Legging it

Legs are the body’s largest muscles and, along with core muscles, they are the most frequently used. For people who are active in sports, do a lot of walking on campus or simply insist on wearing impossibly high-heeled shoes, it’s important to keep leg muscles balanced and strong. For example, runners’ hamstrings may become much stronger than their quadriceps, putting them at risk for an iliotibial-band injury.

Busy people who are involved in other sports may not have time to visit the gym. Others may want to increase muscle tone rather than size and prefer not to use heavy weights. Here are five weight-free exercises to tone up leg muscles. Add these to a usual workout or perform all of them two or three times per week as the lower-body component of a full-body workout.


Place feet shoulder-width apart plus six inches, with toes pointing outward. Squat as low as possible without lifting your heels, concentrating on keeping your spine vertical. Perform up to three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.


With your back against the wall, slide down into a seated position. Hold this position for 30 seconds to two minutes. Repeat for up to three sets.


With feet shoulder-width apart, perform a squat as though sitting in a chair. At the bottom of the movement, push off into a jump. Bend knees as you land and go back into a squat. Perform up to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.


Standing up straight, raise your heels off the ground, balancing on the balls of your feet. Hold the motion for two seconds, then lower. Repeat for up to three sets of 50.


On an even surface, assume a crawling position (on hands and knees). Extend one leg straight back, taking care to keep your foot flexed and arms straight but not locked. Hold the extended position for two seconds before returning to the starting position.