Squats, lunges and their many variations are some of the best exercises in weight training. They target multiple muscle groups, help you burn calories and improve muscle definition and strength. For women, the best squats and lunges are those that target the glutes, the inner-thigh muscles and the rest of the leg muscles. Perform these exercises two to three times per week on nonconsecutive days. Do two to three sets of eight to 12 reps and see changes in your lower body.
It is essential to learn proper form by doing traditional squats before you do variations. Start with just your body weight and progress to holding dumbbells or a barbell as you get stronger. Stand with your feet hip-width to shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed straight ahead. Bring your arms out in front of you, parallel to the floor, for balance. Inhale and lower your body by bending at the hips and knees. Lean your torso forward slightly to maintain balance. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor. Exhale and press through your heels, standing back up to the start position for one complete repetition.
Sumo squats are a variation that hit the inner thighs and glutes. Start with your body weight before adding a barbell or dumbbells. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes angled out at 45 degrees. Lower your body by bending at the hips and knees. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor or when you feel a stretch through your inner thighs. Exhale and press back up, squeezing your glutes and trying to draw your knees together for one complete repetition.
Reverse lunges are great for women because they hit the thighs and glutes while helping to protect the knees. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides or on your hips. Take a large step back with your right foot, landing on the ball of your foot. Lower your body toward the floor by bending your left and right knees. Stop when your left thigh is parallel to the floor and your right knee hovers about an inch or two off the ground. Press up and bring your right foot back to the start position. Repeat on your left leg for one complete repetition.
Split Squats on a Bench
Split squats require good balance and strength as you raise and lower your weight on one leg. But they are great at targeting your glutes and thighs. Place your right foot on a bench, with the ball of your foot in the center of the bench. Keep your left foot on the floor with your toes pointed straight ahead, about 12 to 18 inches from the bench. Inhale and lower your body until your thigh is parallel or you feel a stretch in your legs. Exhale and raise your body back to the start position for one complete repetition. Do all your reps on the left then repeat on the right side.
- ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription; American College of Sports Medicine
- Bodybuilding.com: Utilizing Squat Variations
- Bodybuilding.com: Lunging Programs for Women
- FoxNews.com: Kill Workout Boredom With These Lunge Variations
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