Leg strength is important and it’s not just about looking good.
Our legs play an important role in our daily movement and in stability and balance. Strong legs are also the key to maintaining independence in old age, so it definitely pays to keep them in tip-top shape.
There are a number of pieces of equipment at the gym which target the legs – those old favourites, the Leg Press and the Leg Curl for starters – but there is also a wide range of exercises which require no equipment at all and can therefore be your go-to workouts, regardless of where you are.
The major muscle groups of the legs are the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves, so any exercises which target these muscles are the ones to include in your leg workout. When it comes to exercise frequency, it’s best, as with any form of resistance training, to focus on the volume in any one session rather than the number of sessions per week. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the results of leg work once per week may be just as effective as squeezing 3 sessions in.
“Bearing the focus on volume in mind, the minimum to start with should be 3-5 sets of 10-12 reps”
But remember, don’t be tempted to just get straight in there without having a proper warm-up first. A little bit of light Cardio or simple stretching exercises will set you up for a safe session and will help you to get the most from your workout. Similarly, always allow time at the end of training for those all-important full stretches, cooling down the muscles which have worked so hard and increasing your chances of being able to walk without painful stiffness for the following few days!
Here are my top 5 staples to ensure a Good Leg Day: -
- Bodyweight squats
A favourite of mine as it’s a great way to build lean muscle and tone the legs, but it’s also a good workout for the abs, butt and hips.
If extra support is called for, remember that you can make use of a nearby wall.
Lunges are hard to beat when it comes to improving mobility and stability and - yes there’s more – they’re a handy little workout for the abs and butt too.
Lunges can be done with, or without dumbbells and for a bit of variety you can switch between standard walking lunges, reverse lunges and lateral lunges.
My number one choice to build super-strong thighs and to protect those hard working knees.
Use any type of raised platform you can find around you (it might even be a bench or a chair) and embrace the different levels of intensity offered by the varying step depths.
- Plank leg lift
We all know the plank is a great all-rounder when it comes to improving core strength and toning the body, and the leg plank is no exception. Incorporating a leg lift to the plank has the added advantage of giving the upper legs and butt a challenging workout too.
The ability to gradually increase your planking time ensures that this exercise always stays challenging and, dare I say, fun?
- Glute bridge
A great one to get leg day started in my opinion, and safe to do even if you suffer from back pain. It’s one of the best exercises to tone legs but can also boost core stability and improve hip mobility too.
My additional little tip here is to make sure you get started on the workout as soon as you are in position and don’t just see it as an opportunity to have a lie down!!
I’ll have to be honest here and say that the biggest struggle I faced in writing this blog was to stop at just 5 leg pumping exercises. I didn’t even get around to mentioning calf raises or dumbbell good mornings. Of course, as a Personal Trainer, I’m happy to share more of my workout essential tips, simply visit https://www.neil-king-personal-training.co.uk/ and discover more or to get in touch with me to organise an initial consultation.