10 New Ways to Take Classic Lower Body Moves to the Next Level
Move You’ve Mastered: Calf Raise
Now Try This: Siff Squat
Swap out calf raises for multi-muscle Siff squats for an even greater challenge to your calves plus a bonus calorie burn from working the additional large muscle groups in legs. Stand with feet hip-width apart holding dumbbells in front of shoulders with palms facing in (or a barbell resting on shoulders). Lift heels off the floor, lower into a squat, then return to standing, balancing on balls of feet for the entire move. Try for 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Move You’ve Mastered: Side Lunge
Now Try This: Cossack Squat
Side lunges are a great way to work the inner thighs, but the Cossack squat may be even better. In fact, top trainer Jon-Erik Kawamoto named this move as his favorite inner-thigh exercise of all time.
A Stand with feet much wider than shoulder-width apart, arms relaxed by sides.
B Squat as deep as possible on right leg while keeping left leg straight, flexing left foot, and turning toes up (leans slightly forward to maintain balance). Extend arms straight out in line with shoulders. Return to starting position. Repeat on opposite side and continue, alternating sides each rep. Try up to 4 sets of 16 to 24 reps.
Warrior III Swing
Move You’ve Mastered: Deadlift
Now Try This: Warrior III Swing
Get the same back-, hamstring-, and glute-shaping power of a split stance deadlift with an added balance and core stability challenge with this yoga-inspired variation.
A Holding dumbbells by sides, stand on right leg with knee slightly bent and lift left knee in line with hip.
B Hinge forward from hips, extending left leg behind hip with foot flexed (forming a “T” shape with body) and reaching arms toward right foot. Slowly return to starting position without touching left foot to the floor. Repeat with opposite leg. Do up to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps per leg.
Move You’ve Mastered: Hamstring Curl
Now Try This: Hook Kick
Hamstring curls are a great isolation exercise, but lying down to perform a single action means the rest of your body isn’t doing much. Instead, stand up to burn more calories and fire up your core muscles with this martial arts-style hook kick.
A Stand with right foot forward and hands in fists by chin. Step left foot into right heel, rotating left heel slightly forward. Raise right knee to the chest and then extend right leg up and to the right on a diagonal, pointing foot.
B Bend knee and draw right heel back toward hip, tracing a semi-circle with the foot, then set right foot back on floor. Repeat with opposite leg. Try up to 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps on each leg.
Move You’ve Mastered: Leg Press
Now Try This: Pistol Squat
The leg press machine does offer major sculpting benefits for your legs, but a pistol squat can be an even more effective bodyweight alternative that not only shapes your legs but challenges your core muscles, balance, and coordination too.
A Stand on left leg and extend right leg forward with foot flexed (bend right knee slightly if needed).
B Bend left knee and sit back into hips, reaching arms out in line with shoulders for balance, lowering as close to the floor as possible without lifting left heel off the floor. Return to starting position. (To make it easier, modify by holding right leg closer to the floor and keeping squat more shallow.) Repeat with opposite leg. Try gradually building up to 3 sets of 5 to 10 reps on each leg.
Move You’ve Mastered: Squat Jump
Now Try This: Frog Jump
Don’t get us wrong—we love the heart pumping, calorie-blasting power of squat jumps as much as your boot camp instructor does. But if you’re looking to shake up your routine a bit and get a little more action from your glutes and inner thighs, you might want to try jumping like a frog instead.
A Stand with feet wider than hips, knees and toes pointed out, reaching hands down toward the floor. Squat down as low as possible while keeping chest lifted, heels flat, and knees tracking over toes.
B Jump up in the air, bringing feet together and swinging arms overhead to help propel body up. Land in a deep squat. Repeat as many times as possible for 30 seconds, rest for 10 to 15 seconds, and then try 2 more sets. (For variety, travel forward or backward or rotate a quarter turn mid-air with each jump.)
Move You’ve Mastered: Stationary Lunge
Now Try This: High Step-Up
If you’re bored with lunges (or they cause you knee pain), try trading them out for high step-ups instead. This seemingly basic movement fires up the glutes and thighs in a major way and also spikes the heart rate for a boost in calorie-burn.
A Stand on left foot with right foot resting on a bench, high box, or step, holding dumbbells by sides.
B Stand up onto right foot and lift left knee in line with hip. Lightly step left foot back to the floor to return to starting position. Repeat on opposite side. Try up to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps on each side.
Move You’ve Mastered: Adductor Machine
Now Try This: Skater Leaps
Not only is the inner-thigh machine not the most flattering to use, it’s not even the most efficient way to target the inner thigh muscles. So get up off the adductor machine and sub in these skater leaps to fire up your inner and outer thighs, glutes, and core muscles while squeezing in a little extra cardio action to help burn fat and see results faster.
A Stand on left leg with right knee bent and right foot raised behind body. Lower into a squat position. Take a wide leap to the right, extending both legs out while in mid- air and swinging arms open in line with shoulders to help propel body sideways.
B Land in a squat on right leg, bending left knee behind body and swinging arms to the left. Hold for one count. Repeat in opposite direction. Continue, alternating sides, as many times as possible for 30 seconds. Rest for 10 to 15 seconds and then try 2 more sets.
Single-Leg Med Ball Bridge
Move You’ve Mastered: Hip Extension
Now Try This: Single-Leg Med Ball Bridge
Hip extensions can be a joint-friendly alternative to traditional squats and lunges, but for more of a challenge for your glutes, hamstrings, and even lower back (without the added stress on your knees), try single-leg bridges on a medicine ball.
A Lie faceup with knees bent and feet on top of a medicine ball, arms extended by sides, palms pressed against the floor. Pull right knee—bent about 90 degrees—toward chest.
B Brace abs in tight and press left foot down into medicine ball to lift hips off the floor. Hold for one count. Lower hips to the floor, and then immediately press back up. Repeat with opposite leg. Try up to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps on each leg.
Move You’ve Mastered: Squat
Now Try This: Kneeling Squat
Squats are one of the best lower body exercises around; this kneeling variation maximizes the role of your glutes to really target the rear view.
A Kneel with toes pointed and shoulders stacked over hips, holding dumbbells in front of shoulders, palms facing in. (To make it easier, don’t use the dumbbells. To make it harder, hold a barbell.)
B Lower hips toward heels (try to touch glutes to calves without sitting on them), keeping chest lifted. (If not using dumbbells, extend arms can reach in front of body for balance or overhead for more challenge.) Squeeze glutes to return to starting position. Try up to 3 sets of 10 to 25 reps (you may want to do less reps if using weights).
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