When I first started working out I really wanted to tone my legs as I have Mediterranean genetics and tend to store body fat in that area.
I wanted toned legs but I also wanted to be strong and be able to climb a set of stairs without experiencing a severe quad burn when I reached the top.
So I tested and tried a few different types of workouts and pretty much found out what works the best. Here are my top five tips if you are looking to strengthen and tone your legs.
Light weights are key! Let me tell you why. If on average you tend to store body fat in your thighs easily and they tend to be soft and jiggly then you need to go lighter on your legs. Heavier weights will increase the density of the muscle fibres making the thigh muscle bigger in size. If you tend to store fat in your legs then you know it's hard to get rid of this fat. Having a larger muscle with fat on top will make the overall size of your leg will appear bigger. That is why you need to lift light weights as this will tone the leg without the bulk.
OK here is something else that works well. Go for high reps! High reps are awesome for creating tone. I have found that doing body weight exercises such as squats and lunges with high reps gives great results. Wondering how much to do? I say go for 20-25 reps per exercise as long as you are doing little weight or just body weight. If that is too much for you right now then start with less and build up.
Stairs or Step Mill
Anything stepping up is awesome as it works the entire leg including the butt muscles. Now I am not talking about the Stair Master from 1985, rather I am talking about the Step Mill -- the big machine with stairs which move and you are actually climbing stairs. I have never seen anyone step off this thing with just a drop of sweat so when you go on it be prepared to be drenched in sweat. But I have seen lots of people get awesome results in terms of weight loss and tone from using this machine. If you don't have access to one of these machines that is OK, just find a set of stairs and climb them.
I am a little addicted to running as it gives me an endorphin high and awesome results. I also find that running has helped me slim down and tone my legs quite a bit. Here is something else -- incline! Step it up and you will see huge changes in your legs. Not only will the incline tone but it will also get rid of body fat. If you don't run but want to start then you can try a beginners run.
We walk forward and everything we do is going forward so the quads get quite a bit of action. The hamstrings unfortunately do not. That is why you need to work these muscles. For extra tone, if I do two quad exercises I will do three hamstring exercises. I have found that this works quite well in toning the back of your thighs especially if you sit all day long on your butt and if you tend to have cellulite back there.
While the American College of Sports Medicine has listed certified fitness pros as their number one trend for the past six years, the number of accredited trainers, coaches and others continues to surge. And with <a href="http://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Fulltext/2012/11000/Worldwide_Survey_of_Fitness_Trends_for_2013.5.aspx">so many beloved trainers emerging on Twitter</a> to join the national discourse, it's no surprise that accredited fitness professionals will continue their rise. What's more? Those pros are getting out of the gym and<a href="http://www.wellandgoodnyc.com/2012/12/20/wellgoods-14-fitness-and-wellness-trends-of-2013/#wellgoods-14-fitness-and-wellness-trends-of-2013-13"> starting their own businesses</a>, reports Well + Good NYC.
About 38 percent of the health apps that smartphone users download are fitness-based. And that number is only going to get bigger -- one estimate from market research company Abiresearch suggests that the fitness apps market will grow to $40 million by 2016 -- up from just $12 million in 2010. That means we'll total nearly a billion downloads over the next three years. And given how effective those apps can be, if used correctly, doctors may start recommending them for increased fitness -- that'll particularly help the baby boomer generation, who are <a href="http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/08/13/bisc0813.htm">more likely to download a health-related app</a> that has been recommended by their doctor.
Self-monitoring -- formerly the purview of data nerds and navel-gazing techies -- will go mainstream this year, thanks to an increasing number of smartphone apps that help you easily store data on your own behavior -- and a collection of wearable devices, from <a href="http://nikeplus.nike.com/plus/what_is_fuel/">Nike Fuel</a> to <a href="http://lark.com/products/larklife/experience">LarkLife</a>, that do all the work for you. What is self-monitoring? It's keeping track on the minute data of your day -- things like what you eat, how well you sleep and how much you move. Download the data and analyze your own behavior on a spreadsheet.
Mobile, portable classes are the wave of the future -- thanks to the rise of beloved celebrity teachers who can't be everywhere at once. Set up your iPad for a yoga class with the simulated feeling of individualized attention. Open up your laptop and decide what kind of class you'll do that day -- on your own time.
