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Five Essential Lower Body Exercises That Every Woman Should be Doing

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Did you know that those hours you’re spending on the treadmill aren’t going to help you get the legs you’re looking for?

It’s true that walking and running are great forms of exercise. But, if you want to have toned, shapely legs, you need to make sure you’re also strength training on a regular basis.

If you’re ready to start building the legs of your dreams, keep reading. Listed below are five of the best lower body exercises for women that will help you do just that!

A Little Secret

Before getting into the actual exercises, there’s a little secret you need to know. The best lower body exercises for women are also the best lower body exercises for men!

When it comes to shaping your lower body, there’s no reason for you to do different exercises than the men in your life.

Don’t let the videos of endless glute kickbacks that you see on Instagram and YouTube fool you.

If you want to get a strong, sculpted lower body, these are the moves you ought to be doing, regardless of your gender.

1. Squats

Squats - Best lower body workout for woman

When it comes to lists of the best lower body exercises for women, squats regularly rank first, and for good reason.

A squat is a compound movement, which means it works multiple muscle groups. Prioritizing compound movements is the best way to build muscle and burn fat.

You can do squats with a barbell, dumbbells, a resistance band, or even just your own body weight if you’re a total beginner.

Be sure to keep these form cues in mind so that you can avoid injuries and see the greatest amount of results from your squats:

  • Keep your spine neutral (don’t round or over arch your back)
  • Keep your chest and shoulders lifted (try looking at a spot on the wall in front of you)
  • Avoid letting your knees cave in
  • Try to get your thighs parallel to the ground, if not lower

Must Read: 6 Reasons Why You Should Be Squatting Everyday

2. Deadlifts

Female-Deadlift

Deadlifts are another essential compound exercise.

They work almost all the muscles in the posterior chain — all the muscles on the back side of the body, such as the calves, hamstrings, low back, and glutes. Because of this, they’re one of the most effective exercises for women who want to build strong, defined legs.

If you do deadlifts regularly, you’re also less likely to injure yourself in your daily life when you’re bending over to pick things up or set them down.

There are tons of different deadlift variations out there. Some of the most common include conventional deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, and Romanian deadlifts.

The setup for each version is slightly different. But, these cues will help you master any type of deadlift you attempt:

  • Keep your weight in your heels and midfoot
  • Don’t let your hips rise before your chest when lifting the weight
  • Keep the weight close to your body at all times
  • Squeeze your glutes as you lift, but don’t hyperextend your knees and low back when you reach the top
  • Keep your core engaged as you lower the weight

Deadlifts are usually not as familiar as squats to people who are new to the gym. When you’re first getting started, don’t be afraid to use just the bar or a pair of light dumbbells. This will allow you to nail the form and avoid injuring yourself.

3. Bulgarian Split Squats

Bulgarian Split Squats for lower body

A Bulgarian split squat is a great single-leg exercise that works the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. During this exercise, you have one leg in front of you in a lunge position while your back leg is elevated with your foot resting on a box or bench.

To do a Bulgarian split squat correctly, make sure you’re keeping these cues in mind:

  • Sit your hips back the same you would while doing a regular squat
  • Bend your back leg deeply (you should be aiming for your knee to almost touch the floor)
  • Keep your chest and shoulders lifted
  • Drive through your front heel when you stand up and don’t let your knee cave in

Most people find that Bulgarian splits squats are plenty difficult when performed with just their body weight, although you can always add dumbbells or a barbell if you need an extra challenge.

Also See: 6 Best Things You Should Do Before Starting A Workout Routine

4. Barbell Hip Thrusts

Barbell Hip Thrusts

If you want to have great glutes, barbell hip thrusts are a must.

The hip thrust is a foreign exercise for most people and can be a little intimidating at first. But, in addition to major compound lifts, it’s one of the best exercises for women who want to grow their glutes.

When you’re getting set up for a hip thrust, make sure your barbell is parallel to the bench. Then, sit on the floor and make sure your shoulders and shoulder blades are resting on the bench. Roll the barbell so it’s over your legs and sitting directly on your hips.

Once you’re set up, you’re ready to hip thrust. To get the most out of the somewhat awkward exercise, be sure to do the following:

  • Keep your spine neutral and your chin tucked slightly
  • Push your heels and squeeze your glutes tightly to lift the barbell
  • Keep your core engaged, especially when you lower the weight

If you find this exercise to be painful, try placing a rolled-up yoga mat under the bar to create some extra cushion between it and your hips.

