Your legs hold up your entire body weight. It is important that they can do the job without sustaining injuries along the way. Whether you are an athlete or a person who works out for the health benefits, it is crucial to have a strong lower body. Here are 7 exercises to strengthen your legs.
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With one simple move, you can work all the muscles in your legs. To begin, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Take a big step forward with your right foot. If you have weak knees, then take a small step forward. Move your body down (as an elevator would) so that your two legs form a right angle at the knees. Keep the knees of the front leg behind the toes. Return back up to the starting position using your leg muscles. Do 3 sets of 30 repetitions for each leg. When doing this exercise, remember not to move in a forward motion like an escalator.
2. Body Weight Squats
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These squats make use of your body weight as resistance. Start the exercise by standing with your feet a little more than shoulder or hip width apart, with your toes slightly pointed out. Your knees will move in the directions where your toes are pointed. If you are just starting to do this workout, imagine or use a chair to guide you. Drop your hips and bend at your knees as you lower your buttocks. You can raise your arms up to shoulder level to help keep your balance. Remember to stick out your chest, tighten your abdomen, and keep your back straight. Go back to the starting position. Do 10 to 15 repetitions for each set. Listen to your body to determine how much you can do.
3. Calf Raises
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Calf raises work out your calf muscles. This great thing about this strengthening exercise is that it can be done anywhere. While standing with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width, raise your body until you are standing on your tiptoes. You can put your hands on your hips to keep your balance. Hold this position for a few seconds and slowly lower yourself back down. Do 3 sets of 40 calf raises. If you are ready for a challenge, then do this workout on an elevated surface with your heels hanging off the edge. Do 3 sets of 25 elevated calf raises.
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The plie is a position executed in ballet. However, you can also use it to tone your inner and outer thighs. Begin by standing with your feet a little more than shoulder width apart. Then take a small step outward with your feet. Turn your feet out so that you are forming a wide “V”. You can hold on to a chair for support or you can put your hands on your hips. Slowly lower your body down to about six inches. Remember to always keep a straight back. Raise your body up slowly to the starting position. Perform 3 sets of 30 repetitions. You can start out by keeping your heels on the floor. If you are ready for a greater challenge, raise your heels off the floor. Do not buckle your knees inward when performing this exercise.
5. Step Ups
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This exercise effectively works almost all the muscles of your lower body. Beginners should use a low step and no weights or light weights. Keep the number of repetitions moderate. You can use higher steps and heavier weights as your strength and balance increases. Of course, don’t perform a lot of repetitions if you choose to use heavy weights. To begin this exercise, stand in front of an exercise platform. Keep the abs tight, shoulders back, and put your arms by your side. Step up and put your entire right foot on the platform. While staying upright, shift your weight to the lead leg (right leg). Extend the right hip and knee to straighten them and bring your left leg onto the platform. Bend the right hip and knee and return the left leg to the floor. Step your right foot off the platform. Repeat the movement, switching the lead leg.
6. Leg Curl with Exercise Ball
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You don’t need a leg curl machine to do this exercise. Instead, you can use an exercise ball. Begin by lying on your back and putting your hands by your side. Your legs will go on the ball in front of you. For beginners, place the ball on the calves. For a more challenging workout, you can place the ball further away from you. Remember to keep your head, neck, and back in a straight line and then lift your hips. When you do this, keep your abdominal muscles tight. Push your heels into the ball, but not too far in, and roll it towards your butt. Exhale as you extend back to the starting position. Do not lift your hips or buttocks any higher than it already is at the starting position.
7. Seated Leg Press
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This exercise requires you to use a weight machine. The seated leg press targets several muscles of the lower body namely the quadriceps, glutes, hamstring, and calves. To begin, sit on the weight bench and place your feet shoulder-width apart on the platform. Grasp the machine handles and with your legs slowly push the platform away. Stop just before you fully extend the knees. Return to the starting position, making sure to keep the knees and thighs at 90 degree angles. Do not buckle your knees together to avoid injury. As a beginner, you can do one set of 12 to 15 repetitions.
Make sure to warm up and stretch your muscles before performing these exercises. Always be in proper form to avoid injury and sore muscles. As you keep doing these workouts, you will slowly feel your knees, legs, and feet become stronger and more stable. Walk tall and feel more confident with your new found lower body strength.
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