There are many muscles and muscle groups in the human legs such as the calves, inner and outer thighs, quadriceps, gluteus and hamstrings. As a result, it is necessary to complete several different exercises when toning legs since each exercise targets only one muscle or muscle group.
Effective leg toning exercises include the leg press, squats, leg extension, calf press and seated leg curl. Exercises for toning legs are typically done in sets or a series of repetitions. Beginners generally start by completing a higher number of repetitions at a low weight before increasing the weight and decreasing the repetitions.
The most common and arguably effective exercise for toning legs is the squat and its many variations. All the leg muscles are involved in the movement but the quadriceps and gluteus are emphasized. In a standard squat feet are kept shoulder width apart with toes pointed slightly outward, the barbell rests on the shoulders and trapezius muscles and the movement entails lowering the buttocks towards the floor and returning to the starting position. Squats can also be done against a wall using a fitness or exercise ball tucked into the lower back.
Additional quadriceps exercises include the leg press and leg extension. The leg press is a type of seated squat in which weight is pushed away from the body using the feet. The leg extension is often completed at the beginning or the end of a workout. Once seated in the leg extension machine, weight is lifted as the legs are extended and straightened until the knees are almost locked before returning to the starting position.
Leg curls are effective for toning because this exercise targets the hamstrings and can be performed while seated or lying face down. When executing a seated leg curl, the legs begin extended and push the weight down as they curl back towards the body. In the case of a standard leg curl, the legs are bent and push the weight towards the buttocks. A gentler version of leg curls can be performed by lying on the ground and moving an exercise or fitness ball towards and away from the body using the heels. The calf muscles can be strengthened by completing the calf press when a weighted platform is pushed back using the balls of the feet.
Stretching prior to and after working out is a crucial part of any exercise routine for toning legs. It is important to pause before starting a repetition and before returning to the starting position to make sure that muscles and not momentum are doing the work. It is also advisable to rest for between 30 seconds to a minute between sets. In order to avoid serious injury, a doctor should be consulted prior to beginning any exercise routine.