Smart strength training: Make your bottom half your better half

How many folks have you seen working out at the gym and showing off those huge biceps, big chests and small waists but wearing long sweatpants all year? They look outstanding until they strip down in the locker room to change and then . .. surprise! They suffer from a popular condition called CLS — chicken legs syndrome.

Working out every part of our body helps develop flexibility, endurance and performance in our everyday activities, prevents muscle imbalance and avoids the risk of injury. Let’s start working out our legs, because the only chicken legs you should have are the ones you eat!

Remember, it’s very important to work out your core before any execise. A strong core makes any exercise easier because it is the center of your body strength.

SQUATS: Different squat variations target different muscles. To execute a good body-weight squat, stand with your feet wide apart, arms extended in front for balance, neutral spine or flat-back posture, push your hips back and lower your body as comfortably as you feel; go up and back down the same way. Be sure that your heels don’t come off the floor and your knees stay aligned with your toes in your down position.

To target the inner tights, perform a WIDE STANCE SQUAT. Take a wider stance than a regular squat, toes out just slightly, extend your arms for balance or do a prisoner-squat variation with your hands behind the head, squatting slowly. Add some weight to your workout by holding a dumbbell between your legs and squat, dropping the dumbbell as low as you can go. This exercise targets the quads, hamstrings, gluteus and lower back. Perform three sets of 10-12 repetitions.

SPLIT SQUAT: Designed to target the thighs and butt, split squats are a great workout for those who have one leg weaker than the other. To perform a correct split squat, take a larger-than-normal step with your right leg (not directly underneath your hips), then lift your left heel up and position it on a bench or a step (about 15-16 inches high) or slightly below knee level. Drop your hip down until your knee almost touches the ground, then push the butt up. Body weight is good for beginners, but you can also use dumbbells on each hand or a barbell behind your neck. Perform three sets of 10-12 repetitions.

SWISS-BALL HIP RAISE AND LEG CURL: Lie face up on the floor with your legs and heels on a Swiss ball (any small or medium exercise ball will do), push your hips up so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Without pausing, pull your heels toward you and roll the ball as close as possible to your butt. Pause for two seconds and reverse the motion by rolling the ball back until your body is in a straight line, and lower your hips to the floor. If rolling the ball back and forth becomes difficult, place your legs on the ball in a bridge position, pulling your heels toward you once, and raise your hips, tighten up your hamstrings and gluteus and then bring them down. Perform three sets of 10-12 repetitions.

FARMER’S WALK ON TOES: Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells and hold them at your sides at arm’s length. Raise your heels and walk forward for one minute. This exercise works your calves and also improves your cardiovascular fitness. Perform three sets of one minute or longer.

Note: Not all exercises are suitable for everybody; always check with your physician before starting an exercise routine, especially if you have pre-existing injuries. Remember: Listen to your body and let it be your best friend. Don’t let your ego take over; Know your limits. Enjoy your workout!

Noe Espinosa is a registered personal trainer at 12th Street Gym. To learn more about Noe and more than 30 other top trainers at 12th Street, visit .