WE’VE all heard about “leg day” at the gym, but if you really want to achieve slimmer, leaner looking legs you might want to skip leg day altogether.
Confused? Don’t worry, as a personal trainer I get asked questions about leg workouts all the time, and while it can be confusing to know which exercises work their magic on those pins, and which don’t, the good news is that learning a few simple tricks can transform your results.
There are two reasons why the legs can be such a tricky area to train.
The first is that your legs contain some of the biggest muscles in the body, and the bigger the muscles, the more effort needed to make changes.
The second is that there are lots of different muscles that make up the legs, so it’s key to know which exercises to choose to target the areas where you want to make changes.
As well as this, before you start any new workout regime to slim down your legs, you need to consider a few other key points.
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To really see your legs slim down, lifestyle changes may be necessary to help you lose body fat.
The best way to do this is to have a look at your diet and consider reducing your sugar intake, highly processed foods like crisps, pastries and takeaways, and also try to move more and sit still less throughout the day.
Making these healthy choices will help you lose unwanted body fat from your legs and allow you to start working on exercises to target the muscles more effectively.
3 exercises that WILL help slim your legs
1. Rainbow leg lift
This is the exercise you’ve probably never heard of but is absolutely the thing you should be fitting into your workouts if you want to achieve leaner legs is the rainbow leg lift.
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The reason it’s such a great exercise is because it targets so many of the leg muscles in one movement.
Hamstrings, quads and inner thighs are all needed, plus with no weights used, it focuses on tightening and toning these key leg muscles without bulking.
This one gives your abs and bum a little workout too, which is always a bonus.
Start from a kneeling position with your hands and knees shoulder width apart.
From here, straighten your right leg out behind you, but allow your toe to lightly touch the floor.
Next, lift the right leg up and then picture yourself drawing a “rainbow” arch by bringing the leg up and then down so it crosses your left leg and your toe taps the floor.
Then take the arch back in the opposite direction and tap the floor with your toe on the other side.
Keep going for about 25 reps or until you really feel the burn.
2. Step ups
For this exercise you need a bench or wall that is around the height of your knee.
It is a great leg exercise because it works the front of your thighs, your calves, and your glutes.
As well as working the muscles, this one raises your heart rate, which is a great way to burn off body fat and achieve slimmer legs.
Face the step then lift your right foot and step up onto the elevated surface you have chosen.
From here push into the right foot and lift your left foot off the floor, and as you come to standing by straightening your right leg, drive the left knee up as high as you can.
Slowly lower your left leg back down to the floor and then repeat.
Aim for at least 12 on each leg.
This is the secret tool to slim legs that is underestimated by nearly every single client I have ever worked with.
Walking is a fantastic way to get toned, slim, healthy legs and it’s free!
When I say walking, I don’t mean taking a slow meander around the block.
I mean walking at a decent pace for around 30 minutes at a time.
If you can do this regularly, you will notice a huge difference in the shape of your legs.
That’s because walking works all the major muscle groups in your legs at once.
Your calves, quads, hamstrings and glutes all get a great workout when you walk (especially if you walk uphill) and as well as toning up those muscle groups, walking seriously works your cardiovascular system, helping to improve your fitness and burn calories – all helping to slim down that lower body.
Aim for a moderately high intensity pace and try to achieve 35-45 minutes of walking.
And 3 exercises to avoid…
There is nothing wrong with any of the exercises I am about to list below.
In fact, they are brilliant exercises to strengthen the body and improve your health and fitness.
However, if you are looking to work towards a goal of slimming down your legs specifically, it can be really useful to avoid them.
Yes, you can stop squatting.
Squats feature in nearly every “lower body workout” you will come across.
Whether it’s squat jumps in your HIIT workouts, weighted squats in your leg day plans, or even in your Pilates class, you will probably have done a fair amount of them if you workout regularly.
So why am I about to tell you not to do them?
Squats mainly work your glutes, that’s your bum muscles, and your quads – the big muscles at the front and top of your legs.
Squats are also a strength building exercise, so performing these regularly, especially with weights, will help to build muscle, ultimately growing the muscles at the top of the legs and the bum.
If your goal is to slim down and achieve leaner legs, these are one you can leave out of your workout sessions,
2. Leg curl machines
You likely will have seen videos of gym loving women using leg curl machines at the gym on TikTok.
Again, it’s not that this is a “bad” exercise, but leg curl machines work one muscle group and that is the quads.
When you perform a leg curl using one of these machines, you are training using heavy weights and isolating this one muscle group.
Unless your goal is to grow muscle in this one area, there isn’t much point in wasting your time sitting down on one of these.
An exercise that has massively risen in popularity since strength training took off, the deadlift is another example of a great exercise but maybe one to avoid if your goal is to slim down the legs.
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Deadlifts use heavy weights and therefore build muscle.
The deadlift focuses on the hamstrings, the muscle that runs down the top and back of the leg, and while it is useful to keep this muscle strong, it can increase the size of the muscle as well as only focusing on this one area, rather than multiple muscle groups.
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