No Equipment Thigh Strengthening Exercises

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Strong thighs are important for bearing the weight of your body, endurance and balance. Weak or under-developed thigh muscles may be susceptible to injury from exercise. You can strengthen your thighs without the need for equipment. Stretches and jumping exercises can help you strengthen your thighs. 
Kneeling thigh stretches are easy to perform, but don’t let the ease of this exercise fool you! It’s a powerful way to strengthen and tone your thigh muscles. Kneel on the floor or on an exercise mat for comfort. Keep your knees about hip-width apart. Your toes should be pointing at the wall behind you and your weight on your leg from your knees, down your shin and across the top of your foot. Stretch your torso up tall toward the ceiling and squeeze your abdominal muscles. Don’t drop your chin, but keep your head up looking straight ahead. When you are ready, shift your weight back and bring your hips toward your heels. Move your arms back and brace yourself by placing your fingertips on the floor on either side of your legs. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds and then return to the start position. Do 5 to 7 repetitions of this exercise. Increase the length of time you hold the position and the number of repetitions as your strength and endurance increase.  
Jump and reach to stretch your thigh muscles and increase flexibility. Begin by standing in an upright position with your legs hip-width apart and your arms relaxed at your side. Shift your weight back on your hips and lower yourself toward a sitting position, as in a squat. When you feel your heels lift off the floor, reach your arms upward toward the ceiling and push your body upward from your feet, through your legs and thighs in an explosive push toward the ceiling. The momentum of swinging your arms up with a simultaneous push upwards will help you reach high.

Kickboxing Your Way to a Fitter You

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Kickboxing has become more popular in recent years with gyms offering classes and people lining up to kick their way to a leaner, stronger body. There are instructional videos on the Internet and available for purchase. Many late night infomercials offer variations of kickboxing workouts to sleepless viewers. Many of the most popular kickboxing-style exercise DVDs and gym programs combine a high-intensity aerobic workout with punching, kicking and blocking m moves. These exercises help to build strength, flexibility, endurance and confidence. Kickboxing style exercise is not for everyone, but it couldn’t hurt to give it a try. A kickboxing class at a gym is a fun way to get fit in a group with a competent fitness instructor to guide you all along the way. 

Most routines in kickboxing are designed to be against an imaginary opponent, but some classes are designed where the members spar with each other or kick a heavy bag. You can burn more than 400 calories per hour in a kickboxing class. Get a checkup at your doctor’s office and tell him or her that you want to take a kickboxing class. If your doctor gives you a green light, join a class for beginners. Introduce yourself to the instructor and get a list of equipment you may need for the class. Come prepared to get a serious workout that will leave you feeling exhausted but confident. 

Exercise While Pregnant

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Pregnant women who exercised regularly before pregnancy can continue to exercise, if they take a few precautions. As long as you are in good health, not at risk for miscarriage and do not engage in strenuous exercise, a pregnant woman can enjoy regular physical exercise. Women who have not been physically active or engaged only in light, occasional physical activity before pregnancy should not start an exercise program more strenuous than walking. You are going to need strength and stamina to get through your pregnancy and delivery. Check with your doctor before beginning or continuing any exercise program. Women who are pregnant may benefit from light exercise in many ways. Walking and stretching exercises can help to relieve low back pain and prevent excessive weight gain. Swimming is a whole body aerobic exercise that most pregnant women can safely do throughout pregnancy to remain fit and control weight gain. Excess weight gain during pregnancy can contribute to gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and may even contribute to postpartum conditions like depression. Pregnant women who experience pregnancy-related conditions or are at risk for certain conditions should not exercise except on the advice and supervision of their doctor. Those who are at risk and should avoid exercise include women who are at risk for miscarriage or who have had a miscarriage in the past, history of premature delivery, bleeding or spotting and those with weak cervix or low placenta. Stretching exercises are especially helpful to maintain muscle tone and help to maintain flexibility. Stretching is important before other exercise, including walking, using a treadmill or swimming, to help reduce the risk of muscle strain. 

Begin a stretching exercise session with your neck and work your way to your feet. Sit in a comfortable chair or sit on the floor in a comfortable position. Place your hands on your thighs palms down and sit up straight and tall. Relax your shoulders and  your neck, and then drop your chin forward toward your chest. Rotate your whole head toward your right shoulder and then back to the middle of your chest. Continue rotating to the left shoulder and then back to your chest. Repeat this stretching exercise 5 times. 

Stretch your arms and shoulders to help relieve upper back stress and energize your whole body. Sit up straight, drop your shoulders down and back to straighten your back. Stretch your right arm forward and lean to the right stretching toward your fingertips. Return your right arm back to your side and then stretch forward with your left arm, and lean forward with your body stretching toward your left fingertips. Alternate back and forth in a swimming motion. Repeat this exercise for 10 repetitions. 
Kegel exercises during pregnancy strengthen the muscles of the abdominal floor that support the uterus, intestines and bladder. Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor and your arms relaxed at your sides. Sit up straight, tighten the muscles of your pelvic floor and then relax the muscles. To tighten the muscles in your pelvic floor, pretend that you are trying to stop the flow of urine midstream. Squeeze the muscles that you would use to stop your urine. Perform Kegel exercises anytime of the day, as often as you want, but try to do at least 10 sets of five contractions each day. Hold each muscle contraction for 5 to 8 seconds. Remember to breathe when doing Kegel exercises and do not contract your abdominal muscles while performing this exercise. 
Walking is a safe, effective form of aerobic exercise that can help a pregnant woman control her weight gain, remain physically fit and feel energized. Take extra precautions when walking while pregnant to avoid falls. Walk on smooth, flat areas such as sidewalks and walking trails. Do not walk when your path is covered in snow, ice or rain, which can make surfaces slippery and may result in a fall. Walk with a partner or a friend and avoid overexertion. A 20 to 30 minute walk every other day is generally safe for most pregnant women. 

