Want to fit into those skinny jeans?
Working the larger muscle groups of the upper and lower body burns more calories and fat during aerobic activity, during the work-out, during recovery, while at rest, even while you’re sleeping! These are the muscles of the chest and back in the upper body. In your lower body, the glutes (buttocks), quadriceps (front of the thigh), and hamstrings (back of the thigh) are technically your larger muscle groups. We recently covered the inner thigh, glutes, and outer thigh area. Today the focus will be on the front and back of the thighs, quadriceps, and hamstrings, respectively. When performed properly, some of the following movements will also engage the glutes, calves, and inner thighs.
A peer-reviewed study out of Denmark showed that lipolysis (fat burn) increased for at least 30 minutes in the muscles of the lower body after high repetition sets were performed. The number of repetitions used in the study was 25, but anywhere from 15-25 to up to 30-40 repetitions is considered to be on the higher end of the “rep range” per set. Three recent studies, including one from McMaster University, found that sets with 25 or more repetitions increased protein synthesis (muscle toning) by a whopping 60%! This type of training resulted in greater workload or overload of a given muscle group and therefore resulted in more protein synthesis (muscle toning). Calories burned after the workout were the same as when an individual used heavy weight for fewer repetitions. An example of heavier weight and fewer reps would be 8-12 repetitions performed with an amount of weight that will fatigue the muscle group in that shorter “rep range.” If you are looking to build a given area, feel free to add more resistance or weight and do fewer repetitions per set. Remember, you must “fatigue” any muscle group to get real results, which will be marked by a mild to moderate or intense burning sensation in the area. Don’t risk injury! If you are a beginner, stop when you begin to feel “the burn” so that you do not stress delicate joint matter.
Let’s get started with our skinny jeans workout! If you have an injury, please consult with your doctor before starting any new routine.
When executed with proper form, this move targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and even hits your inner thigh as a “helper muscle.” Form is key! Stand with your feet together, knees slightly bent, and a 5-8 lb. dumbbell in each hand. If you want to begin with your own body resistance, place your hands on your hips. Proceed by taking one large step forward with your right leg. Try to land “heel-to-toe” to protect your knees. Tilt your hips forward as you balance your left leg on the ball of your left foot. Your left heel needs to stay off of the ground during the entire repetition. With your front (right) knee directly above your ankle, move down toward the floor with your body and stop just before your left (back) knee touches the floor. Hold for 1 count while you feel the lower body muscles engage. You are inhaling as you lunge off the floor with your right leg.
Move back up toward the ceiling with your hips tilted forward, your back erect and straight, and your shoulders level with one another. You should dig through the front heel as your raise your body for maximum muscle engagement. Imagine lifting the toes of the front (right) foot slightly off the floor as you move upwards during the contraction. Please remember that you are moving vertically (up and down) in this movement for safety and effectiveness. If you let your front knee pass your ankle or toe line or if you drop your shoulders forward, you will stress your knees and back. As you lift your body up, squeeze the muscles of the thighs and buttocks and contract your abs throughout the movement. Exhale on the “up” or lifting part of the movement; then bring your left foot forward to meet your right foot. Now, inhale as you lunge forward with your left foot, alternating legs with a 1 count pause in between repetitions.
Keep alternating legs in this fashion as you feel the fatigue through the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings for 30-50 reps, i.e., 15-25 reps on each leg, since you are alternating. Do 2-3 sets of 30-50 repetitions with a 30-60 second break or recovery period between sets. Start with less weight, fewer reps, or fewer sets if you need to.
Wide Leg Squat
A recent Italian study found that wide leg squats resulted in 40% more muscle activation in the lower body, specifically the glutes, as opposed to regular squats. Stuart Phillips, Professor of Kinesiology at McCaster University, has stated that he feels squats are the single best exercise because it uses all of the larger muscles of the lower body—the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and erector spinae of the back and core. In fact, when performed correctly, one squat uses almost 300 muscles simultaneously!
Stand with your feet about 7-8 inches wider apart than the width of your hips. Place 2 dumbbells in your hands or, alternatively, use your own body resistance with your hands resting on your thighs. For additional resistance, keep your hands to your sides or rest them on your shoulders. You can also use a body bar across your shoulders for resistance and will find that 5-10 lb. weights will be plenty.
Your toes should be facing directly forward toward the mirror or wall in front of you. Inhale and lower your buttocks and hamstrings down to the floor and out behind your body. Do not let your knees come forward! Your knees remain above your ankles as you “sit back” with your buttocks area and lower your body until your hamstrings are parallel to the floor (a 90 degree angle at the knee). Hinge forward at your hips as you do this. Keep your back straight or slightly arched. Pause for 1 count. Then, squeeze the muscles of your lower body as you lift and exhale. Please don’t lock your knees! At the top of the movement, as you are completing the “lifting” phase of your body, place your hips in a pelvic tilt toward the mirror in front of you and give your glutes a hard squeeze as you also tighten your abs.
Repeat 15-25 times for one set. Do 2-3 sets. At the end of the last set, you can keep your buttocks low and pulse quickly until you feel intense fatigue or “burn” in all of the major muscle groups of the lower body. If you lose form, stop: you don’t want to risk injury. Modify this exercise to suit your level by using less weight, fewer repetitions, and/or fewer sets.
Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl
This exercise is amazing for targeting the back of the thighs (hamstrings) and glutes. When performed properly, it also engages the erector spinae muscles of the lower back and lumbar region as well as the lower portion of your abdominal.
Lie on a carpet or mat with your feet placed in the center of the top of a Swiss ball. Position your hands at your sides on the floor, palms faced down, to stabilize your body. Exhale as you lift your hips toward the ceiling. With your toes pointed, pull the Swiss ball toward your body, tightening your glutes and abs during the range of motion. You will feel this in the hamstrings and buttocks almost immediately. Be sure to lift your hips high enough off the mat to engage the lower back and lower region of your abs as well. Squeeze your hamstrings at the “pulling in” and lifting phase while you breathe out of your mouth. Inhale through as you lengthen the legs back to start.
This exercise is INTENSE! You may need to build up to 2-3 sets of 25 repetitions. You can start with fewer reps and sets as you build your strength.
This is one of my personal favorites. It has stood the test of time, and you will definitely feel the burn as you work your hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes.
Rest on your hands and knees with your elbows slightly bent and your back straight (or “neutral”—you may have a natural arch in your back, so don’t “round your back” to try to make it straight.) Begin by stabilizing your core with contracted abdominals and raise your right leg up to the right side of your body until your inner thigh is parallel with the floor or slightly higher. From this position, kick your heel out so that your leg becomes straight. Don’t lock your knee. Then, bend the leg again and lower your leg back down.
Repeat 25-40 times on one leg before changing. Repeat 2-3 sets on each leg with a 30-60 second recovery or rest period between sets. Don’t change sides until all 2-3 sets are complete on one side. Adjust your reps and sets to your level. Exhale as your raise the leg and inhale as you lower, onsciously tightening all of the muscles involved—including your abs!
Do this workout 2 days per week on non-consecutive days. If you are still sore, do it one time per week. Follow with a LiveRite protein shake for maximum fat burn and toning.
Enjoy your skinny jeans workout!