The Benefits of Healthy, Strong Legs
Many people yearn for long, lean legs that fetch longing glances, but not all of us are born with luscious gams! Besides a possible desire for a certain-shaped legs, having strong leg muscles also helps with balance, mobility and a healthy back.
Having strong legs is a multi-point process. It can be achieved through cardio, weight training and flexibility.
Regular cardio work allows you to build lean muscle. Running, walking, biking, swimming, stair master, step-climbers, Pure Barre class, Pilates, rollerblading and skiing are several very effective leg strengthening opportunities.
Weight training allows for more specific zones to be targeted. Lunges target the hamstrings. Hamstring curls target the back of the leg, while leg press or squats with weights strengthens the quads (front of thigh). Leg extension works your quadriceps; stiff-legged dumbbell engages the glutes. Calf raises (with or without weights) obviously strengthens your calf muscles. Fire hydrant causes a burn in the side portion of your gluts. I know this well from my Pure barre class which works several of these zones emphatically!
Flexibility is often overlooked or avoided but it is critical to your long-term functional fitness when you age. Yoga and Pilates, as well as general stretching, allow the muscles that you work through cardio and weight training to remain flexible and lengthened. Many people, especially men, have very tight hamstrings. Though it may actually feel ‘painful’, keeping them flexible allows you to continue to be able to accomplish tasks that require you to bend over and pick up things as you age.
Include leg strengthening and lengthening as part of your fitness plan to engage your muscles and keep them strong over time.