Strong legs prevent injuries, improve sports performance and move easily. Here’s how to strengthen those key muscles.
Sure, keeping your leg muscles strong makes you look toned, but they’re also very important for overall functioning. You need leg strength to move efficiently and maintain good posture while standing. This is your base.
Take the example of the quadriceps. These muscles, which are the largest in the body, help you perform regular daily movements, such as climbing stairs, getting up from a chair, and extending the knee.
The hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors and calves are the main leg muscles, but you can also count the glutes. Technically, the glutes are part of the buttock muscles, but they’re involved in nearly every movement that uses the lower extremities and are used in most leg exercises (including the exercises below).
The glutes are made up of three different muscles that help with hip abduction and medial rotation, as well as pelvic stabilization. Whether you’re doing squats, deadlifts, or lunges, you’re definitely activating your glutes.
Strong legs and gluteal muscles also help prevent injuries. Strong legs have a protective effect, they make you more resistant and protect you against injuries, especially for athletes who perform dynamic movements such as jumps and cuts. By having strong legs, you have better control over your body and you will be better able to recover if you lose your balance or fall in an awkward way, for example. Weakness in the lower limbs exposes you to various injuries and ailments.
Additionally, leg muscles are a major source of power for your body. A stronger lower body can also improve athletic performance. For athletes, strength is the foundation of athletic movement when it comes to speed and power. Having this core strength makes you a better athlete.
An example of a session to be repeated two to three times a week
Start with a good warm-up to get the blood flowing, such as walking for three to five minutes on the treadmill or elliptical trainer, or jogging in place. Then perform a few dynamic stretches, such as walking lunges, running lunges, monster steps, or hopping jumps, before you begin your workout. (Dynamic stretches are movements that lengthen the muscles while they are in motion).
Perform the movements described below, taking a short time to rest. It makes a series. Repeat the exercise for two or three sets in total, resting for a minute or two between each set.
Do this workout two to three times a week. It can be added to your current fitness program. To be clear, however, these exercises are designed for healthy individuals who have no known injuries or health conditions. If this is not your case, it is best to consult a personal trainer or a physical therapist to help you set up a personalized program.
1. Bodyweight Squats
Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your hips and butt down, rocking your hips and bending your knees into a squat position. Keep your weight back in your heels (you should feel like you’re sitting in that imaginary chair to engage the glute muscles) and your chest lifted (like you’re sitting upright) throughout the movement. Pause at the end of the movement, then come back up with your heels until you are standing. Activate the quadriceps and glutes throughout the movement. Perform 15 repetitions.
2. Dumbbell lift
Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, and hold 1-2 kg dumbbells in each hand in front of your thighs, palms facing your body (or, if you don’t have dumbbells, take something heavy from home, like bottles of laundry detergent or pet food). Bend forward at the hips to lower your hands along the front of your legs, keeping the dumbbells close to your body and tilting your back and upper body forward. Keep your back flat and bend your knees slightly. Squeeze the backs of your legs and glutes as you straighten up, and thrust your hips forward as you return to a standing position (your hamstrings and glutes should do the work, not your back) . Do 15 reps, or 12 reps on each side if you’re doing a single-leg deadlift. (If you are a beginner, do the exercise without dumbbells).
3. Alternate Side Lunge
Start standing with your feet together. Take a big step with your right leg out to the right side (with control), bending your right knee as your foot hits the ground and sitting back with your hips hinged (your weight should be on your right foot ). Keep your chest and eyes facing forward and your left leg straight. Squeeze your inner thighs to push off your right foot and return to standing. Repeat the exercise on the other side. It’s a repetition. Repeat the exercise for 12 repetitions. For more difficulty, hold dumbbells in each hand.
4. Calf Raises
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing forward. Use your calf muscles to lift your heels off the floor. Pause at the top, then drop back down to the ground. Perform 15 repetitions, do it slowly so that the calf muscles are fully engaged.
5. Reverse Lunge
Start standing with your feet together. Place your right foot directly behind you. Lower your hips and drop your right knee so that it forms a 90 degree angle and your right heel is lifted off the floor. (Step back enough so that your left knee, as it bends, also forms a 90 degree angle and remains aligned directly over the left foot). Keep your back straight and look ahead. Contract your glutes, quads, and calves as you press your left heel into the floor and bring your right leg forward to return to a standing position. Perform 15 repetitions on each side.
6. Sumo squats
Start by standing with your feet more than hip-width apart and your toes pointing outward at about a 45-degree angle. Bend your knees and lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor, keeping your chest lifted as you did for the bodyweight squat. Pause at the bottom of the ladder, then push through your heels to return to a standing position. Perform 15 repetitions.
Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. In one smooth motion, lower your body into a squat position, place your hands on the floor in front of your feet, and jump your feet back to land in a plank position (elbows should be slightly bent). Then, jump up to bring your feet close to your hands and perform a powerful leap into the air. To make the exercise more challenging, add a push-up when you’re in a plank position. Perform as many repetitions as possible in 30 seconds.