How to Tone Legs While Sitting
You probably spend a large part of your day sitting down. However, just because you work from a desk doesn't mean you can't get some exercise in. There are a variety of workouts you can do while seated that will tone your legs and lower body. If you make a habit of toning every few days at work, you'll notice big changes fast.
Toning with Minimal Movement
Rotate your ankles.Rotate your ankle in a circle, moving either clockwise or counterclockwise, for 5 seconds. Then, repeat the process but rotate your ankle in the opposite direction. Do 3 sets of 20 repetitions and then repeat with the other ankle.
- If you don’t want to have to count, set a timer for 1 minute instead of counting out 20 repetitions.
- This helps increase your leg flexibility.
Press an object between your thighs.Use an object you can easily press without damaging it. A rolled up sweater or throw pillow should work well. Put this between your knees, sit up straight, and tuck in your abs. Using as much force as you can, squeeze the object between your legs and hold for 3-4 seconds. Then, release. Do three sets of 20 to complete the routine.
Push your legs outward to work your outer thighs.Your outer thighs are the portions of your legs just below your buttocks on either side of your body. To tone and strengthen your outer thigh muscles, straighten your legs and push them out to the sides, for instance against the inside of your desk. Hold the push for 5 seconds and then release. Repeat this 12 to 20 times throughout the day.
- As an alternative, you can tie a resistance band around your ankles and push your legs apart.
Lift your heels up while keeping your toes on the ground.To tone your calves at your desk, stay seated while raising your ankles upwards to shift weight onto your tiptoes. Hold the position until you feel a mild burning sensation in your calf muscles. Then, hold for an additional 10 seconds before returning to your regular sitting position. Repeat this 8 times.
Lift your toes up while keeping your heels on the ground.This exercise stretches the calves and works the important muscles in the front of the shin which keep us from tripping as we walk. Keep your toes lifted until you feel your calves burning subtly. Then Tap your big toes together and return your feet to their normal position. Do this 8 times throughout the day.
Do the foot alphabet.Take off your shoes. Sit up straight with both feet flat on the floor. Raise one foot off the ground, high enough that you can move it in all directions. Then, write the alphabet with your big toe. When you're done, repeat with your other foot. This helps build your quadricep muscles as well as the muscles in your lower legs and feet.
Squeeze your butt cheeks.While sitting in your chair, squeeze your butt cheeks for a few seconds and then release. This can be done in sets of 15-20 reps or for sets that are 30-60 seconds long. Once you’re good at it, try alternating cheeks and/or practice squeezing your butt cheeks together.
Lifting Your Legs and Body
Do miniature squats.Place your palms lightly on your desk or on your thighs and rise up just a few inches off of the seat of your chair. Hold the squat until your legs are tired and then lower yourself back down. Repeat this 12 times.
- Do not do this if you have a chair with wheels.
- This works your thigh muscles as well as muscles in the buttocks.
- While doing this exercise, always keep your knees aligned above your feet.
Try leg extensions.Sit up straight and straighten one leg in front of you so that it forms a 90 degree angle with your body. Hold your leg like this for 4 seconds. From this position, try to lift the back of your thigh off of the chair one leg at a time. Then, repeat this process with the other leg.
- This provides a general workout and stretch for the muscles in the back of your legs.
Do knee lifts.Sit up straight with your hands on your chair's armrest. With your knee bent at a roughly 90-degree angle, lift your leg upwards towards your chest. Raise your knee as far as you comfortably can before lowering back to the ground. Do 20 sets and then repeat with the other leg.
- In addition to working your hips and thighs, this move works your abs.
Try leg circles.Leg circles are traditionally done lying down, but you can try adapting the move for your chair. Keep your back as straight as possible and extend one leg straight forward. Keeping your pelvis still, rotate your leg in small, controlled, clockwise circles until your leg muscles are fatigued. Then do counterclockwise circles until your leg is tired. Put your leg back on the floor and repeat with the other leg.
- This works the hips and pelvis.
- Once your leg muscles are better developed, try doing larger and/or faster circles.
QuestionHow can I do the seventh step with little pain?Top AnswererIf any exercise causes you pain, stop. You may have worked out too much, or you may have injured yourself. Contact a doctor if you have doubts.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I do this at school when the desks block my way? Any other exercises?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerDo calf raises and leg extensions as best you can, you won't be getting swole just from sitting though, unfortunately.Thanks!
QuestionIf I left both legs up and down constantly, what does that work, if anything?Top AnswererThe gluteus maximus in your behind, the abdominals, and obviously, the leg muscles,though this is a lot of effort for little gain. You want an elevated heartbeat, enough for a mild sweat, so not suited for work.Thanks!
- Start off with smaller ranges of motion and fewer repetitions until you become more comfortable with the moves.
- Set a timer for 30-60 seconds while doing different exercises if you’re focused on work and don’t want to get distracted by keeping track of reps and sets.
- Stop for the day if you feel pinching, tingling, numbness, or sharp pains. It can take some time for your body to get used to certain exercises and it's dangerous to push yourself to the point of strain.
Sources and Citations
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