Four Fantastic Strength Exercises for Your Legs
me climb onto my high horse!
your selection of strength exercises for athletic purposes, your decision
should be based on your understanding of the muscles that produce the action of completing a task and not
on exercises borrowed from for example a bodybuilder’s routine. Bodybuilders need to analyse and target
individual muscles and exercise each one to get their desired results (which is
to sculpt their bodies). This is not required for the development of strength
for sporting movements. Here, you are aiming to strengthen movements as they pertain to a particular sport – not a
muscle. This normally means targeting the prime
movers (groups of muscles) of a joint or joints.
out of my system, let’s move on…
656 muscles in the human body, all capable of performing a variety of actions
and athletic skills. In this article we are only interested in those muscles in
the lower extremities of the body, namely the hip and legs. I have chosen to talk
about only four, and of course there are more than just these, but these are
the four strength exercises for the lower part of the body that I use most
often in my training sessions with athletes.
Strength Exercise #1 - Back Squat
exercise is possibly the king of all strength exercises for the legs. The
purpose of the squat is to strengthen the gluteals, quadriceps, hamstring, back
extensors and the calf muscles. As you can see this is a gross exercise,
involving multiple muscle groups. The exercise is executed in the following
- The loaded
barbell is placed behind the neck, across your shoulders. You should stand with
your feet shoulder width apart with your toes turned slightly outwards.
- Take in a
deep breath and hold this in while you bend your knees in a slow controlled way
to a point where your thighs are at the desired depth.
- While you
are bending, keep looking straight ahead, with your chest out and your back
- As you lower
the load you should feel the weight towards the rear of your feet.
- At the
bottom of the lift your knees should be positioned over your feet.
- Breathe out
while returning to the starting point, remembering to keep your head up and
your back flat.
- A variation
of the back squat is the single leg squat. It is executed in exactly the same
way as the normal squat. However, one of the benefits of the single leg
variation is that it allows you to preferentially load the hip and leg without
the risk of overloading the spine!
Strength Exercise #2 - Calf Raise
training program for the lower half of the body would be complete without the
calf raise. The purpose of the exercise is to strengthen the gastrocnemius and
soleus muscles situated behind the shin bone. The exercise is executed in the
- You would
stand with a loaded bar placed behind your neck and across your shoulders. You
should stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
forefoot should be placed on a platform two to five inches high and your heels still
in contact with the floor.
bending your knees, you should press down on the raised platform with your toes
in an effort to raise your heels from the floor and above the raised platform.
- Slowly lower
your heels back to the floor, again without bending your knees.
- A variation
of this exercise is to be seated and place a weight on your knees or thighs
while performing the calf raise - this exercise targets the Soleus muscle more
than the traditional calf raise.
Strength Exercise #3 - Leg Extensions
of the leg extension exercise or to be more precise, knee extension exercise is
to strengthen the quadriceps muscles. These include the rectus femoris which is
the central muscle, that is attached to the patella at one end and the hip at
the other, the vastus medialis the
muscle on the inside of the knee and the vastus lateralis the muscle on the
outside of the knee. The exercise is executed in the following way:
- You should
sit on the machine and adjust the resistance pad to a position just above the
ankle at the front of the shin. The knees should be bent at a 90 degree angle.
- You should
push upwards against the resistance and straighten the knee without hyperextension.
- Slowly lower
the weight back to the starting position.
Strength Exercise #4 - Hamstring Curls
hamstring curl is a strength exercise which targets the hamstring muscles at
the back of the thigh. Depending on the machinery used - some gyms are equipped
with stations that allow you to sit upright to perform the exercise. However,
in this case let us assume you must lay face down. You would execute the
exercise in the following way:
- Lie face down on the hamstring machine and
adjust the leg pads to a position just above the ankle;
- Make sure your legs are not hyperextended in the
- Slowly curl the feet slowly towards your
buttocks – try to keep your hips from rising as you do so;
- Slowly return the weight back to the starting
variation, you can perform this exercise single legged or curl the leg using
two legs, then return it using only a single leg – alternating on each repetition.
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