For more information about safe exercises during pregnancy, see:

3 Exercises for Strong, Toned Legs

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Strong, toned, muscular legs are more than just physically attractive. Strong legs support your body and carry you through the day. Strong legs also improve your balance and posture. If your leg muscles are strong, you are also less likely to suffer sprains and joint pains. 
Try some single leg squats to develop your calf muscles. Stand with your hands on your hips and your feet about hip-width apart. Place your right foot slightly forward from your left foot and shift your body weight to your right foot. Tighten your abs, breathe in and then lift your left foot off the floor about 2 to 3 inches. Slowly lower your body to a sitting position. Keep your weight on your right leg, but you can rest your left toes on the floor for balance and stability, if needed. As you lower your body by bending your right knee, allow your left leg to straighten out and slide forward. Keep your back straight and try not to lean forward as you lower your body. Exhale and push back up to a standing position using your leg. Do 5 squats with each leg. 
Stretch your calf muscle for lean, toned legs. Face a wall about arm-length away and place your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart. Place your palms on the wall about 2 to 3 inches higher than your shoulder height. Step forward with your left leg and keep both feet on the floor. Squeeze your abs, breathe in and move your upper body toward the wall. This will stretch the calf muscle of your left leg (the leg behind). Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and then push your body back upright. Repeat this exercise 10 times for each leg. 
Stretch the hamstring on the back of your leg by lying on the floor flat on your back in a doorway. Place the back of one leg against the wall straight up from your hip. Allow the other leg to stretch out straight through the doorway. Push against the wall with the back of your leg that is parallel to the wall and point your toes toward the ceiling. Hold the position and then relax. Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times for each leg.  

Avoid Knee Injury

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Your knees take a pounding every day. Every step you take, climbing stairs, walking through the grocery store, pressing the gas and brake pedal in your car, and standing up and sitting down all require movement of your knee joints. Running, jogging and jumping are high-impact activities that can cause injury if your knee muscles weak or the joint not as flexible as it should be. You can avoid knee injury by strengthening your knee muscles with exercise and taking a few common sense precautions. 
Take care of your joints by drinking plenty of water, eating healthy foods and keeping your weight under control. Extra pounds can take a toll on your knee joints. Losing weight can  help you avoid acute injury and long-term chronic pain due to deterioration of the joint. Extra stress is placed on the knee joint, muscles and tendons with every step when you are overweight. Regular exercise, rest, hydration and a healthy diet can help you lose weight and save knees.  
Most knee injuries can be attributed to weak muscles in the leg. Exercises that strengthen the hamstrings and quadriceps muscles can help prevent knee injury and pain. Balance exercises also help promote knee health. Use a balance board to exercise and strengthen the leg muscles. Simple exercises that you can do just about anywhere, any time include standing on one leg for 60 seconds, standing on your toes, shifting your weight to your heels for 30 seconds or more and swimming. Swimming is an excellent whole body aerobic workout. 
If you are already experiencing knee pain, stiffness or weakness, see your doctor to rule out injury or a condition, such as gout or osteoarthritis. Consult a personal fitness trainer to help you develop an exercise and diet program to improve your knee health. 

Whole Body Exercises

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Many exercises focus on one or two muscle groups, such as curls for biceps and triceps or crunches for abdominal strength. Focused training is important, but a well-rounded exercise program should include some whole body exercises. A well-rounded exercise program will include stretching for flexibility, aerobic exercise, and strength conditioning. Stretching exercises are important to warming up before more intense exercise and help improve flexibility. Walking, jogging and dance-style exercises are excellent aerobic workouts that help increase muscle strength and improve cardiovascular health. Exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups and pull-ups, and weight lifting strengthen the arms, back, stomach, legs, hips and abdominal muscles. Before you begin any exercise program, see your doctor for a complete check-up. Some simple whole-body exercises that you can add to your daily exercise routine are the crawl, a push-up and a step-up style exercise. These exercises require no equipment and can be performed at home or in the gym.

The crawl exercise works all the major muscle groups in your body. Begin a simulated crawl on your stomach on the floor. Put your hands in front of your shoulders and bend your elbows. Extend your legs behind your body. Place your forearms on the floor under your shoulders and pull your shoulder blades down. Push your right knee forward by bending your knee and pushing it out to the right side of the body until your knee is even with your hip. Slide your right arm back toward your right knee. Keep your left leg extended and your left forearm on the floor in front of your body. Hold this position for 2 or 3 seconds and then return to the start position. Repeat on your other side. 
Begin the step-up exercise by kneeling on your left knee. Keep your upper body straight. Bend your elbows slightly and keep your eyes forward. Push your right elbow back, your left arm forward, while simultaneously pushing your left knee upward toward the ceiling. Push off hard from your left toes in an explosive upward movement. Return to the start position and repeat this exercise for 5 repetitions. Repeat the exercise on the other side.
This push-up exercise adds an extra step to improve the effectiveness of your whole-body workout. Start this exercise in a push-up position with your hands under your shoulders and your legs stretched out behind your body. Bear the weight of your legs on your toes and make sure your fingers are pointed forward. Make a straight line with your body from head to toe and then raise your body up by pushing upward with your arms. Raise your right leg up toward the ceiling and hold the position for 3 to 4 seconds or longer. Lower your body and repeat on the other side.