When you train your legs, you want to include exercises for your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Some of the largest muscles compose the legs in the body and they support most of your activities on a daily basis. Whether you are a runner or weight lifter, strengthening your legs can play a key role in achieving your fitness goals.
Why Exercise your legs?
You use your legs in everyday movements, as well as in compound exercises performed at the gym. For individuals looking to increase overall strength, leg exercises are greatly recommended.
The Benefits of Leg exercises
From increasing metabolism to building muscle and burning fat, leg exercises can help achieve a range of fitness goals. Moreover, strengthening your lower body can help you improve performance while running, jogging, twisting, jumping and/or kicking.
As an aid to build muscle, training your legs can increase the production of certain hormones building lean muscle mass. While performing leg exercises you also engage your core. A strong core helps in all aspects of life and is also beneficial for performing in the gym. Strengthening your legs can also help prevent pain in the lower back.
Best Leg Exercises
Like any strength or weight resistance workout, you need to warm up activating the muscles being worked out.
Activating your Leg Muscles
Prior to the start of your workout, leg muscle activation exercises will assist you to trigger your mind to muscle connection and ensure all targeted muscle fibres are prepped for the main body of your workout.
Warm up Exercises:
Clams will activate your glutes and engages your core and is a great exercise to do prior to any lower body exercise.
The crab walk helps to strengthen the hip abductors, muscles of the pelvis and improve hip stability while improving stability of the knee and ankle. You can perform the crab walk prior to weight lifting or running to warm up the leg stabilization muscles.
The glute bridge activates the glutes and the hamstrings. This is a great exercise for warming up prior to dead-lifts and squats activating muscles around the hips.
Foam rolling increases blood flow to the muscles. You can foam roll on your calves, glutes, as well as the sides of your legs.
Once you have warmed up, you are ready to start your leg workout.
Bodyweight Leg Exercises
Squats work all the muscles in your legs including the quads, hamstrings and glutes, while engaging your core. Performing squats can help you improve your balance and also build stability.
Body Weight Walking Lunge
Walking lunges can strengthen your leg muscles, hips and core. Walking lunges can also loosen the hip flexors.
You can perform this exercise using an elevated surface such as a step or bench and target the fast-twitch muscle fibres in your quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes.
Free Weight Leg Exercises
The barbell deadlift increases total-body strength, targeting the backs of your legs as well as your core. Performing a barbell deadlift in a ‘sumo’ stance can allow you to lift a heavier weight.
Squats are a compound movement which allows you to workout your entire body making them a very effective exercise. To increase time-under-tension, slow down the downward part of the movement which increases the amount of energy burned.
Calf raises increase your ankle strength and ankle stability and prepares the body for plyometric exercises like box jumps.