Abs may be made in the kitchen, but glutes are made in the gym. I know a thing or two about building a better booty. See, I used to be heavy, yet today, as a 42 year old mom, I am an award-winning bikini competitor and one of those crazy people on John Cena’s new FOX competition series “American Grit,” running through the forest with a log on my shoulder. In your face, middle age!
One of the key machines I use to work on my quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteus maximus muscles is the leg press. “But Lisa,” you say, “I don’t have a fancy leg press machine! I work out from home. What can I do instead?”
4 Leg Press Alternatives
One of the wonderful things you’ll notice from watching American Grit is that you don’t need a fitness center or any special tools beyond your bodyweight to get a good sweat on. Many of my clients are moms who exercise at home, so with that in mind I’ve developed a fitness program called the SLI Method which incorporates these no-gym required exercises I’ll describe to you below.
- Squats. Squats are basically the same movement as a leg press, but from a standing position. The simplest squat is to stand with your legs hip distant apart, toes pointed forward, arms in front of you for balance, and slowly push your butt back until you’re at a 90 degree angle, just like you would if you were sitting down in a chair, and then stand up and repeat. Make sure your knee is aligned with your ankle and really push through your heels as you stand up to activate those glutes! One thing I’ve learned through bodybuilding is that just the smallest changes to your form and you will get better muscle activation in a wider variety of areas. So in the first set you do a standard squat, the next set spread your legs wider and point your toes out to the sides instead of in front. This allows you to squat lower and really activate your glutes and inner thighs more. If you’re feeling hardcore, then show your grit by carrying a sandbag over your shoulders as you do the squats. Not only will it make the exercise more challenging but as the sand shift you will also activate your core to keep your balance.
- Lunges. If squats are a standing version of a leg press, then lunges are essentially a single leg version of the same thing. I love doing single leg lunges, or single leg anything, because I have muscle imbalances and this allows me to correct them. In my particular instance, my left leg is slightly shorter than my right leg, so it does less work all day long. (Lazy leg!) But I put it to work when I do lunges and here’s how. To do a lunge, start standing with your feet together, holding dumbbells at your sides, then step your weaker leg in front and lower yourself down so your knee is at a 90 degree. Do 30 reps of going down and up on that same leg. When you switch to the stronger leg drop the dumbbell weight or eliminate the dumbbells entirely. Keep this varied weight practice until over time both legs reach that desired muscle symmetry. If you don’t have muscle imbalances, then of course you will use the same weights on both sides.
- Step Ups. If you’re ready to up your game, then step ups are right for you. This exercise mimics walking up a ladder or from one platform to the next. Stand behind a sturdy step box (the most commons sizes come in 12”, 24” and 36”) or a bench. Put your right leg up on the box, with your left leg stabilizing you and then come to a standing position at the top of the box, with your stabilizing foot just barely touching the box. All the work is being done by that right leg. Then carefully step down and repeat 10 times on each leg. If you are able to maintain proper form with your own bodyweight, challenge yourself by holding dumbbells or wearing a weighted vest as you do this exercise.
- Box Jumps. Honestly, these can be a little scary, at least they were for me because I thought I’d crash into the box, fall down, or scrape up my shins (or all of the above). But that’s mostly just a mental thing. If you go to a local park, chances are you will see a group of kids jump on and off a giant rock fifty times in a row with no problem because no one told them it was scary. So get that out of your head and let’s get started: Stand behind the box, squat down, jump up onto the center of the box and then step down. You can also use your arms to help you with momentum by reaching them up as you jump onto the box. Start with the lowest box until you get comfortable with the movement and progress to higher boxes when you’re ready to push yourself. This exercise combines both strength and plyometric moves, which helps to increase your power and coordination. And it makes your butt look really cute too. Just sayin’.
Need a video demonstration or a little help putting together a complete weight loss program? No problem! The SLI Method combines the 3 Elements for Total Fitness – Diet, Exercise and Mental Strength Tools to push past your mental obstacles (like jumping on top of a box.)
A lot of women asked me to create an easy to follow system to help them shake the baby fat without requiring an expensive gym membership, so that’s how this program was born. It’s kind of like running into your friend at the grocery store who lost a lot of weight and you say, “Wow! You look great! How’d you do it?” and then she (me, in this case) tells you EVERYTHING.
I tell you the exact foods I eat, exercises I do daily and mental strategies I used to lose 50 pounds, win bikini competitions in my 40’s, and win military training evolutions with #TeamNoah on American Grit. It is my absolute belief that if I can get healthy, you can too, and I’m here to guide you every step of the way. You can find me blogging at ShesLosingIt.com.