You May Like These: 8 Ways To Stay Fit While Working At Home

5. Calf Raises

Calf Raises

Your calves will get some attention when you’re doing exercises like deadlifts. But, if you really want to fill out your legs, you should also work them on their own with bodyweight or weighted calf raises.

The calf raise is a pretty simple exercise — you just raise yourself up onto your toes. But there are lots of things you can do to help you get more out of the movement:

  • Alternate between having your toes pointed forward, turned in, and turned out
  • Avoid letting your ankles roll out when you rise up (think of keeping your weight on your big and middle toes)
  • Change up your speed when you raise and lower yourself down to mix things up
  • Stand on one foot and do single-leg calf raises to challenge your balance

If you have any mobility issues, you can also try standing on a bench or step to get a larger range of motion.

Final Thoughts

Remember, there’s no need for you to be afraid of lifting weights. So many women are afraid of getting “bulky” or “big” if they lift heavy, but it’s very hard for that to actually happen.

Don’t lift so heavy that your form suffers, of course. But, remember that lifting heavy weights will help you build muscle, which will speed up your metabolism and help you burn fat easier. It’s a win-win!

Start incorporating these lower body exercises into your workout routine today, and you’ll see amazing results before you know it!

 

Author Bio: Natalie Thongrit is a freelance writer who focuses primarily on fitness, health, and wellness-related content. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn, or check out her portfolio to read more of her work.

 

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Fitness

5 Most Effective Ways You Can Lose Those Pregnancy Pounds

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40 weeks is a long time. Taking care of yourself and the baby was a tiring and wonderful endeavour. Most of the things that you needed to consider before your baby arrived have now been replaced with a new set of responsibilities.

Losing those pregnancy pounds just got added to the list. If you’re finding it difficult, let’s break it down.

1. Breastfeeding

Providing nutrients for your baby is not the only thing that breastfeeding does. It helps in cutting down the calories in the mothers’ body too. On an average, women tend to burn 330 calories per day while breast feeding. This is equivalent to 45 minutes on the treadmill at 10mph.

Must Read: 6 Steps to Eliminating Sagging Breasts Following Your Pregnancy

2. Crash diets are a no go

Watching all those television shows makes you want to go down to a size-0. Doing so can put your body into a nutrient deficit shock. There is no way for the body to lose all those pregnancy pounds that you put on, within a span of a few weeks. The body needs all the nutrients that it can get, to get back to its full potential. Which is why, it is important to take baby steps to lose those pregnancy pounds forever.

3. Superfoods for the supermom

Every new mom has a bunch of cravings, with her body still healing and adjusting to all the changes. Planning is the key here. Trying to switch up those pastry cravings with some fruits and vegetables is exactly what a new mom needs. Breaking down 3 meals a day to 6 meals a day can help increase metabolism, and munching on snacks could be swapped for have some nuts and dry fruits.

4. Exercising and eating right go hand in hand.

It’s time to put on your work out shoes, exercise helps in shedding those pregnancy pounds. It is also important to keep in mind that moms shouldn’t just jump into a rigorous exercise routine, take it slow; baby steps, remember? Start by going out for a walk, and eventually take it up a notch and try yoga, Pilates, kegels or aerobics. If you feel any pain, discomfort, nausea or dizziness stop immediately and try again the next day.

5. Ever heard of the concept of stress eating?

Stress tends to release two hormones in our body such as, adrenalin and cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone that makes us think we are hungry, thereby making us eat more and throwing weight loss plans out of the window. Stress is something that new moms are bound to have. Which is why, asking your partner, your family or some of your friends to take care of your baby while you have a “me” is always a great idea to reduce those stress levels.

Also See: 5 Ways to End Emotional Binge Eating

A wonderful thing like giving birth can change the way the body works; even if it is for a little while. This is why it is important to have a balance between your diet and the exercise that you do, to bounce back to your full potential and take care of your new baby.

5 Most Effective Ways You Can Lose Those Pregnancy Pounds

Author Bio: Today’s guest post is written by Olivia Thomas. Check out her latest article on losing those pregnancy pounds.

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Fitness

Top Five Yoga Poses for People with Lower Back Pain

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At any one time, approximately 31 million Americans are suffering from lower back pain. Lower back pain is also the leading cause of disability for people all over the world.

If you’re currently struggling with lower back pain, you know how frustrating and debilitating it can be. But, it’s also important for you to know that there are a variety of treatment options available to help lessen your pain and improve your quality of life.

One of the best — yet often overlooked — treatment options for people with lower back pain is a consistent yoga practice. Yoga comes with a number of physical and mental health benefits that make it a great choice for people who want to relieve their pain.

Read on to learn more about the benefits of yoga for lower back pain, as well as five of the best pain-relieving poses that you can try today.

