You've undoubtedly heard the phrase, 'Never skip leg day,' before. Some of us probably don't think much about our legs. Most of us use them to get from point a to point b, whether strolling along in a leisurely walk or doing our morning exercise reps before work.
Maintaining our leg strength should be something we all seek to attempt. Our legs are involved in almost every daily activity. Not only is that not skipping leg day at the gym, but it's also whatever your body can do to keep moving. Leg workouts and exercises are essential to a balanced, whole-body fitness routine that helps build speed, stability, and strength.
Your legs are some of the largest muscles in your body. Stay consistent with leg workouts since your legs are integral to your fitness and mobility as you age.
The Best Exercises to Strengthen your Legs
Your legs begin at the hip joint and run to the ankle joint, encompassing the thigh, knee, and calf. The muscles in our legs help us do everything from extending and rotating our legs in every direction, bending knees, pointing toes, and much more.
Keeping your legs strong is essential at all stages of life. Here are some of the best exercises for the legs.
Lunges work not just the legs but also your core muscles. They work your upper legs, hamstrings, glutes, hips, and quadriceps. If you have knee pain, you may want to skip this exercise, and as always, check with your doctor to see if lunges or any of the workouts below are good for you.
1. Position your feet at the hip's width apart while holding your preferred dumbells or weights at your side.
2. Keep your torso upright and step forward.
3. Bend your front and back leg to a 90-degree angle.
4. Make sure that your front foot remains flat on the floor.
5. Use both legs to stand back up.
6. Repeat steps 1 to 5 with your opposite leg.
Squats are a classic leg strengthener that targets hips, thighs, and glutes. Beginners may consider starting with chair squats before graduating to standing squats. For chair squats:
1. Stand in front of a sturdy chair as if you're about to sit.
2. Place feet slightly wider apart than shoulders.
3. Focus weight on your heels and slowly bend your knees to lower your buttocks toward the chair.
4. When you get close to the chair, quickly press back up using your legs until you are standing. Aim for 10 to 15 per set.
As for classic squats, the same steps above can be followed without the chair.
Walking is an aerobic and one of the best exercises for our legs. Walk whenever you can. Park further away from a store than usual, park further away from work and set aside time to walk morning or night. As you grow more robust in walking, you may want to try to transition to jogging or running or keep walking but add in challenges like walking up and down hills.
Dancing to your favorite music is a fun and fast way to build strength in your legs. You can take a dance class, follow videos at home, or choose a playlist and dance to get your heart rate up and go for as long as you can stand.
For Seniors and those with limited mobility
Falling is still one of the leading causes of injury for seniors or those with limited mobility. If you're worried about slips and falls, one of the best ways to improve balance and strength is by ensuring you strengthen your body and work out at least two to three days a week.
Here are some leg exercises for seniors or those with limited mobility to help strengthen your legs:
Calf raisers are a great strengthening exercise. To do a calf raise, stand straight—feel free to grab the back of the chair, walker, or other mobility devices—and rise on your toes as high as you can. Then, once on your toes as high as possible, slowly lower your heels until you stand on the floor. This simple exercise is fantastic for improving overall health and helping to navigate uneven ground.
Knee extensions can assist with balance improvement and the ability to sit or stand while enhancing knee mobility. Find a comfortable chair and sit. While sitting in the chair, lift and straighten your right knee and hold for a few seconds. Then, lower the right leg and repeat the same movement with your left, at least 12-15 times per leg.
A perfect exercise to warm up for people of all ages and mobility ranges. You can sit or stand for ankle circles, depending on what's more comfortable for you. Lift your right left off the floor and rotate your ankle around 5-7 times. Then, turn your ankle in the other direction another 5-7 times, switching to the left leg when finished.
When Should You Skip Leg Day?
Make sure not to push yourself too far. There may be instances where you should skip working your legs. If:
• You are already sore from a previous workout
• Experiencing sore leg muscles
• Have a potential injury
• Are feeling ill, under the weather, or very tired
• Have a cold that has chest congestion
• Have a stomach ache
• Have a dry cough
• Fever, tiredness, or extensive muscle pain
You should skip leg day if you have any of the above symptoms. Pushing yourself too much can slow your healing and cause further injury and illness.
Before you start your journey to more robust legs, always warm up, whether working with weights or your body weight, to avoid injury and give yourself time to cool down afterward. Wear good shoes with an excellent grip to help you keep positions during your workout, keep your back straight, and if you feel any pain during your exercise, stop doing it immediately. Contact your doctor if your pain doesn't go away after a few days.
Start slow and ease into these best leg exercises to build strength.