PHOTOGRAPH: Magdalene Liau
Most women would not think of lifting weights at the gym when they’re trying to lose weight. In fact, lifting weights is a very effective way to get lean legs, says aesthetics doctor at The Chelsea Clinic Dr Magdalene Liau, who holds a Fitness Nutrition Specialty Certification by the American Council on Exercise.
Why lift weights?
Cardio is a popular form of exercise among women who are trying to lose tummy and thigh fat. But Dr Liau warns that extended cardio activity can exhaust the body’s carbohydrate energy sources and cause you to muscle tissue to fuel your workout, which can weaken your body.
Weight lifting can prevent muscle loss while burning more calories, particularly if you work large muscle groups with moves that train the entire body such as squats or deadlifts.
“When you lift weights or do some form of resistance training, you build muscle and this increases your resting metabolic rate (RMR), meaning your metabolism is kept high even when you aren’t working out,” says Dr Liau. This allows you to achieve sustained fat loss. She shares her favourite legs workout with us.
Legs workout for beginners
These four moves work your quads, hamstrings, glutes and core muscles. Even though these exercises are predominantly target at the lower body, your core is at work to stabilize the weights, while your upper body muscles are engaged to keep your torso upright. Pay attention to your form to avoid injury.
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If you’re a beginner, start with 2.5kg to 5kg weights. Choose a load at which you can complete at least eight reps but not more than 12. Perform eight to 12 reps of each move in a circuit and rest for one or two minutes before repeating. Aim to complete three to five sets.
As you get stronger over time, you can slowly increase the load.
1) Goblet squat
• Cradle a weight against your chest using a kettlebell or a dumbbell.
• Position your feet about shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointing slightly outwards.
• Lower yourself down into a sitting position, keeping your chest upright the whole time.
• Ensure you’re not tipping forward or rounding your back.
• Go as low as you can while keeping your feet flat on the floor.
• At the bottom, push your knees outwards.
• Shoot back up and stand tall at the top.
2) Bulgarian split squat
• Carry a dumbbell in each hand and, standing about half a metre in front of an elevated platform, rest one foot on the platform.
• Lower your body while keeping your torso upright until your rear knee is nearly touching the floor.
• Your front knee should not go over your toes during the movement.
3) Step ups
• Carry a dumbbell in each hand and step up on to an elevated platform
• Push off using your front leg and put your weight on your heel as you step up. Avoid using the back leg to boost yourself off the ground
• Keep your movement slow and controlled throughout, even when coming down.
• For beginners, use a standard 20kg barbell without any additional weights.
• Stand immediately in front of the weight.
• Take a powerful stance such that your feet are apart in a position that you would be able to jump the highest in a standing vertical leap, usually about shoulder-width apart or slightly wider.
• Reach down and hold the bar just outside your shins, without rounding your lower back.
• Your shins should be perpendicular to the ground, your shoulder blades aligned with bar, to ensure that you lift the bar in a straight line.
• Engage your lats or back muscles, take in a deep breath and brace your abdominal wall. This will protect your spine and enable you to generate more force.
• Straighten your legs to a standing position.
• Stand tall at the top, tilting the hips slightly forward to engage the glutes.
• Hold the bar as close to your shins as possible during the movement.
• Return the bar to the floor while maintaining the same form.