By Stephen E. Alway, Ph.D., FACSM
Illustrations by Bill Hamilton, CMI
Unfortunately, a great lower body takes some planning and effort. The thighs and hips can become especially problematic, because this is an area where the buildup of adipose tissue (fat) begins and likes to stay.
A great solution for toning your thighs, hips and gluteal muscles is to add step-ups to your routine. One of the best things about step-ups is that you do not have to wait until you get to the gym to do them— you can do them outside this summer on any step! In addition, step-ups will add firmness and shape into your hamstrings, gluteals and quadriceps. Not only will your muscles be activated, but also your entire cardiovascular system will be challenged, and that means more calories expended to increase your goals for reducing body fat. After a few months, your legs will look younger, firmer and shapelier than they have looked in years.
Why not find a step and get started right now?
• Warm up your knees with stretches and knee bends.
• Locate a step: the bottom step going up to your house or apartment, or perhaps a sturdy and steady box. If you are in a gym, you should be able to locate a step with a non-slip surface to use for this exercise.
1. Place your hands on your hips and keep your back straight and shoulders up (don’t lean forward).
2. Place your right foot on the step or platform. Keep your torso upright. Push off with the left leg to raise your body onto the step, placing that foot alongside your right foot. Try to avoid excessive forward movement of your right leg and torso as you step on the step.
3. At the top, with your weight on the right foot, lock your left knee, and extend your left leg behind you and upward in a kicking motion. This will really help to activate your gluteal muscles.
4. Bring the left leg back to the step. Then step down with the left, followed by the right leg.
• After 12 step-ups with the right leg, switch so that the next 12 are done with the left leg coming up first.
• Complete your set with 12 steps for each leg. Rest for about one minute, then begin your steps by stepping up with the left leg and also step down with this leg.
• Two sets of step-ups are fine to start with, but you should work up to 4 sets.
• If you need a greater challenge, you can hold a light dumbbell in each hand during the step-ups.
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