The Best Ab & Leg Workouts

Lean and strong abs and legs don't just look good, they're a sign of good health as well. Belly fat has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and other health problems. Eliminating the fat not only improves health, but strong abs help support the upper body and reduce the risk of back pain and injury. Strong legs also help support the upper body and core, as well as reduce the risk of knee injuries. There are many effective ab and leg strengthening exercises, but because the two areas often work together, choosing exercises that engage both groups of muscles can provide a greater benefit to your body.

Curtsy Squats

Squats work both legs and abs, but the curtsy squat works each leg individually giving more burn for your workout. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips. Cross your right leg behind your body as if you're curtsying. Bend at the knees keeping your left knee, the one that is forward, behind your toes. Keep your head and chest lifted. Return to the starting position. To increase the burn, balance on the forward foot letting it do most of the work. As you extend the opposite leg behind you, balance without touching it to the floor, then return to the starting position where you can lightly rest your toe or if you have the balance keep it lifted and then extend it behind you again. The more you can shift your weight and maintain your balance without putting your toe down, the harder your leg and core will work. Do a set of 15 to 20 on each side.

Plank on Ball

A plank is an effective total body strength exercise that becomes more difficult by adding a ball. With your knees on the floor, rest your forearms on the ball. Slowly roll the ball away from your body until your shoulders come down to your knees and makes a straight line. Squeeze the abdominals towards your spine to support the back. Keep your arms bent at 90 degrees with your shoulders over your elbows. Hold for 15 to 60 seconds. To increase the challenge, lift your knees off the floor and straighten your legs. Continue to squeeze the abs. Don't let them sag towards the floor and do not let your bottom poke up towards the ceiling.

Plank on Ball with Ham Curls

Doing a plank on the ball in a supine position works the core, as well as the glutes, hamstrings and calves. Lay on your back on the floor with your feet flat on the ball and your knees bent at 90 degrees. Keep your hands on the floor by your sides as you raise your hips up towards the ceiling. The core will engage to help keep your balance on the ball while your glutes, hamstrings and calves work to keep your hips raised and knees in position. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. To increase the challenge, keep your hips raised while you extend your legs out and then pull them back in a ham curl motion. Another challenging option is to lift your hands off the floor so that your core and legs do all the work to keep the ball in place.

Stretch

The importance of stretching is often overlooked by exercisers. Stretching not only reduces stress, it increases flexibility and prevents injury. Complete each ab and leg workout by stretching the abs, back, thighs, hamstrings and calves. Starting in cat position with your hands and knees on the floor, round your back towards the ceiling. Hold for a breath and then return to the starting position. Next, arch your back dropping the abs towards the floor. Hold for a breath and return to the starting position. Do 3 to 5 sets. While still in the cat position, extend one leg back putting your toe on the floor. Shift your weight back as you press your heel towards the floor for a calf stretch. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and then switch legs. Sit on the floor in a modified hurdler with one leg bent so that your foot is near the knee of the opposite leg. Reach towards the foot of the straight leg to stretch the hamstring holding for 10 to 15 seconds before switch sides. Put the bottoms of both feet together, dropping the knees open for a hip stretch. Finally, lay on one side, bending the top leg back as you reach back to grab your ankle for a thigh stretch. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and then roll over to repeat on the other side.