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Take the basic lunge to the next level by holding dumbbells.
A lower-body workout would not be complete without performing some version of the squat, lunge or wall sit. All of these exercises effectively target the major muscles in your upper legs. Though your body weight is the only resistance you need to perform the basic squat, lunge and wall sit, any one of these exercises can be made more challenging with a slight change in technique or by adding more resistance.
The primary leg muscles worked when you perform a squat, lunge or wall sit are your quadriceps. Your quads are a group of four muscles located at the fronts of your thighs. Your glutes and hamstrings, as assisting and stabilizing muscles, are also targeted. The glutes are basically your butt muscles and the hamstrings, a group of three muscles, are located at the backs of your thighs. All of these muscles help you bend and straighten your hip and knee joints.
Squats with Variety
The classic squat starts with you standing upright, feet hip-width apart and arms held forward for balance. Bend your hips and knees and lower your body until your thighs are parallel with the floor, then return to a standing position. For more of a challenge, shift your weight onto one foot and keep only the toes of the other foot on the floor for balance, then lower into a squat. To intensify the exercise even more, add dumbbells for resistance. Hold the weights at the front of each shoulder with your elbows tucked in by your sides, or rest a barbell across the top of your back when you squat. Perform overhead presses or biceps curls while squatting to work muscles in your upper body.
To perform the basic lunge, start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips. Take a large step forward with your right leg, lower your body until your left knee almost touches the floor, then push back up to the starting position before repeating with your left leg. Other body-weight lunge options are to step backward instead forward, walk across the room with continuous lunges or lateral lunges where you step out to the side. Add more resistance by holding dumbbells with your arms straight by your sides or a barbell across the top of your back as you lunge. Include your arm and shoulder muscles by performing biceps curls and lateral raises while lunging.
Wall Sits and More
As you might suspect, the wall sit is performed against a wall in a sitting position. You stand with your back against a sturdy wall, then slide down until your hips and knees are at 90-degree angles. Hold the sitting position for as long as you can and then return to a standing position. With a slight technique change -- extending one leg for a one-legged wall sit -- you can make the exercise more challenging. Another challenging variation is to sit and hold a weight plate or a dumbbell against your chest. To involve your upper body, include biceps curls or lateral raises.
Performing these exercises with incorrect form can lead to injury. When you're at the bottom of the squat, lunge or wall sit, keep your knees over your toes to avoid undue stress to your knees. If you are new to exercise or haven't worked out for a long time, get the OK from your doctor before starting a new fitness program.
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