Exercises to Strengthen Legs
For the Outdoorsy Folk
The great thing about exercise is that you can choose which one suits you best. This means that you can go with one that interests you most. For leg muscles, fun ways to improve strength include biking, cycling (stationary or not), dancing, hiking or trekking, mountain (or wall) climbing, swimming, running or jogging, marathons and triathlons, or simply using gym equipment. If you love the outdoors and adventure, you already know which ones from that list you’re going to pick. These help get the mind off of focusing on the fact that you are working out – instead, you can focus on the view of the outdoors, play some music while you’re at it, or even have these as great (and healthy!) bonding moments with your friends. As a bonus, these also make for great cardio sessions, which also improves heart health, burn calories and lose weight, among many other benefits.
Focused Leg Exercises
Now, if you are really committed into having a strict workout session that’ll bring out the best in your legs, you’ll be better off with leg exercises that focus on the specific muscles and muscle groups. Here are some of the best ones you can do:
- Squats – The first thing that you need to know is that squats are the golden standard in the leg exercise world. These are the classic routines that every person with healthy and fit legs (and buns) perform because the muscles that they hit include the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and the butt. There are many spin-offs and alternative touches and depths to squats today.
○ Barbell Squats – To perform this, begin with a light weight (you can add weights gradually) and do back squats, building up eventually. If you can, go as far as squatting your butt to the ankles for a better burn.
○ Dumbbell Squats – This is a variation if you aren’t comfortable with using barbells just yet. You can begin with these before using barbells until you feel that you are strong enough for them.
○ Barbell Hack Squats – If you aren’t able to tolerate upper body weights, this variation is perfect for you. Although not very popular, it works well for leg muscles. A combination of a squat and a deadlift essentially, you perform this by placing a barbell on the floor, behind the heels. Squat down – back straight – and grab the barbell handles. Stand up, lifting the barbell from behind. It may sound complicated at first, but this is very easy as you go on.
- Dumbbell Lunges – Hold dumbbells, one on each hand, and step one leg forward, alternatively. Do not get the knee too far (beyond the toe point), especially for beginners.
- Deadlifts – Another classic routine, you can perform deadlifts by lifting a barbell off the floor while keeping your knees bent and your back straight. Although relatively simple, this works a compound of muscles – both lower and upper leg muscles, the butt, neck and back muscles, arm and forearm muscles, and even the abdominals.
- Leg Press – This requires the use of a press machine, commonly seen in the gym and fitness centers. If you have one at home, you do these reps there, too. Ask for a trainer’s instruction when using this for the first time. Keep your lower back tightly pressed against the machine’s seat/support. You don’t need to use too heavy a weight for this one. Ideally, perform around 12 reps at a time.
- Bridge – On the floor facing up, forearms flat on the floor, bend your back and push yourself up from the floor to the point where your butt and legs are both lifted. Hold this for 30 seconds, then repeat. These reps are great for strength training.
There are a lot of other leg exercises out there. Some require the use of gym equipment (leg raises, leg curls, etc.) and some don’t (calf raises, runner’s lunges, etc.) – the important thing is to perform them properly to avoid injury and pain. Remember that the saying “no pain, no gain” doesn’t necessarily have to be followed strictly. Discomfort is good – it is a sign that the exercises are working. Pain, on the other hand, may be an indicator of injured muscles or bones.
Whichever of these exercises you choose to perform, remember to keep all other aspects of leg and foot health balanced, too. Keep a healthy and balanced diet, rest adequately, avoid prolonged sitting and standing, and wear comfortable footwear as much as possible.