We all know the power of squats. The New York Times nominated The Great Squat as one of the best exercises, period. Squats effectively work your lower half, which includes some of the body’s largest muscles. And, in the long run, squats help combat the muscle-mass loss that comes with getting older. All these benefits mean that working your lower body is vital. So, how about taking things up a notch?
Shape suggests incorporating weights or making form tweaks to basic exercises to make your lower-body workouts more challenging. For instance, take the standard calf-raise movement (lifting onto the balls of your feet), and upgrade it by grabbing a pair of dumbbells for what’s called a "siff squat." Start standing with your feet hip-width apart. Hold the dumbbells (as heavy as you can go) in front of your chest (at shoulder height) with your palms facing in. As in a calf raise, lift your heels off the floor — but for the added challenge, lower into a squat while balancing on the balls of your feet.
As for that good ol’ squat, Shape recommends a kneeling version. Hold a set of dumbbells in front of your torso at your shoulders and start kneeling. Your body should be upright, with your shoulders over your hips and the tops of your feet resting on the floor behind you. Now, lower your hips back toward your heels (think glutes to calves), but don't actually sit down on your legs. Keep your chest lifted and core tight; then, squeeze your butt and return to kneeling. You can always try the exercise without weights first to get a hang of the form.