These Low-Impact Lower Body Strength Exercises Will Save You From A World Of Pain
We love running, jumping and boot camp-style workouts as much as the next person. But you know what doesn’t? Our knees. And our hips. And sometimes our ankles.
High-impact workouts strengthen our muscles, but cause some pretty serious wear and tear on our joints. Your 20-something body might say all is well now, but you just wait. Cartilage doesn’t regenerate, friends. And there will come a day where your body just says, “Nope, no more for you!”
So instead of reaching that depressing point of no return with your physical fitness, lean into some low-intensity workouts every once in a while — especially when it comes to your lower body. The beauty of the seven moves below is that they not only strengthen and tone the muscles you’re activating, but also create additional stability for your joints, staving off future injury. Oh, and don’t let the “low-impact” descriptor fool you — they’re still hard as hell when you do them correctly.
These babies will strengthen your back, glutes and hamstrings without over-stressing your knees and hips. Pick your weight of choice and hold it in both hands, palms facing down, as you stand with your feet hip-width apart and parallel to one another. Slightly bend your knees and maintain that angle throughout the entire move. Push your hips back as you slowly hinge forward, pausing when you feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Using the strength of your hamstrings and glutes, pull your torso back up to the original standing position, keeping your core engaged the entire time. Repeat 15 times to complete one set.
Ballet Barre Leg Lifts
Want legs like your fave ballerina? Us, too. Stand nice and tall with your core engaged and your feet shoulder-width apart. Reach your arms out to the sides for balance. Shift your weight to your left leg as you lift your right leg, straightened, directly in front of you. Depending on your flexibility, your foot could be a few inches off the ground or parallel with your hips. Hold your leg in the air for three seconds, using your quad and hip strength, and then lower it with control to the starting position. Repeat 15 times and then switch legs.
Stability Ball Glute Bridges
Snag a stability ball from the corner of the gym. Lie down on your back so that the bottoms of your feet press into the ball, your hips and shoulders rest comfortably on the floor and your arms come down by your sides with your palms pressing into the floor. Engaging your glutes, hamstrings and core, lift your hips off of the ground so that you’re pressing more of your weight into the ball, creating a balance challenge. Hold for two seconds before lowering toward the floor, hovering an inch above it. Repeat 15 times before returning completely to the floor. If you want to make it harder, try doing one leg at a time. Oof.
Stability Ball Hamstring Curls
Hold on to that stability ball and remain on the floor. Straighten your legs so that your heels press into the ball, your hips and shoulders rest comfortably on the floor and your arms come down by your sides with your palms pressing into the floor. Engaging your hamstrings and core, lift your hips off of the ground slightly, and bend your knees so you roll the stability ball closer toward your glutes. Once you reach a bridge position, hold it for two seconds before extending your legs again, maintaining the lift in your hips. Repeat 15 times before lowering your hips entirely to the floor.
Table-Top Fire Hydrants
Move onto your hands and knees, stacking your wrists, elbows and shoulders in one line, keeping your knees directly beneath your hips and maintaining a neutral spine. Engage your core for balance as you shift your weight toward your left side and lift your right knee slightly off the floor. Maintaining the 90-degree bend in your right leg, lift your knee directly out toward the side, creating a lovely dog-peeing-on-a-fire-hydrant visual by engaging your outer thigh and hip. Slowly lower it back toward the floor. Repeat 15 times before letting the knee rest completely on the floor, and switch sides.
Table-Top Rainbow Leg Lifts
Begin in the same table-top position. Engage your core for balance as you shift your weight toward your left side and straighten your right leg back so that only your right big toe is touching the ground. Tightening your quad, hamstring and glute, lift your right leg and, as you bring it higher, start reaching your toes out toward the side. When you can’t go any higher, start lowering your leg, connecting your big toe with the floor, completing a full rainbow-like arch with your leg. Then, reverse that same movement, arching back toward the starting position. Repeat the full move 10 times before switching sides.
Prone Clam Leg Lifts
Lie down on your stomach. Bend your arms so that you can rest your forehead on your hands as your forearms press into the floor. Bend your legs and widen the space between your knees so that you can bring the bottoms of your feet together. Engaging your core, back and glutes, press the bottoms of your feet into one another and lift the tops of your thighs off the floor with the strong contraction of your glutes. Hold the lifted position for two seconds before lowering to the starting position. Repeat 15 times. If you want to give another variation a go, try lifting just one leg at a time 15 times and then switch sides.