Leg Toning Exercises With Ankle Weights
Ankle weights are one way of toning your legs without the hassle of having to go to the gym. These weights are great tools to have when you are planning a strength-training program, as they will increase the amount of energy you have to exert to move your legs. As always, consult a medical professional before beginning a new exercise regimen. Begin by strapping the weights comfortably around your ankles.
Straight Leg Raises
The straight leg raise will work the front of the thigh and is performed lying on a bed or on the floor. Keep your right knee in the bent position for comfort and to avoid straining the lower back. The left knee should be straight. Tighten the muscles on the front of your left thigh -- to "lock" the knee -- and keep your ankle pulled upward to help keep the thigh muscles tight. Once ready, slowly raise your left leg upward, but no higher than the level of the right knee. After holding two or three seconds, slowly lower your leg, keeping the knee locked the entire time. Start out with two sets of 15 on each leg and work up from there. To progress this exercise, prop up on your elbows or even your hands.
Hip abductions are for the outer hip and buttock, and they are performed lying on your side. Lie on your left side with the right knee facing upward. You can bend the left knee if you like. Lock the right knee, and keep it locked throughout the exercise. Slowly raise your right leg up toward the ceiling, keeping it aligned with your trunk; do not let your leg extend out in front of you. Lower it slowly in the same manner. To target the correct muscle, also watch where your toes are pointed; they should point forward, or even a little downward, the whole time, and not upward toward the ceiling. Try two sets of 15 on each leg to start out.
This exercise is for your inner thighs and it is also done lying on your side, although this time the lower leg is the one that needs to stay straight. Lie on your left side with the right leg on top. The right leg must be out of the way, so it can be crossed over in front or behind the left and propped in the bent position. Your left leg's inner thigh should be facing the ceiling. Once in position, raise the left leg up as far as it will go and then slowly lower it. Watch your alignment, keeping the leg lined up with your trunk, and keep the toes pointed forward. Start with two to three sets of 15.
Lie on your stomach. To avoid straining your back, you may want a pillow or two under your stomach. Once in position, keep one leg locked. Slowly raise this leg up toward the ceiling, but only to your level of comfort; slowly return to the starting position. This exercise targets your hamstrings -- the back of your thigh -- and buttock muscles. Start out with two sets of 10 on each side.
Long Arc Quad Sets
This exercise targets your quadriceps, or the front of your thighs. To do a long arc quad set, be in a comfortable sitting position with one leg hanging down toward the floor. Slowly straighten your knee as if you were kicking out and hold it in the locked position for two or three seconds. Slowly lower back down to the starting position. For a variation, try different speeds or holding for longer time periods. Start with two sets of 20.
Standing Hamstring Curls
This is another exercise that will target your hamstrings. Stand up for this one, and hold on to a sturdy chair or the wall for support if needed. Stand straight and avoid bending your trunk. When ready, slowly raise one ankle up toward the buttocks by bending your knee. Hold this position two or three seconds, and then slowly lower. Vary this exercise by holding for longer periods or by changing your speed.
Amanda Willis is a practicing physical therapist in Little Rock, Ark., who specializes in adult orthopedic conditions. She received a Bachelor of Science in health science and her doctoral degree in physical therapy at the University of Central Arkansas. She currently practices at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.