Openfit Live Trainer Sarah's 7 Favorite Leg ExercisesDec 21, 2020
When you think of the best leg exercises, the usual squats, lunges, and deadlifts might be the first moves that come to mind. But when dancer, choreographer, and Xtend Barre Live trainer Sarah Soares is looking to get a killer leg workout at home, she gravitates toward barre and Pilates instead.
Sarah loves how these workouts target and sculpt every part of your legs while offering some cardio benefits, too. And even when she’s not leading an Xtend Barre Live class, she relies on Openfit Live classes for some always-appreciated accountability. “I will work so much harder when I know someone is watching me through that camera!” Sarah says.
Plus, with two kids at home and a packed schedule, Sarah has embraced the come-as-you-are vibe of an Openfit Live class. “I stopped stressing about how I look or if my house is tidy when I share my camera,” she says. “I’ve done live workouts in pajamas, in my kitchen, with dishes piled up in my sink. It’s okay!”
Looking to add some variety to leg day? Here are Sarah’s favorite barre- and Pilates-inspired leg exercises.
1. First Position: Plié, Relevé, Jump
“This is a really great series to start with because it gets your legs moving and warms up your body at the same time,” Sarah says. “The plié in turnout will work your quads and inner thighs as well as the lateral rotators of your hip. The relevé will work your calf muscles. And when you add the jump, it’s a great cardio move!”
- Begin in first position: Stand tall with your feet together and your toes pointing forward. Rock back on your heels, and then turn your legs out from your hips so you toes point out to your sides.
- Bend your knees to do a deep plié, then push up into relevé — heels high, legs straight, and balancing on the balls of your foot. Do 16 reps.
- Rest for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat, this time jumping off the ground during each rep instead of pushing up into a relevé. (Keep your legs straight in the jump and try to point your toes in the air.) Do 16 reps.
- Pro tip: “Remember to land those jumps with bent knees and articulate through your foot, ball, then heel when connecting back to the floor,” Sarah says.
2. Parallel Side Taps
Sarah loves this series because it quickly sculpts those quads — no leg press required.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart. Get in your challenge zone: heels high, knees bent, quads firing up.
- Take the weight off your right leg and tap your toe to the side, then back in, and repeat. (Your tapping toe creates instability for your supporting leg. The goal is to remain still through your torso and supporting leg while your outside leg moves.) Do 16 to 32 reps.
- Bring your outside leg back to parallel position. From this plié, bend your knees and utilize your quads to lower and lift an inch in your challenge zone for another 16 to 32 counts.
- Repeat the whole series on your opposite side.
3. Second Position: Plié to Passé on Relevé
“I love this series for the relevé and how it sculpts the calves,” Sarah says.
- Begin in second position — similar to first position, but with your heels about hip-width apart. Hold a barre, back of a chair, or sturdy surface for support.
- Bend your knees into a deep plié in second position.
- Keeping your weight on your left leg, push off the ground and into passé on relevé (right knee bent, right toe resting against your left knee).
- Do 16 to 32 reps. On the last rep, test your balance and try to hold at the top. See if you can let go of whatever you’re using for support.
- Repeat on your opposite side.
4. Hamstring Series
“We can’t forget about the backs of those thighs!” Sarah says.
- Stand tall with a soft bend in your knees and a slight posterior tilt in your pelvis to ensure your abdominals are engaged.
- Bend your right knee and pull your heel towards your glutes, as if you’re doing a standing hamstring curl. Your right knee should be slightly behind your left knee. Do 16 to 32 reps.
- Bonus: Keeping that knee bent, work your gluteus maximus by pressing your right leg back, or work your gluteus medius and minimus by raising your leg to your side.
- Repeat on your opposite side.
5. Side-Lying Developé
“This one is intense!” Sarah says. “This series will equally test your core strength, especially the obliques.” You’ll also get a nice hamstring stretch when the top leg is in full extension in developé, she adds.
- Start by lying on your left side, propped up on your left forearm, with legs long and a slight turnout at your hips.
- Drag your right big toe up the inseam of your leggings, to your knee (i.e. passé), then extend to the ceiling for developé.
- Keep both legs straight and your inner thighs engaged as you lower your left leg back to the starting position. Do 16 to 32 reps.
- Repeat on your opposite side.
6. Side-Lying Inner Thigh Circles
“I love mat work, or what I call TV-watching work,” Sarah jokes. Like the side-lying developé, this move can be done while catching up on your Netflix queue.
- Start by lying on one side, propped up on your elbow with your head resting in your palm.
- Bend your top leg and grasp the outside of that shin. Lift your bottom leg so it hovers off the floor, and point your toe.
- Start to trace small and controlled circles with your pointed toe. Focus on squeezing your inner thigh at the top part of each circle.
- Complete 10 to 20 circles in one direction, then reverse the circle for another 10 to 20 reps.
- Flip over and repeat on your other side.
7. Single Leg Circles
Sarah admits that some leg strength exercises are challenging even for her. “Single leg circles can be very difficult!” she says. “This series is all about exploring your hip mobility while trying to stabilize the rest of your body.”
- Lie on your back with your legs straight, feet together, and arms by your sides. Engage your core and press your low back into the floor.
- Extend one leg straight up with your toes pointed up toward the ceiling.
- In a controlled motion, draw 4 to 5 large counterclockwise circles in the air with your foot without moving your hips.
- Reverse the circles, moving in a clockwise direction for the same number of reps.
- Lower your leg to the floor and repeat with your opposite leg.