At Home Leg Strengthening Exercises
Strong legs are essential for endurance exercises, such as walking, climbing, running and just about every physical activity. As we age, we can lose muscle mass. Strength training can help increase muscle mass, strengthen bones and reduce your risk of injury. Strong leg muscles help to stabilize and protect the joints, such as the knee and hip joints. Increased muscle mass also helps your body to burn calories more efficiently. You can get strong leg muscles by doing some simple but effective exercises at home.
The lunge may be the single best leg exercise to build muscle and strengthen the whole leg -- hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles -- and the buttocks. Placing your hands on your hips for balance and squeezing your abdominal muscles, stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart. Take a long step forward on your right foot while simultaneously lowering your upper body straight down toward the floor until your back knee almost touches the floor.
To avoid injuring your knees, do not allow your knee on the lead leg to go over your toes. Keep the knee of your left leg aligned under the hip. Gradually shift your body weight to your right leg/lead leg in front. Then use your leg muscles to raise yourself back to an upright position. Repeat this 10 times with the right leg, then lead with the left leg for 10 more repetitions, increasing the number when you can do 10 easily without losing form. To progress, slowly increase the repetitions to no more than 15 reps per leg or add resistance by holding five to 10 pound dumbbells and let them hang next to your body as you perform the lunges.
The hamstring muscles are located on the back of the thigh. You can strengthen the hamstrings by static contractions and pelvic lifts. To do static hamstring contractions, sit on a chair or a bench. Extend one leg out until the leg is bent at a 45-degree angle. Place your heel on the floor. To do the contraction, press your heel into the floor until you feel a tightening in the back of your thigh. Hold this contraction for five seconds and then relax.
Do this exercise eight to 10 times on each leg. To progess, gradually increase the number of repetitions to no more than 15 on each leg or add more resistance by increasing the intensity of the contraction.
The calf muscle is located on the back of the lower leg between the knee and the ankle. The calf raise exercise targets and strengthens two calf muscles: the gastrocnemius and soleus.
To begin, stand up straight with your feet about hip-width apart and place your hands on your hips for balance. Lift both of your heels off the floor at the same time and shift your weight to the balls of your feet and your toes. Hold the raise for five seconds and then slowly lower your heels back to the floor. Keep your back and knees straight but don't lock your knees. Do 20 to 30 repetitions.
Bodyweight squats are effective to strengthen the quadriceps muscles on the front of the thighs between the hips and knees. Stand up straight with your feet apart and turn your toes out slightly.
Squeeze your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine and shift your weight to your heels. Bend at the hip joint and lower your upper body down as if sitting down.
Bend until your upper thighs are parallel to the floor, or as low as you can without causing pain. Hold for a few seconds and then push your body back upright using your legs.