Work your lower body with this strength-training plan developed by Cooking Light Fitness Expert Gin Miller.
Lower-body strength plan: Perform the routine 3 to 4 days per week starting with 2 sets of 10 to 12 reps for the first two weeks, then increase to
3 sets of 10 to 12 for the next two weeks.
Challenge yourself: Forgo a chair, and hold a 5- to 10-pound dumbbell in each hand while performing standing exercises.
Cardio workout: 5 days a week
(A) Stand tall and hold the back of a chair with one hand to help maintain balance, if necessary, then lift one knee to hip level. Keep abs pulled in toward spine and back straight. (B) Contract the front of the thigh as you slowly straighten the knee, extending the leg out to the front with toe pointed. Try to keep lifted leg at hip level throughout the move. Bend knee, bringing leg back to bent-knee lifted position. Do not lower foot to the ground until you've completed all reps; switch legs to equal one set.
Challenge yourself: Point and flex the foot six to 10 times at the top of each rep to further target the front of your thighs.
Rear leg lifts
Stand tall and hold the back of a chair to help maintain balance, if necessary. Bend forward slightly at the hips. Raise one leg to the rear with slight bend in the knee, knee turned out. Slowly lift leg in small pulses with outside of heel and little toe toward ceiling. Tilt pelvis and contract abdominal muscles to maintain neutral posture throughout the move. Keep knee of supporting leg soft; do not lock it. Complete all reps before switching legs to equal one set.
Challenge yourself: From bent-knee position, keep lifted knee facing down, and perform small pulses with heel toward ceiling for a more intense buttocks and hamstrings workout.
Stand with one foot six to 12 inches in front of the other; shift most of body weight onto back leg. Lightly rest toes of front leg on floor with knee slightly bent. Keep torso steady, and slowly lower into a squat with back leg until thigh is almost parallel to the ground, making sure knee does not extend past toes. Keep only toes of front leg on the floor. Hold for a second or two, then rise back to starting position. Perform all reps before switching legs to equal one set.
Challenge yourself: Hold a five- to 10-pound dumbbell in front of body with both hands at hip level, then slightly raise the dumbbell in front of body to chest height as you squat to add resistance and an arm challenge.
Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, and place hands in front of chest, palm to palm. Lower body, bending at the knees while keeping torso stationary, until thighs are parallel to floor. Keep abs contracted to help stabilize the spine, back straight, heels on the floor, and knees behind toes. Slowly rise back to standing.
Challenge yourself: As you rise from the squat position, lift one foot slightly off the ground and hold for five seconds to challenge your balance and strength and further concentrate the move; alternate legs with each squat.
Side-lying leg lifts
Lie on your right side with right arm resting on floor, elbow bent. Place left hand on ground in front of your body for support. Extend legs with knees slightly bent or straight, and stacked one on top of the other. Lift top leg through full range of motion, then lower to hover just above the floor in front of bottom leg. Do not allow lifted foot to touch floor between reps, and complete all reps before switching to opposite side to equal one set.
Challenge yourself: Cross top leg over bottom leg, and place foot flat on the floor. Then, raise and lower bottom leg about a foot without allowing it to touch the ground for an inner-thigh workout.
Lie on a mat on your back with hands crossed on top of chest. Place one foot flat on the mat, with knee bent, and raise other leg, resting heel of foot on stationary leg, as shown. Lift hips about six inches off ground, and hold for three seconds. Lower to start. Perform all reps, then switch legs to equal one set.
Challenge yourself: Extend raised leg toward ceiling for an added core challenge.