Legs day can often be the day of the week that people dread, so much so that some people might even miss training legs altogether. This is a big mistake….
The muscles in the legs are some of the biggest in the body. Working these large muscles burns calories, releases important hormones which help promote lean tissue development, and can really help facilitate fat loss. By not working the legs effectively you are really training with one hand tied behind your back. Sadly running or cross-training isn’t an effective way to train the muscles in your legs alone, and while these kinds of leg exercises are important in their own way, to gain lean muscle, burn fat and help you reach those strength goals, you need resistance based exercise.
Here are just a few of our top resistance focused exercises for legs:
Undertaken with or without weights, walking lunges are one of the most effective leg exercises to be done in the gym or at home. Not only can you really stimulate the muscle in the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and glutes, but if done over a distance you can really get your heart going and add a cardiovascular effect to your training. If you are new to lunges start without weights and mark out a 10m distance, take a long stride bending your front leg 90degrees and aiming to get your back knee close to the ground but not touching it. Keep your chest upright staying as tall through the back as possible. If you are struggling with balance focus on keeping your abdominal muscles tight, take a slightly shorter stride and step slightly more out to the side as this will give you a wider base for stability. As soon as you have completed this first movement without stopping go straight into a lunge with the opposite leg and repeat until you have reached your goal distance, turn around and lunge back again. Once you have mastered the walking lunge without weight try adding a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand. This exercise is guaranteed to really stimulate those leg muscles.
Like with lunges, squats are effective with or without added weight. When squatting with a good range of motion (sitting down to 90 degrees or lower) the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and glutes are all worked hard. Begin your squat with your feet shoulder width apart, toes slightly turned out. Pull your abdominal muscles in tight, stand tall and draw your shoulders back. Bend your knees while keeping you back straight and upper body as tall as possible. Lower your body as if you are sitting on a chair or sofa, lower as far as you can without bending forward more than a few inches. Try not to allow your knees to go past your toes, then straighten your legs back to your starting position to finish the movement. If you need to put your arms out in front of you for balance that’s ok. Once you have mastered normal squats try using dumbbells or a barbell to add weight and progress the exercise.
Stiff Leg Deadlift
The stiff leg deadlift is a simple but effective way to primarily work the hamstrings but also the glutes, abdominals and lower back. This exercise is most effective when weight is added and there are many options to add weight. One of our favourites is a single kettle bell but a barbell or dumbbell are also effective. Start this exercise with a single kettlebell held in both hands with arms straight. Then with your stance shoulder width apart, feet under your hips and facing forward, hinge forward from your hips while keeping your abdominals braced and back straight. Your legs should be stiff but don’t need to stay completely straight throughout the exercise, this helps protect your knee joints. Lower your kettlebell with your arms straight to the floor, then raise back up until you are stood upright to complete the exercise.
And there you have it, a few of our top exercises for legs. Try adding these great leg exercises into your workouts to help you reach your health and fitness goals.