NEW YORK CITY — In this steamy season of shorts, bikinis and other revealing clothing, get toned up with these simple exercises and stretches to help your legs look and feel their best.
Personal trainer Rachel Lavin put together a workout combination that can be completed in minutes without any equipment. Allow 10 minutes to stretch at the end of the workout in order to reduce your risk of injury and keep your muscles lean, not bulky, she said.
"You definitely work your entire leg with these exercises," said Lavin, who has been keeping New Yorkers fit for more than eight years.
Lavin suggested starting with three sets of 12 repetitions of each exercise. Hold stretches for 15 to 30 seconds.
The Step Up
Target area: This exercise works the entire leg, from the calf to the gluteal muscles (the buttocks) and quadriceps (front of the thigh).
Form: Choose a platform that ranges in height from a regular step to that of a park bench and ensure your entire foot can fit on the elevated surface.
"You want to make sure you lean into it and pull your abs in tight so you are using that muscle to get you up and not using your back or momentum to lift you up," Lavin said.
Target area: This exercise works the gluteal muscles.
Form: Feet should be far enough a part so that the thighs and calves form 90-degree angles when you are in the lowest lunge position. There should be an even distribution of weight across each foot, according to Lavin.
Target area: This exercise works the inner thigh muscles.
Form: Like the other exercises, balance comes from contracting your core muscles. Having a personal trainer, a knowledgeable friend or a mirror to help supervise good form is always a plus, according to Lavin.
"You don't want to go [step] too far and over stretch your muscles" she said.
Target area: This exercise targets the gluteal muscles and to a lesser degree, the hamstrings (back thighs).
Form: To protect your knees, redistribute most of your weight to your heels. For the first set, practice the motion of sitting down on a small chair.
"I always teach them [clients] to just sit down and just get up and then I have them repeat that movement until they get it," said Lavin.
Target area: This stretch works the calf muscles.
Form: In most cases, muscles will benefit from a "static" stretch where the muscles are held in the same position rather than bouncing.
"A stretch should always feel good," said Lavin. "It should never feel painful."
Seated Calf Stretch
Target area: This stretch focuses on the calf muscle.
Form: "All I did was sit on a bench and put my heel into the ground, applying pressure and point my toes to the ceiling," Lavin said.
Target: This stretch works the hamstring muscle.
Form: Choose a bench below hip height and gently lean towards your toes, holding the stretch before the point where the muscles become uncomfortable.
Lavin said the moves will ensure that you're fit and flexible, especially since New York leads the country in daily distance walked, with an average city resident taking 5,039 steps a day per person, according to a recent Withings study.
That means that calf stretches are necessary to reduce the potential for injuries in hips and ankles — especially women, who walk in heels.
"Walking in high heels puts your foot at such an angle, starting at your ankle and all the way up, so your calf muscles are forced to be in contraction all day long," said Lavin, who also suggested wearing flat shoes for the commute to work.