetitions or stretches. Some of the most effective lower body toning can be achieved simply by walking, hiking, or jogging. In addition to helping tone the whole lower body, walking or running provides cardiovascular exercise that can lead to improved health and weight loss. Many health and fitness experts recommend an exercise program that blends strength-building lower body exercises, such as those described above, with some cardio activity. By combining strength training with cardio, chance of injury can be reduced as fitness, flexibility, and strength improves, all leading to greater physical health.