At the start of the New Year, we were serious about following through on our health and fitness goals. We dragged ourselves out of bed to make those 5:30 a.m. cardio barre classes, we meal-prepped like crazy, and we were fanatical about staying hydrated. We even deleted the numbers of our favorite neighborhood pizza spots from our phones (as if we didn’t have them memorized). Yet slowly but surely, something happened—as our hectic schedules picked back up, we started letting a few things slide. And before we knew it, we were on the precipice of becoming a New Year’s resolution statistic.
In search of a good kick in the pants, we enlisted the wisdom of Liz Barnet, ACE, a certified fitness and nutrition coach based in New York City and northern New Jersey, who was more than happy to help us rally and refocus. Her solution? Four metabolism-revving lower-body exercises we can do at home to improve the overall strength and muscle mass in our legs and glutes, thus nullifying all of our go-to excuses for slacking off.
“By focusing on the major movements, like hip extension and abduction, you can get an amazing workout using just your bodyweight,” she explained of her combination of strength-focused moves and plyometric exercises. Ready to go? Make sure to stock up on delicious Healthy Choice Power Bowls—filled with leafy greens, whole grains, and lean proteins, they have everything your body needs to help you refuel (without the time-consuming meal prep).
You’ll challenge your legs and endurance with this move. Rest as needed, but try to really push yourself. As you build endurance and power, instead of resting, march in place, jog lightly, or hold a plank to keep your heart rate up.
Step 1: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and sit back into a squat position; then swing your arms back past your hips.
Step 2: Explode up and jump forward as far as you can.
Step 3: Pedal backward to the position you started from. That’s one rep. Continue repeating for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat three times.
By moving in multiple directions, you learn to move more efficiently while also targeting those hard-to-reach inner and outer thighs, in addition to the quads and hamstrings.
Step 1: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Step your right leg back into the reverse-lunge position, and bring your left arm back following your leg, right arm forward, with both elbows bent into a 90º angle.
Step 2: As you push up onto your left foot, swing your arms to reverse positions, creating momentum to help you hop up onto your left leg, bringing your right leg up with your knee toward your chest.
Step 3: Land back on your left foot, and lower yourself back into a right-leg reverse lunge, reversing your arms again. Make sure arms are swinging opposite of legs. That’s one rep. Do 10 reps, then switch legs.
Hit all major areas of the glutes with this exercise. Start with the side you think is weaker—you’re going to feel it right away.
Step 1: Come to tabletop position on all fours, with your hands directly under your shoulders and your hips directly over knees. Keep your back flat.
Step 2: Keep your knees bent into a 90º angle, kicking up and back with your foot pointed toward ceiling.
Step 3: Lower yourself back down. That’s one rep. Do 15 reps; then switch legs.
Squats are one of the most functional, effective ways to target the lower body, especially the legs and glutes.
Step 1: Stand with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed outward at a 45º angle, hands interlaced behind your head.
Step 2: Without letting your knees go past your toes, sit back and down as far as you can into a deep squat.
Step 3: Push through your feet to stand back up. That’s one rep. Continue for one minute straight.