Who doesn’t want stronger legs? Fitness resolutions are among the most common goals set at the start of a new year, so there’s no better time to get started. Here are a few “do anywhere” exercises that will prepare you for the show season and help you feel stronger in and out of the tack.
Step-Downs: We all know how to do step-ups, an excellent source of quad-strengthening cardio, but step downs create all sorts of leg and hip control. Starting with both feet standing on a raised surface (a bale, a box, a stair), lower down by bending one knee while the other leg is stepping back (picture a half squat on the standing leg – pushing the hip back and down). The leg on the raised surface should be straight-locked at first, then it bends at the knee while the other leg moves toward the ground. Lightly tap the ground and step back up by straightening the raised leg and pushing your body upward. Repeat for timed intervals: 30 seconds to 1 minute per side or 10-15 reps per side.
Reverse Lunges to Step-ups: As shown in the pictures, step back through your reverse lunge, which is when you lower your hips to the floor until your front knee forms a 90-degree angle. Then swing your leg forward to a high knee. This sequence makes it easy to add in arm exercises as well, like bicep curls as you lunge down or shoulder abductions (raising weight out to the side with straight arms). Repeat 8 -15 reps in sets of 3 on each side.
Bridge Marches: Begin on your back with your feet about 12 inches from your bum and your hands by your sides with palms up. Press your heels into the ground and lift your pelvis up until you body forms a straight line (knees, pelvis, shoulders). Using the core and glutes to keep a strong bridge position, slowly march the legs but keep the hips still. Lift one knee at a time toward your chest until your hip is at 90-degrees. Repeat for 30 seconds to 1 minute in sets of 3.
Warrior 1- Warrior 3, aka Single Leg Deadlifts: Hinging forward from the hips on one leg, with the other leg actively straightened behind you, slowly lower the back leg into a lunge position (or Warrior 1 pose in yoga), then slowly raise up back to the hinged/deadlift position on one leg (Warrior 3). Repeat 10-15 reps on each leg in sets of 3.
As always, do what feels right for your body and consult your health-care practitioner before working these exercises into your plan if you have lower body injuries.
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