How so? We tend to sit more these days than we did a half a century ago. In fact it’s fair to say, we sit too much. Sitting on the tube, sitting on a bus, sitting whilst driving, sitting for dinner sitting goes on and on. So we live a sedentary lifestyle, which when couple with the ‘wrong’ food choices and excessive calorie consumption is a recipe for an overweight disaster. However, this problem can be fixed with exercise as well as simple lifestyle changes.

Exercising the lower body burns calories

When you think about the proportions of your body, your arms really don’t weigh very much – the big muscles covering vast areas of the human body that are so critical to burning fat are located in our legs and back. Our lower body constitutes about 40% of our total body weight, so that’s a lot of muscle that can be engaged. The biggest muscle – and one of the most powerful in our body – is the gluteus maximus (aka our butt, bottom the ‘thing’ we shake).

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Focusing on resistance training our legs can burn calories – the more lean muscle tissue we have, the better our body’s ability to burn fat, that’s because muscle is active tissue, it burns calories all day and every day.

The lower body muscles explained

Upper leg muscles

The gluteal muscles

A group of muscles of the hips, buttocks and thigh are made up of the gluteus maximus, minimus and medius. The former’s primary function is to move the leg to the rear, whilst the latter two contribute to moving the legs away from the body.

The iliopsoas (hip flexor)

This is the muscle that runs down the front of the body at the top of the thigh and sits across your hips. It connects the lower part of the spine to the thigh and allows you to lift your knee up to your chest.

Quadriceps

A large group of four muscles (hence the ‘quad’ part of the name) located at the front of the thigh. They allow for the straightening of the leg and flexing of the knee.

Hamstrings

These are located at the back of the thigh – they pull, your heel toward your bottom.

The adductors

These muscles of the inner thigh are often referred to as the ‘groin muscles’. They are attached to the pelvis and the femur and function to pull your legs together. The abductors, these are the muscles of the outer thigh and they function to take your legs apart.

Lower leg muscles

Tibialis anterior

This is the shin muscle – it allows movement that points the foot upwards (known as ‘dorsi-flexion’)

Gastrocnemius & soleus

The gastrocnemius is the larger of the two muscles of the calf, which attaches above the knee joint and inserts into the heel bone via the Achilles tendon. The soleus is the smaller muscle to the inside of the calf, it attaches below the knee joint and then to the heel also via the Achilles. The prime function of the calf muscles is to point the toes downward (‘plantar flexion’).

Fat burning lower body circuit

How to perform: Repeat this circuit 3 times, taking a 2min break in-between each circuit. Try not to rest between exercises. Warm up with 5min on a treadmill or X-Trainer and then perform some functional mobility exercises for all body parts, such as arms swings and walking lunges.

sedentary lifestyle_2

1. Squat jumps

Beginner: 20sec.
Advanced: 45sec
RPE – 6 rising to 8/9

Place your hands by your sides and squat down so your thighs are parallel to the floor. Jump up in an explosive movement, so that your legs straighten and your feet leave the floor. As soon as you land, lower and jump again.

2. Static wall squat

1min
RPE – 6 rising to 8/9

Squat with your back against a wall. Keep your thighs parallel to the ground and hang your arms by your sides.

Active Recovery: step ups or run up and down a flight of stairs for 2min

3. Stability ball hamstring curls

Beginner: 30 sec
Advanced: 1min
RPE – 6 rising to 8

Lie on the floor on your back, legs out straight and with the back of your lower calf muscles and ankles resting on top of the ball. Raise your bottom/hips off of the floor and pull the ball in with your feet. Then keeping your hips up push the ball back. To progress this exercise do with just one foot at a time on the stability ball.

4. Burpees

Beginner: 30sec
Advanced: 1min
RPE – 6 rising to 8

From a press-up position jump both legs in under your body. Take hands from floor and drive legs up, to jump body in the air. Fully extend body and look straight ahead. Land on your forefeet, bend knees and place hands on floor. Dynamically jump feet back to the starting position to repeat.

Recovery: joggin on spot for 2 min.

5. Single leg squats

Beginner: 30sec each leg
Advanced: 1min each leg
RPE – 7 rising to 9

Place a stability ball in the small of your back and back up against a wall. Raise one leg up and hold it out straight in front of you. Keeping your hips level (not tipping to one side) squat down as low as you can. Keep your back in contact with ball as you move up and down.

6. Single leg calf raises from step

Beginner: 30sec each leg
Advanced: 1min each leg
RPE – 7 rising to 9

Stand with both feet on top of the step and then rise up onto the toes of one leg, letting your other leg lift from the step. Lower under control and to a position below the line of the step that your flexibility allows. Pause and then raise again.

Active Recovery: step ups or run up and down a flight of stairs for 2min.

7. Curtsey lunges

Beginner: 30sec
Advanced: 1min
RPE – 7 rising to 9

Start with feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Take your right foot behind you and to the other side of your left foot, as if you’re curtseying. Bend your knees until your front thigh is parallel (or near parallel) with the floor. Keep your arms hanging by your sides or rest your hands on your hips. Step back to start position and repeat, changing legs.

8. Side plank

1min
(1min each side)
RPE – 7 rising to 9

Assume a type of press up position with your forearms on the floor in front of you i.e. a front plank. Rotate your body onto one side and then stack your legs on top of each other. Rest your top arm along your body – you should be supporting your weight on the other. Maintain a straight line through your body. Hold for 1min return to the plank position and then repeat to the other side.

Active Recovery: jogging on spot 2min.

9. Leg lifts

Beginner: 30sec each leg
Advanced: 1min each leg
RPE – 7 rising to 9

Stand tall and lift one leg up, so that its thigh becomes parallel to the ground. ‘Drive’ it back to the ground and pull it back to the start position. Co-ordinate arms with legs. Complete time on exercise and swap legs.

10. Hamstring lifts (1min)

Beginner: 30sec
Advanced: 1min
RPE – 7 rising to 9

Lie on your back. Place your arms by your sides. Lift your hips 10-20cm from the floor. Hold for 2sec and then lower.

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