One of the biggest requests I hear from women is that they want toned legs. Often they are doing hours of cardio or fitness classes but not getting the results they want. While cardio is wonderful for boosting endorphins and burning calories—and is a key component to overall fitness—resistance-based training is what's crucial to building muscle and strength.
The best way to achieve a long, lean, athletic look is through a combination of resistance training, cardiovascular exercise, and nutrition. You don't have to train for hours and hours, but you do need to have all three working together to maximize your fitness level and well-being and give you results that you can not only feel but see. And when you see your body changing in positive ways, that increases your confidence level and keeps you motivated in the gym—and beyond.
Here are five of my favorite lower-body exercises included in The Model Trainer Method that can be performed even at home with minimal equipment.
1. Bulgarian split squat
A. Stand away from a flat bench and lift right foot back to rest toes on top of the bench. That's your starting position.
B. With arms at your sides holding dumbbells, lower your (back) right knee until it has almost reached the ground while breathing in. Stand back up to starting position, focusing on pushing through the heel of your left (front) foot while breathing out. (The working leg is the front leg.) That's one rep. Repeat for the number of reps indicated and then switch legs.
2. Goblet squat
A. Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart and both hands holding a dumbbell at the base next to your chest. That's your starting position.
B. Lower body, pushing hips back, keeping your back straight until thighs are parallel to the floor while breathing in. Pushing through heels, lift body back to starting position, breathing out. That's one rep. If you have access to a gym, you can perform barbell squats in the squat rack.
3. Romanian deadlift
A. Start standing with legs about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and dumbbells in hands, palms facing toward the body and arms extended in front of thighs. That's your starting position.
B. Breathing in, bend at waist keeping back straight and knees stable as you lower dumbbells over your legs toward your feet. Keep dumbbells very close to legs and continue to lower until you feel a stretch in hamstrings. Pause and lift dumbbells back to starting position, keeping back straight and pushing hips forward while breathing out. That's one rep. If you have access to a gym you can perform the Romanian deadlift using a barbell.
A. Start standing in front of a box or bench with dumbbells in hands at sides and left foot resting flat on the top of the bench. Stand close to the bench with heel of left foot entirely on the bench. That's your starting position.
B. Pushing through the heel of the left foot, rise up so that both the left and right leg are straight. The right foot is hanging behind you and not resting on the bench. (The working leg is the leg on the bench.) Pause and lower back to starting position. That's one rep. Repeat on one leg for indicated number of reps and then switch legs.
5. Forward to reverse lunge
A. Start standing with dumbbells in hands at your sides.
B Step forward with right foot and lower the left knee until it almost touches the ground and right thigh is almost parallel to the ground, breathing in.
C. Pushing through the heel of your right foot (this is the working leg), lift right leg up and back behind the body, similar to a forward lunge but passing the starting position and landing behind you. Lower until right knee almost touches the ground and left thigh is almost parallel to the ground.
D. Pushing through heel of left foot (this is the working leg) step the right leg all the way from behind you to the front of you as if you are performing a reverse lunge but passing the starting position. That's one rep.
Heather Marr is a personal trainer from Canada who specializes in training models. She is the co-creator of The Model Trainer Method and co-founder of Liftologie.com. After getting her start in the industry as a model with Elite, she quickly learned what not to do. She became a trainer to help girls in the industry get fit, lose weight, and keep it off the healthy way. Before moving to Manhattan, Marr ran her own training business in Toronto. She has clients from all over the world, including the United States, Europe, Australia, Canada, and Asia. Marr designs all of her clients’ diets and program plans and believes that together, nutrition and training shape the body.