The best exercises to tone, firm and strengthen your upper legs

Stacy Keibler was known for her intense workouts.

There are four main muscle groups located in your upper legs:the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, adductor and abductor. Consistently training those muscles will tone, firm and strengthen your thighs and potentially burn unwanted fat. Dumbbell lunges, leg extensions, leg presses and leg curls are all effective upper-leg exercises. However, the most effective upper-leg exercises you can do are squats. Since these exercises are not for novices, check with your doctor before trying them.

Squats can efficiently develop your overall leg muscles and can be completed using a barbell or dumbbells. With your hands spaced approximately twice your shoulder-width apart, clasp a barbell and rest it on the upper portion of your back. Firmly plant yourself so that the balls of your feet are grounded and your heels are slightly elevated, with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart and your back upright. Lower your hips by slowly bending your knees until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Return to the starting position by pushing the weight back up with your heels. To prevent injury, never curve your back or balance the weight on your neck.

Dumbbell Lunges
Dumbbell lunges can dynamically build your quads, hamstrings and glutes. Step forward with one leg, and bend it until your knee reaches a 90-degree angle. Power yourself back up to your initial position. Repeat this exercise with both legs until you have a burning sensation in your muscles. Increase the difficulty of this exercise by holding dumbbells at your sides to add weight and resistance.

Leg Extensions
Leg extensions can isolate your quadriceps and strengthen and tone those muscles. Sit on a leg extension machine that is properly adjusted for your size. Fasten your feet beneath the roller pads, and grip the machine’s handles for assistance. Straighten your legs and elevate the weight. Without locking your knees, pause momentarily and slowly lower your legs back down to the starting position. Repeat this process.

Leg Curls
Leg curls are primarily designed to work your hamstrings, and they can be executed either a seated or lying down. On either machine, secure your ankles against the pads and curl your legs until your hamstrings are fully contracted. Return the weight to its starting position in a slow and deliberate manner.

Leg Presses
Leg presses can simultaneously train your quads, hamstrings and glutes. To perform this exercise, sit in a leg press machine suitably adjusted for your size. With your back firmly against the machine and your feet about shoulder-width apart, push the weight outward by straightening your legs. When your legs are almost entirely straight, lower the weight until your knees reach a 90-degree angle. Repeat this motion.

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