Hi Hayley,

What exercises would help get the look of Carrie Underwood's muscular, toned legs? I thought she looked awesome at the CMAs and she's got a great fit look without the thick thighs that you can sometimes see when you build up those muscles. What's the right combination for muscle and tone without bulk? Thanks! H


Carrie Underwood definitely has genetics on her side with legs like that. I have talked before about understanding your own body type (which is something you cannot change) and striving to be the best that you can be based on your body type. If your legs are shorter and thicker it does not matter how hard you try you will never have long lean legs, but you can get yourself some sexy toned and muscular legs. If you are tall and skinny you may never achieve the killer calves you want, but you can rock a pair of skinnies like no other. Embrace the body type you have and work towards making it the best it can be.

Another thing that Carrie has on her side is how hard she has to work to be able to dance and sing night after night. Many pop singers train very similarly to athletes and combining that with a very strict diet helps to keep Carrie’s legs, and the rest of her body, extremely lean.

But since you asked, here are my favourite ways to keep your legs looking their best. 

For your cardio try doing a combination of workouts that will slim your legs down as well as tone them.  Running and power walking are great ways to burn fat without building too much muscle and activities like hiking and spinning will burn calories and build muscle. I’m not a fan of only walking or running as you will end up with shapeless legs so make sure you find a combination of both types of cardiovascular exercises that will work for you.

For strength training here are my five favourite leg and butt kicking exercises.

Walking lunges
I love this exercise because they can be done anywhere and you can increase the difficulty of it by adding more weight and increasing the number of repetitions. Start with a set of 8 and then work up from there, making sure you are careful that your front knee is not extending over your toes and that your knees stay in line with your hips and ankles.

Calf Raises
This exercise can also be done anywhere which makes it another favourite of mine. Start by standing on something elevated (stairs are the easiest) and with just the ball of your foot on the step come up onto your tip toes. Slowly lower yourself down until you are as low as you can possibly go and then come back up onto your tip toes with a bit of speed. Start with a set of 10 working your way up to multiple sets and progress to doing them on one foot, eventually holding a dumbbell by your side.

Step Ups
Step ups are a serious butt burner and again, they can be done anywhere. When you are doing a step up make sure you focus on coming straight up with all the power coming from the leg that is on the step, not the one that is on the ground. Keep your body weight through your heel and the outside of your foot, being cautious not to allow the knee to extend over your toes or into the midline of the body as you step up and lower yourself back to the ground. Start with 10 and work your way to multiple sets of 15 or 20 while holding a dumbbell in each hand.

Single leg dead lifts
This exercise is a great way to strengthen your glutes as well as strengthen and lengthen your hamstrings. Begin by standing on one foot and hinge at the hip, lowering your upper body to the floor and raising one leg towards the ceiling, ensuring you are maintaining a flat back, neutral spine and level pelvis. Start with 10 on each side then work up to 20 while holding a dumbbell.

Stability ball hip lifts with ball squeezes
This exercise looks a little funny but if you are not afraid to try something different give it a try. Lie on your back and place your heels on the outside of a stability ball, squeezing it tight. Lift your hips up as high as you can and then lower your body back to the mat. Once you have finished 10 or 20 hold your hips up high and squeeze the ball between for feet for little pulses. Do as many pulses as you can then lower yourself back to the matt. This is a great way to target that little area on the body where your butt meets the back of your legs (we all know how much we love this part of our bodies, right girls?).

Remember, there is no way to specifically target weight loss in any area but you can tone and build strength wherever you desire. Make sure you combine these exercises with healthy eating and cardiovascular exercise as well as flexibility training. Good luck!