Benefits of Yoga for Lower Back Pain

Some of the most well-known benefits of yoga for people with lower back pain include:

  • Strengthens muscles in and around the lower back to improve posture and correct imbalances that contribute to pain
  • Stretches the muscles to relieve tension and improve range of motion
  • Promotes relaxation, which further reduces tension and pain
  • Improves body awareness and helps you understand your own body’s current limitations
  • Improves mindset, which can change your perception of and relationship to your pain

As you can see, there are lots of reasons to give yoga a try. Even if you’re skeptical about the practice’s ability to improve your back pain, at the very least, you’ll get to enjoy an hour of relaxation, which is something just about everyone can benefit from!

Best Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain Relief

If you think you can’t practice yoga because you don’t live close to or can’t afford to go to a yoga studio or gym, think again.

Thanks to the internet, there are tons of free resources available that will help you learn the basics and start reaping the benefits of yoga from the comfort of your own home.

Some simple yoga poses you can try today to relieve your lower back pain include:

1. Child’s Pose

This is one of the easiest, yet most beneficial yoga poses you can incorporate into your routine. It provides a nice stretch for the lower back and hips while also helping you relax and enjoy the moment.

To do this pose, start by kneeling on all fours. Bring your feet together so your big toes are touching and open your knees up so they’re a bit wider than hip-distance. Inhale, then exhale and sit your hips back as you stretch forward so that your torso rests in the space between the thighs. Extend your arms in front of you while resting your forehead on your mat.

If your forehead doesn’t touch the ground, you can prop it up on a yoga block, a pillow, a book, or even your stacked fists.

Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths, or longer if you’d like.

Must Read: 5 Practical Reasons To Practice Yoga During Pregnancy

2. Cat-Cow Pose

This is a great stretch that promotes healthy spinal mobility to relieve tension and strengthen the muscles in the back and abdominals.

Start by kneeling on all fours — make sure the wrists, shoulders, knees, and hips are all stacked and in line with one another. Inhale and arch your back, dropping your stomach down toward the ground and lifting your chin and tailbone up toward the ceiling (this is the “cow” part of the pose). Exhale and reverse the pose, pulling your abdominals in and arch your back up, tucking your chin and tailbone in (this is the “cat” part of the pose).

Repeat for at least five rounds (five “cats” and five “cows”), making sure the movement and breath are synced.

3. Downward Facing Dog

In addition to stretching the back, it’s also important to look elsewhere when you’re experiencing lower back pain. Often, people’s backs hurt because their leg muscles are tight — everything in the body is connected, and if one muscle group is tight, it’s probably pulling on other muscles and causing tension throughout the body.

To do this pose, start on all fours. Then, walk your feet back so that you’re in a plank pose with your shoulders right over your wrists. Inhale, then, as you exhale, lift your hips up toward the ceiling until your body forms an upside down “V” shape. Straighten your legs as much as you can and try to bring your heels down to touch the ground. Gaze between your legs or up at your belly button.

Hold for at least five breaths.

4. Standing Forward Fold

There are a number of standing yoga poses that are also great for countering lower back pain, including standing forward fold.

To do this pose, stand up straight at the top of your mat. Your feet can be hip-distance apart, or you can bring them closer so that your big toes are touching. Inhale and raise your arms up above your head, then exhale and hinge at your hips and stretch forward and down toward the ground, keeping your back as straight as possible.

Tuck your chin toward your chest and let the crown of your head reach toward the floor. If you can’t touch the floor, hold onto your shins or ankles instead. You can also bend your knees a bit if this is too intense for your hamstrings.

Hold for at least five breaths.

5. Reclined Pigeon Pose

This is a very calming pose that is often done at the end of a yoga class. It’s great for cooling down the body and quieting the mind. It also provides a great stretch for the outer hip, which, if it’s tight, can contribute to lower back pain.

Start by lying flat on your back. Bend your knees and plant your feet on the ground. Lift your left foot and cross it over your right thigh so it’s resting just above the knee. Reach through the space created by your right left leg and clasp your hands behind your right thigh. Gently pull your right leg in toward your chest, keeping the knee bent.

Hold for at least five breaths, then switch sides.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve never tried yoga as a way to relieve your back pain, consider testing out these five poses today. Your body — and your mind — will thank you!

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Fitness

Three Tips for Tight, Toned Legs

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Summer is upon us and shorts season is here! Does that statement make you feel more nervous than excited? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. 

Luckily, whether you’ve got a beach vacation coming up or are going to be doing some exploring in the mountains, if you want to feel strong and confident this season, these tips for toned legs will help you get there.

