HOLLYWOOD LEGS

Over the past twenty-five years I have worked with thousands of women of all shapes and sizes. The main areas of concern have been legs and the bottom, and I have found that the correct exercises combined with an improved eating plan will always yield results. I am not suggesting that when you finish you will have legs like Cindy Crawford or Naomi Campbell. They were given by the man or woman above. Genetics play a huge part in body shape but you can improve on whatever you have. You may have exercised before but seen little improvement. This may have been the result of incorrect exercise. For example, high-impact aerobics, constant pounding on the step or floor or any hard surface will, I believe, widen the hips and increase the size of your thighs and calves. Your body will always try to protect you from damage and injury by increasing the level of fat. When the body is under attack it will shut down the fat-burning process to restore energy. As is the case with crash diets, your main loss would be of muscle, not fat, so you could even end up softer than you were at the beginning.

If you are aiming to reduce fat in one area, forget it. Your body fat composition will reduce all over when you change your diet. The time spent exercising should be no more than a maximum of one hour three times a week or five times a week when you progress a little further. Choose a time when you are on your own or with friends who are on a similar programme. This will encourage you to keep working out. The most suitable time for exercise depends on your energy levels. Some people prefer early morning. This is really the best time for your work-out as it will improve your circulation and speed up your metabolism. It will also get your engine warmed up to help make you feel sharper during the day. But you should pick your own time - this is your quality time for yourself - and make a commitment for six weeks. Stick to the programme, keep a note of how you feel and how your daily eating plan is going. This will help you to become more focused on what you want to achieve.

It might be a good idea when embarking on an adventure like this to make it top secret, for your eyes only. If you tell people of your plan they may say, 'Here she goes again - it will never work'. Remarks like this may not be meant seriously but you may take them seriously and that could be the end of your plan. Only tell those who are really behind you.

There is no need to overload and to be so sore that you can hardly walk the next day. Burn and pain are not necessary.

Before you start an exercise programme make sure you have no medical problems, back problems or hip soreness. If you feel you may have, consult your GP. If you feel unwell at any stage, stop immediately. Look out for signs of stress like breathlessness or feeling dizzy. Allow at least an hour-and-a-half after food before beginning your routine. Work at your own pace. Don't push yourself too hard.

Exercising for one hour three times a week should be enough initially. Just do one set of exercises on each of the three days for the first week doing 15 repetitions of each exercise. The second week you can move up to two sets and on the third week do three sets. If you can handle this work with ease, start to exercise five times a week, making sure not to strain your lower back or your legs.

It may take a little longer than this to reach three sets five days a week but do it in your own time. Your maximum exercise time should be one hour, allowing time for stretching and cooling down/relaxing. When you reach five times weekly you will definitely see improvements if you have also been following a diet plan. Remember that the real purpose of exercise is to increase your energy, improve your metabolism, tone up slack muscles and provide a feeling of well-being.

Devoting three hours a week to yourself is not much. This should be your quality time. You deserve this for the new you.

I can honestly say that a good exercise programme can produce the best results for women of all ages from sixteen to seventy. Combined with a low-fat eating plan and a better mental image of what you want to achieve, it will definitely optimise your figure.

Body Types

Before you start on a leg-improving programme it is useful to note that there are different body types: endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph. You may fit into one of the types or, more likely, be a combination of two or more types. If you are, for example, the mesomorph type, strong, heavy-boned with wide hips and heavy-set legs, you will never end up looking like Twiggy but you can make great improvement. Some typical frame combinations are:

The typical tomboy look- lean features, broad shoulders, small waist and normally small joints.

The pear shape - soft muscle tone, large tummy, holds on to the fat in the lower region, the hips and thighs.

The rounder shape - overweight, large-breasted, large tummy and arms and a very soft look to the body.

Whatever your type, you will see great improvement once you change your diet, exercise three times a week and supplement the exercise with brisk walking, swimming, weight-training or any sport that enhances your figure and improves your energy and self esteem.

The main muscle groups to work on are:

1. The quadriceps (quads): the muscles at the front of the thighs. The quads are the main shaper of the front of the thighs. Their other functions include giving the power to run and kick.

2. The hamstrings: the muscles at the back of the thighs. This is a three-part muscle group that works the hip and the buttocks. In order to create balance, the hamstrings should be worked in combination with the front of the thigh. Some people ignore this but the result can be a very unsymmeterical look to the legs.

3. The glutei (glutes): The bottom area. The exercises we will be doing will help to firm and tighten up your bottom and to lift it as well.

4. The abductors: the muscles on the outside of the thighs and hips. This is one of the problem areas but when the correct exercises are followed it can be worked very effectively.

5. The adductors: the inside thigh muscles. This area is generally soft and sometimes hard to work but when firm, the muscles can give a nice balanced look, especially from the front view.

6. The calves: the lower legs. Exercising the calves can help to give the legs symmetry. Women who wear very high heeled shoes sometimes develop the calf very high up. This gives a bulky look at the back of the knee. When you are finished your day's work try to stretch the lower calves. This will help to strengthen the calf muscles and give that diamond look to your calves.

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