If you’re just getting started with a fitness routine, it can be a challenge to know how to properly perform exercises for the various muscles of the body. Here are four introductory lower-body movements for beginners, with advanced options that can be done once you’ve mastered the basic exercises.
Stand with your feet together, shoulders pulled down and away from the ears, and your core engaged. Step forward with one foot and find your balance. Your feet should be far enough apart so that when you go down into the lunge position, your knee is facing directly forward and not going over your toe. If you don’t have enough balance for this exercise, stand by a wall or hold on to a stable chair. Keep your torso erect by continuing to engage your core (don’t lean forward). Drive your hips toward the floor, controlling the movement until your thighs become parallel with the floor. Push with the front leg to come back to the top of the lunge and repeat.
Advanced: Perform an alternating plyometric lunge. After doing one lunge, add a hop before moving into the next one, switching the lead leg each time.
Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-distance apart and toes pointed slightly outward. Engage the core and lift the chest. Look straight ahead and keep your hands by your sides. Shift your weight back into your heels and push your hips behind you until your thighs become parallel with the floor. Your knees should be moving in the direction of your toes. Do not let your torso become rounded or let your heels come off of the floor during the movement. Lift your hips, torso and chest simultaneously as you return to the starting position.
Advanced: Perform a squat; extend first the right and then the left leg out to the side at the base of the squat. Bring the foot back toward the center and stand back up to the starting position.
Stand on one leg; use a chair or stand by a wall for support, if needed. Lift one leg off the ground and write the alphabet in the air with your toe; repeat with the opposite leg. This can be a great exercise to do while standing in the kitchen cooking or while folding laundry.
Advanced: Stand on one leg and extend your arms straight out from your body. Rotate your arms so that your right arm is pointing toward your toes and your left arm is extended to the ceiling. Next, switch so that the left arm is pointed toward the ground and the right arm is extended toward the ceiling.
Stand with your feet parallel, hip-width apart. Look straight ahead and keep your hands in a comfortable position to help you maintain your balance during the exercise.
Inhale and slowly step to the right while keeping your weight in your left heel; keep both feet facing forward. Once your right foot is firmly placed on the floor, begin to shift your weight toward the right foot, bending the right knee and pushing the hips back. Continue to lunge until your shinbone is vertical to the floor and your right knee is aligned with the second toe of your right foot. Your left leg should be as straight as possible and your body weight should be distributed into the right hip. Keep the heels of both feet flat on the floor.
Advanced: Perform a lateral lunge as described above, but after the lunge, bring the knee up and place a small ball or med ball underneath the leg and then return to the lateral lunge.