Read on to learn how you can shed body fat and strengthen the muscles in your lower body to get the legs you’ve always dreamed of.

1. Incorporate Strength Training

In order to have shapely, toned legs, you need to lift weights. Strength training builds muscle, which is what helps create the appearance of curves.

To see the best results, it’s important to make sure you’re lifting heavy weights and doing compound exercises (exercises that involve more than one muscle group).

Contrary to popular belief, heavy lifting and compound exercises won’t make you look big or “bulky.” Just as fitness icon Amanda Latona if you’re unsure.

Instead of doing a million donkey kicks with three-pound ankle weights, focus on functional movements that will strengthen multiple muscles in your legs at one time. Listed below are some good examples of compound exercises to include in your lower body routine:

  • Bulgarian split squats — this exercise targets the quadriceps and hamstrings, as well as the glutes.
  • Goblet squats — these are great for the quadriceps and glutes.
  • Walking lunges — in addition to working the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, these also help strengthen the core as an added bonus.
  • Wall sits —  this static exercise is perfect for people with knee pain who want to strengthen the quadriceps and hamstrings. The muscle engagement without movement strengthens the muscles without stressing the joints.
  • Deadlifts — this is one of the most functional exercises out there, as it targets all of the muscles in the lower body, as well as the lower back.
  • Single-leg deadlifts — these are great for working the lower body while also correcting muscle imbalances and improving core strength.

While you’ll see best results from lifting heavy weights, when you’re trying these exercises for the first time, it’s usually best to do them with just your own bodyweight. This will help you figure out the proper form so that you can avoid injuries.

Once you feel comfortable with your form, go ahead and add some weight to make it more challenging.  

It can be hard to figure out how much weight to use, but, generally speaking, the best approach is to choose a weight that makes the last 2-3 reps of the exercise difficult. You should still be able to perform the exercises with good form, of course, but it should still be challenging to complete the reps.

2. Add HIIT Training

While heavy lifting is essential for toned legs (and the rest of your body for that matter), it’s also important to incorporate cardiovascular exercise into your routine to help you lean out and see results faster.

While you could spend hours slogging away on the treadmill, there’s a better, more efficient way to go about getting your cardio in.

High-intensity interval training (also known as HIIT) is a type of workout that involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise (performed at 85-100 percent of your maximum heart rate) followed by longer periods of rest.

A typical HIIT workout might look something like this: Thirty seconds of sprinting followed by 60-90 seconds rest, repeated for 5-10 rounds (depending on your experience level).

This type of workout allows you to burn more calories in a shorter period of time, which is great for people who feel that their lives are too busy for long workouts.

HIIT also allows your body to burn more calories after your workout is over, and it promotes fat loss without sacrificing muscle, which can happen when you use steady-state cardio (such as treadmill walking or using the elliptical machine) as your primary form of cardio.

3. Clean Up Your Diet

While strength training is crucial for building muscle and getting the tight, toned legs you’re looking for, it’s also important to make sure your diet is on point. In addition to building muscle, you’ll also need to shed extra body fat in order to really allow those muscles to show through.

In order to reduce body fat, you’ll need to make sure you’re eating in a caloric deficit. This means that you’re consuming fewer calories than your body is burning. While you can create a calorie deficit by exercising more, that can also increase your hunger, which makes it harder for you to control cravings and may result in you overeating.

So, rather than trying to outrun (or outlift or out-HIIT) a bad diet, it’s generally better (and easier) to clean up your diet. This means getting rid of highly processed, carbohydrate- and calorie-laden treats (cookies, doughnuts, muffins, etc.). Instead, focus on eating more of the following foods:

  • High-quality protein (grass-fed beef, pastured chicken and pork, wild-caught fish, etc.)
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthy fats like avocado and extra-virgin olive oil

While eating in a calorie deficit is necessary for fat loss, it’s important to make sure you’re not cutting your calories by too much. It’s generally considered unhealthy to lose more than 0.5-1 percent of total body weight each week. This means that, for a 150-pound woman, a healthy rate of weight loss would be between 0.75 and 1.5 pounds per week.

When you cut your calories too low, you risk losing muscle mass. You also can slow down your metabolism, which makes it harder for you to maintain your weight loss without continuing to eat an extremely small amount of calories. Since maintaining your weight loss will be more difficult if you take this approach, you’re also more likely to gain back the weight that you initially lost.

Final Thoughts

It takes time for your legs to tone up, so patience is a must when it comes to putting these tips into practice. But, if you’re consistent, you’ll be sure to see the results you’re after.

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