I often get asked “Kate, what are the best exercises I can do to lose fat on my stomach?”
It’s all about doing big movements that involve biggest muscle groups – not your stomach.
I’m talking about your legs. We previously discussed squats and lunges, so today in the Make It Count series, we’re focussing on the single leg moves that will improve your mobility, stability and strength to maximize your burning fat capacity. Your glutes, hamstring, quads and calves as well as your core are in for a treat.
The best part? These moves don’t require big machines or gym memberships – phew!
Stop and think for a moment – when was the last time you took the stairs instead of the elevator?
This is one simple way to incorporate fitness into your busy lifestyle. Take the stairs. Interval training at it’s finest. An awesome way to get your heart racing.
The lack of infrastructure in the New York subways means there are plenty of old, dirty stairs to race up. Perfect for me, but others don’t share my excitement.
It’s not pretty. I see people almost dying on the way up, dragging their sorry overweight butts up the stairs and blocking everyone else (insert New Yorker street rage here).
Incorporating bodyweight step-ups and single leg Romanian deadlifts in your workout is a great place to start.
With time and practice you will see a remarkable improvement in your ability to move – and the more efficient your movement, the more calories you can burn when you train. So why do we avoid single leg movements? They all require:
Bad excuse. It’s an essential movement for daily life and independence, which means it’s essential for your workouts.
WHICH EXERCISE IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
This is a test for you right now. Single Leg Balance Test. Think this looks easy? Try it.
Find a cone or anything that is about 12 inches high. Stand about 36 inches in front of it. First, balancing on your nondominant leg (usually the left), reach forward and touch it with your dominant hand (usually the right) while extending your dominant leg behind you for balance. Without touching the ground with your dominant foot, return to starting position and repeat as many times as you can without losing your balance. Repeat on the opposite leg.
How did you go? Awesome job if you managed 10. You can start at Stage Three. It’s tricky to get this move right. I’ll admit I only made it to 8 on my right leg today. It’s Monday so cut me some slack.
If you struggled or lost balance, start at Stage One.
Step-Up: This move is totally undervalued in workout programs. Great place to start for balance and stability, plus it’s an excellent compound move to train your legs. The muscles targeted in your legs will depend on the height of the step. This is an easy reference guide:
Higher step = glutes and hamstrings
Lower step = quads and calves
The Movement Prep: You need to find a bench or a step. Start with a low step (about 12 inches) if you have knee or balance issues and work your way up from there. Before you add resistance, we want the movement to be perfect. Once you’ve got it down, hold dumbbells by your side. Put your left foot flat on the step, and the right foot on the floor.
Execution: Push down through the heel of your left foot and lift yourself up so your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep your chest and torso upright during the movement. Hold this position for 3 seconds, keeping all the weight on your left leg. Lower your right foot to the floor and repeat.
Offset Step-Up: An awesome progression to challenge your core and stability. The limitation of holding dumbbells by your side in the previous exercise is your gripping muscles give out before your legs do. No such problem here.
The Movement Prep: Set yourself up in the same position as the previous step up. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell at shoulder height on the side of your working leg (ie the leg that remains on the step.)
Execution: Same as the step up. Remember to keep your chest up and core tight. If you’re feeling strong and stable, add an overhead press to the movement.
DB Single-leg Romanian Deadlift: This is a seriously awesome move. It’s really important to get the form right. Take your time, work in a “usable” range of motion meaning it’s OK if you can’t get the full range to begin with.
Is it cheating to hold onto something to support yourself? Yes, it definitely is. You are also defeating the whole purpose of the exercise. If you struggle to pass the balance test at the start, go back a level and work on perfecting the previous move.
The Movement Prep: Hold a pair of light dumbbells by your side and stand with feet hip-width apart. (I’m using a Sandbag in the picture below).
Execution: Hinge at your hip and bend your torso towards the floor as you extend one leg behind you. Keep your neck packed in neutral position. Lower the weights until they are just past the knee of your working leg. Your arms should be hanging straight down from your shoulders.
Your neck, torso and extended leg should form a straight line. If you have great range of motion and balance, that straight line will be parallel to the floor. The key to perfect form is to keep your body in a straight line.
Return to the starting position, and keep all your weight on the working leg. Try to “pull” yourself back through the heel and squeeze your glutes without tipping over. Be cool lovely people.
STAGE FOUR & BEYOND
TRX Single Leg Squat: Thank god for the TRX or we’d all have difficulty progressing to the single leg squat. The TRX gives you support, and helps to increase your range and build strength.
The Movement Prep: Attach the TRX to a fixed overhead support or chin up bar. Facing the anchor point, lightly hold the handles and stand with feet together. If it’s your first time doing this exercise, keep tension in the straps but try not to white-knuckle grip it.
Execution: Lift one foot off the floor and extend your leg out in front of you. Push your hips back, as if you were to sit on a chair. Hold the bottom position for a moment and then return to the start. Do all the repetitions for one leg before you repeat with the other.
Even though climbing stairs is a must, for some reason people feel they don’t need to include step ups or single leg exercises in a workout program. Trust me, it will make a huge difference to your stability and training performance.
Are you wasting your time when you train? Check out my Top 6 Fat Loss Workout Mistakes here and get the maximal results for your efforts.
My final piece of advice: balance, stability and strength is not magic. Training your legs with effective single-leg moves will get fat loss results.
Have an awesome week!