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Get Leaner Legs (with Plyometrics)

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Get Leaner Legs (with Plyometrics)
By Lucy Danziger, Wed, Jun 17, 2009, 3:08 pm PDT

It’s baaack! Yes, shorts season is here. That means your legs get more exposure than ever, so naturally you want them to look slim, sexy and totally toned. We all know that walking and running can help sculpt legs, but the key to melting fat and building lean muscle is with plyometrics training, says übertrainer and new SELF contributor Jillian Michaels. Her favorite firmer? Jump squats.

“They will literally lift your legs and help you shed a ton of fat,” she says. “Doing them burns more calories both while you’re exercising and afterward. The move makes tiny tears in the muscle fiber, which creates an intense afterburn that accelerates the process of getting toned and conditioned. These moves utilize your body weight and they are absolutely fantastic for making you look leaner.”

The jumping motion means the moves are plyometric, a type of explosive training that really helps you shed fat and get lean. Plyometrics burns serious calories and fatigues muscles, which is essential for toning, without extra reps or weight. By maxing out your effort like this, you use more energy in less time, shaving minutes off your workout and sculpting lean curves.

Another incentive to sculpt with squats: It can keep you healthier. Knees can ache when their cartilage wears thin, but toned legs may protect that padding. Among osteoarthritis sufferers in a study at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, those with the strongest quadriceps preserved the most cartilage behind the kneecap. Fit thighs, which come courtesy of strengtheners such as squats and lunges (as well as low-impact cardio like Spinning), keep kneecaps from moving abnormally and grinding the cushion, even in healthy knees.

Want to try a plyometric squat?
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at sides, elbows bent 90 degrees as if holding ski poles. Squat until knees are bent 90 degrees, then spring up and to right, trying to get as much height as possible. Land in start position with knees slightly bent. Immediately squat, then jump up and to left. Do 8 to 10 jumps; work up to 20. Create sexier legs by pushing off your toes to tone calves with each jump.

Or try one of these top-notch, nonplyometric toners, which require only a towel:

Toe-roll lunge: Assume a lunge position with right leg in front, knee over ankle, left leg extended straight back. Place hands on waist. Push off ball of left foot, rolling forward onto left toes, then back to heel, in one motion. Don’t let front knee go past toes. Do 15 reps. Switch legs; repeat.

Tiptoe plié: Stand with heels together, toes out, arms in front at chest height with elbows bent, palm facing body. With heels touching, bend knees, rise onto balls of feet and lower as far as you can. Slowly straighten legs and repeat, without letting heels touch floor. Do 15 reps.

Skier squat with twist: Stand with feet together and lower into a squat. Bring palms together in prayer position and twist torso to right, placing left arm against outside of right leg and pointing right elbow toward ceiling. Look up to right. Hold for three counts. Stand and twist to left. Do 10 twists on each side.

source: http://health.yahoo.com/experts/healthieryou/11310/get-leaner-legs/…

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