Toning your legs at the gym, well it doesn’t take a lot of searching around on Instagram, Facebook or Women’s magazines to see fitness models relaxing by a beautiful beach with a pina colada in one hand and a pair of amazingly toned legs – and you can’t help but think… well she’s just gifted with a fantastic body, WHY CAN’T I HAVE HER LEGS. Well i’m here to tell you the process is quite simple, you just need to know where to start – let’s dive into the first rule.
Rule #1 – Resistance Training
Now let me start by saying, if your current training program revolves “solely” around cardio and endurance type training – you will be in an up hill battle for developing well toned legs. What exactly is toning anyway? Toning in a nutshell is building muscle in certain areas with your physique, while dropping your body fat % low enough to see that muscle – hence those nice curves and toned look.
For women I always recommend lower body training at least twice per week, you should be focusing on resistance based exercises (i’ll go into more details further down about which exercises), when it comes to cardio I would suggest incorporating some HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions instead of long cardio sessions. A good HIIT session to complete twice per week can be hill sprints at your local park. Sprint up a hill for 30 seconds (100% intensity), followed by a slow jog back down (30% intensity), repeat this for 10 minutes.
Rule #2 – Increase Your Calories
Around 80% of women who come to me for help with body recomposition are under eating… unfortunately by quite lot. If you’ve been under eating by more than 500 calories below your TDEE (maintenance level) for a long time, then you’re not only hindering lower body development, you could be causing irreversible metabolic damage.
The first step is to understand your body’s caloric requirements and then ensure your calories are either slightly below or at your maintenance levels (TDEE). If you are quite lean and have a very low body fat % then you might even be thinking about being in a slight surplus of 150-300 calories for a few months to force more growth.
Rule #3 – Training Volume
The next important rule, make sure you are adding enough volume into your training program to force the required growth in your lower body. As I mentioned above you need to be training your lower body at a minimum twice per week with resistance training, 45 minute sessions would be sufficient.
I would suggest firstly focusing on hypertrophy for 4-8 weeks followed by a phase of strength training – 4-8 weeks, and followed by an endurance phase with 4-8 weeks.
- Hypertrophy – 8-12 reps, 3 sets, 60 second rest (between sets)
- Strength – 3-5 reps, 3-5 sets, 2 minute rest (between sets)
- Endurance – 15-20 reps, 4-5 sets, 30 seconds (between sets)
Rule #4 – Track Your Progress
You wouldn’t hop in your car ready to drive to work blind folded? Well without tracking your progress with training you are basically driving blind, because you won’t know or understand what’s working and whats holding you back. Each week I would recommend the following measurements:
- Thigh measurement (cm)
- Hips measurement (cm)
- Waist measurement (cm)
- Body Fat % (if possible)
- Progress Photos
- Body Weight (lb or kg)
- Strength (increases / decreases)
Although measurements are a huge part of tracking progress, you will notice that i’ve added “progress photos”, not everyone is comfortable taking photos of themselves but I highly recommend it, because once you achieve those dream toned legs, trust me you will want to see where you started!.
Also something to note – if the scale weight is going up and your body fat % is going down, congratulations you are “recomping”. This is very common for beginners and this a great sign you are on track. You can see some amazing success cases of body recomposition here.
Rule #5 – Use The Correct Exercises
If you’re turning up to the gym and only targeting your legs with 3 exercises, then you’re probably not providing enough variation with your exercises & not stimulating enough muscles, i’ll go through some of the exercises and muscles you need to be targeting each week:
- Leg Press (high feet position)
- Lying Leg Curl (machine)
- Seated Leg Curl (machine)
- Barbell Squats
- Front Squats
- Bulgarian Split Squats
- Leg Extension (machine)
- Leg Press (low feet position)
- Hack Squats (machine)
- Static Lunges (smith-machine)
- Glute Kickbacks
- Glute Bridge
- Leg Curls
- Barbell Hip Thrust
- Calf raise (smith-machine)
- Sled Push
- Leg Press Calf raise
- Seated calf raise (machine)
Wrapping It All Up
I hope this post has shed some light on how fitness models develop those incredible looking toned legs. They aren’t just genetically blessed (although genetics do play a role), anyone with the correct tools, knowledge and a burning desire to success can achieve the same results. If you’re unsure of where to get started, the 90 Day Fitness Model Challenge has everything outlined in this post and more for developing a fitness model body with a science and research backed approach.
Leave a comment below, let me know if you have any questions!