Gluten-free foods are necessary for the one percent of the population who suffer from Celiac disease and the estimated 10 percent with a non-specified gluten allergy. But somehow, thanks to highly visible gluten-sensitive celebrities and fashionable, charming gluten-free bakeries like Babycakes, eating without gluten is all the rage. While it may not lead to weight loss, it does have a side benefit of increasing demand for a gluten-free options that make eating easier for those with Celiac and other sensitivies. But you don't have to go to a specialty shop for your pastries sans gluten any longer: now <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57429388-10391704/dominos-new-gluten-free-pizza-crust-not-recommended-for-people-with-celiac-disease/">giant, national chains like Domino's Pizza</a> are offering specifically gluten-free fare. They might be the first, but they won't be the last.
The kind of juice that won't stay shelf-stable for a year? That's the stuff that will invade your supermarket, your mall court <em>and</em> your Starbucks, if it hasn't already. With $5 billion in revenue this year and projected growth of four to eight percent, healthful, all-natural and raw fruit and vegetable juices (think Organic Avenue, Cooler Cleanse -- but also Jamba Juice) will explode onto the mainstream market. And that growth projection may even be conservative: Starbucks' CEO Howard Shultz vowed to sell juice "in the same tonality that we have reinvented, over the last 40 years, the basic commodity of coffee," <a href="http://online.barrons.com/article/SB50001424053111904346504577531063244598398.html#articleTabs_article%3D2">reported Barrons</a>.
While <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/24/i-heart-powerlifting-and-im-not-bulky-or-masculine_n_934453.html">previously on the fringe</a>, mainstream gym goers are now getting hip to the practice. There are many reasons for women to get into heavier weight lifting -- among them, <a href="http://www.wellandgoodnyc.com/2012/12/03/7-reasons-women-should-lift-heavy-weights/#7-reasons-women-should-lift-heavy-weights-3">healthier bones, greater muscle definition and cardiovascular health, according to Well + Good NYC</a>. And now the practice is gaining popularity, thanks to CrossFit and boot camp classes that encourage heavier lifting.
Everyone from HuffPost blogger and gym owner Jeff Halevy to New York Times' resident sports science writer, Gretchen Reynolds, are talking about the power of the short, intense workout. Using HIIT -- high intensity interval training, gym rats can reach their fitness goals in less time than it takes to whip up a raw protein smoothie. But beware: HIIT isn't right for everyone and low impact exercise is just as great.
While the majority of gym goers have a regular membership and central location, there remains a proliferation of boutique specialty studios -- yes, the traditional yoga and pilates studios, but also CrossFit, FlyWheel, Soul Cycle, Refine Method and Physique 57. What's more, third-party companies are growing to help you manage, purchase and organize your a la carte choices. Want to mix pilates with yoga, CrossFit and FlyWheel? No problem, according to places like FITist.
If you haven't tried this equipment-less form of weight training, <a href="http://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Fulltext/2012/11000/Worldwide_Survey_of_Fitness_Trends_for_2013.5.aspx">you certainly will in 2013</a>. The American College of Sports Medicine listed it in the top three trends they are anticipating for 2013 -- thanks to its effective, no-fuss approach and cheap execution.
Most people will admit that they work out in the hopes of looking good and achieving the vague goal of better health. Functional fitness is a little more specific: <a href="http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20121029/top-10-fitness-trends-2013">as WebMD explains</a>, it employs strength training to "improve balance, coordination, force, power and endurance to perform activities of daily living." That's especially great for seniors, who need a bit of extra training to maintain their daily physical abilities.
<a href="http://www.runforyourlives.com/info/the-zombies/">Zombie</a> runs, <a href="http://thecolorrun.com/">color</a> runs, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/10/tough-mudder-women-spartan-race_n_2257878.html">mudders</a>... if you're paying attention to the amateur race circuit, you have no doubt noticed the proliferation of themed events -- and that will only keep growing in 2013, if <a href="http://greatist.com/fitness/best-themed-running-races/">the popularity of such events is any indication</a>.
Those who are opposed to genetically-modified organisms in their food -- everything from grains <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/12/genetically_modified_salmon_aquadvantage_fda_assessment_is_delayed_possibly.single.html">to fish</a> -- aren't known for staying quiet. Just recently, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/12/cheerios-gmo-facebook_n_2284387.html">anti-GMO activists hijacked Cheerio's Facebook page</a>. But following <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/amywestervelt/2012/11/13/with-california-prop-defeated-gmo-labeling-proponents-look-to-farm-bill/">the defeat of California's Proposition 37</a>, which would have been the first legislation to require GMO labeling, the community is bound to get louder than ever.
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