During the holidays, we’ll be guiding you through a series of exercises that target a particular area of the body. This week’s lower body workouts target your legs and increasing your cardiovascular fitness.
The good news is, you don’t need a gym membership or lots of fancy equipment to do these exercises. However, it’s a good idea to invest in a skipping rope and two resistance bands – one for warming up and one to aid you with certain strength exercises, all costing around HK$150 each. These are great for starting or ending your workout.
You can practise these exercises either at home or in a park. Kowloon Tsai Park in Kowloon City, Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, Ma On Shan Park, and Tin Sau Road Park in Yuen Long all have great spaces for working out.
Do make sure that you’re in good physical health before you attempt any of these moves. If you’re unsure, consult a doctor, trainer, or other specialist.
Reps and sets
Personal trainer Calvin Au Yeung suggests that beginners aim for three sets of six to eight repetitions. As for more advanced athletes, they should aim for 10 to 12 repetitions and up to four to six sets.
Apart from doing reps and sets, you can also vary your workout by using time under tension where you hold part of the exercise for a few seconds longer.
Always take five to 10 minutes at the start of your workout to warm up. It’s important to get the blood flowing to all of your muscles so you don’t suffer any injury later. A quick run or some skipping will do the trick.
To warm up your lower body, we recommend you do a few resistance band side shuffles (place the resistance band on your quads – the muscles in the front of your thigh – and move from left to right), squats (with a resistance band on your quads), and standing abductor lifts (start with your feet close together then stretch them apart moving one leg to the side).
Begin slowly and don’t strain yourself. Warm-ups should be gentle.
Squats – place your feet shoulder-width apart with both your hands stretched out for balance. Bring your feet closer together if you wish to work your quad muscles more.
Make sure your feet are pointing a little outwards then lower yourself by bending your knees, until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
To increase the difficulty, you can squat further down until you’re almost touching the ground and then go back up to the starting position.
Jumping squats – once you’ve mastered squats, you can add this next exercise to your routine. Perform a squat (as explained above) and on the way up, burst into a high jump. This will exercise your quads and calves, as well as boost your cardiovascular strength.
Jumping jacks – to really get the intensity going, you can do some jumping jacks. Start by placing your feet shoulder-width apart, then jump, stretching your arms and legs out so you form a star with your body. Return to your starting position on landing.
Lunges – start with both your feet placed shoulder-width apart, take a big step forward with your lead leg (your back leg should be bent). This targets your glute muscles behind your hips and also works on your co-ordination skills.
For variation, you can do sideways lunges by moving your lead foot to the side and keeping your back leg straight.
Staircase lunges – if you’re feeling up to it, you can perform your lunges on some stairs. In the same way you perform a squat, but this time on small or big steps. These really work on your glute muscles and your cardiovascular fitness as well – a perfect combination.
Half burpees – start in a push-up position with your arms and legs pushing straight off the floor. Bring your knees towards your stomach in a jumping motion and return to your starting position. Easy, that’s one rep done!
Hamstring extension – so far we’ve worked on our glutes, quads, cardiovascular fitness and co-ordination. Now, we need to work on our hamstrings. This exercise is best done with a partner.
First, kneel on the floor with your back to your partner. Ask them to hold onto your ankles tightly then lean forward as far as you can without hitting the ground (you can keep your hands in front of you to catch yourself if you do fall), then return to starting position. Be careful not to stretch your hamstring muscles too much!
Wall quadriceps holds – standing with your back against the wall, place your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your knees, so that you’re in a squatting position and hold for 30 seconds. The more advanced you become, the longer you can hold the position – you’ll definitely feel the burn in your quads!
Calves raises – just because you aren’t in the gym, doesn’t mean you can’t target every leg muscle. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and raise your calves one at a time – hold at the top for a few seconds and return back to starting position. At least 15 reps for beginners, and 25 reps for more advanced athletes