This week and next week we will run through the two exercises needed to strengthen up your legs so that you can perform the best lower body exercise there is, the squat!
The first exercise we will look at is called the ‘Side Step Up’ and its one of my favourites. It is also a favourite of many of clients, once they get used to it that is! Why do like it so much? Well from a technical point of view it strengthens the musculature around the knee which will stabilise the knee so you shouldn’t injure it.
Secondly once the knee has been stabilised you will be able to perform the squat which is one of those ‘Big Bang for your Buck’ exercises.
But that’s not the main reason why my clients like them. In fact, my technically correct but boring reason never convinces my clients to give it their all. However when I tell them that it will firm up and tone up their inner thigh, they can’t do enough of them! So if you want to tone up or firm up your legs, your inner thigh in particular, perform side step ups!
So let’s look at how to get the most out of the side step up. For this exercise you will need a step about 1 foot high. If you don’t have a step just find something that will easily support your body weight like a box (a sturdy one!) or even a couple of big fat phone books.
Step 1: Place the foot of the leg you are going to work on the step, with your toe pointing out slightly.
Step 2: Putting all of your body weight onto the leg on the step, drive up until the working leg is completely straight. If you are having trouble balancing this may mean you are very weak through these muscles and you would benefit even more by including them in your workout. If the balance is really uber bad, try to rest the foot of the non-working leg on the step at the top of the movement.
Step 3: Slowly bend the knee of the working leg and lower the other foot to the ground. It’s now you should try to descend ‘gracefully like and angel’ all the way to the ground. You shouldn’t just drop like a sack of potatoes!
Step 4: Drive off the ground again until you complete your target number of reps
Note: The 2 biggest mistakes people make with this exercise is that:
a) they push off the toes of the non-working leg. Try to imagine a thumb tack under your big toe, if you were to push down it would hurt so don’t push down! And;
b) don’t launch off the knee of the non-working leg by bending then straightening it out. Try to imagine that you have a broken leg and that the whole leg is in a cast. This way you won’t be tempted to use the leg!
The general ‘tempo’ used is 1010. This means ‘1’ seconds to lower your foot, ‘0’ seconds rest at the bottom, ‘1’ second to raise your foot and ‘0’ seconds rest at the top. Try to perform 3 sets of 15 reps each leg at this tempo and see how you go.
So off you go and get stuck into this great exercise, unless of course having a nice healthy knee and nice toned legs is not appealing to you! As always, the first few times you do it may result in a bit of soreness through your legs but don’t stress, the more you do it the less sore you will be and the better you legs will look and feel!