The Best Limb Exercises to Strengthen Your Legs
Working out the legs has tremendous benefits as it helps tone the largest muscle group. Leg strength improves balance and coordination, reduces pain levels for both joint and tendon pain, and boosts your metabolism. As we age, limb exercises become even more important for keeping the knees, ankles, and hips in great shape as well as maintaining the recommended mobility and physical activity levels.
Lower Limb Exercises
Lower limb exercise movements majorly focus on the major muscle groups of the legs: the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Once you master these movements, there are infinite variations and ways to progress that will keep you challenged.
Alternating Knee Lifts
Any workout session should begin with an exercise that doubles as both a muscle builder and cardio. Alternating knee lifts get the job done by toning the hamstrings, quads, and glutes while increasing the heart rate and improving balance. These exercises are also simple to do. Start by standing with feet hip-width apart. Lift the right knee to hip height, lower it then repeat the same motion with the left knee. The same effect can be achieved by doing step ups on your stairs.
Jumping rope helps strengthen the lower limb muscles surrounding your joints and ligaments hence fewer foot and ankle injuries. This exercise trains the body to maintain activity on the ball of your feet, rather than applying pressure on the heels. The repetitive motion provides the body with the strength and muscle memory needed for injury prevention. It won’t save you from incurring injuries but might help you heal faster.
You don’t need an actual jump rope to carry out this exercise. All that is needed is a series of continuous small jumps in place, vertically or laterally, moving your arms as if you’re swinging a rope underneath you with each burst. However, exercise caution if you have preexisting foot problems such as tendonitis, and diabetic neuropathy.
Squats help build a solid strength foundation and balance in the lower body. They particularly target the hamstrings, thighs, quadriceps, and glutes, helping you add muscle mass in these areas. There are so many variations of squats and it all depends on a person’s preference. Air squats are a great way to learn the proper form of squats and once you have mastered them, you can move to the weighted squats safely without much risk of injury.
When doing an air squat, your knees should not go past your toes and the back should not round out. Keep the shoulders forward and ensure the lower body is the only part that’s moving. You may experience pain in the knees due to either going too low or putting your weight more towards the toes instead of the back of your heels.
Foot Box Exercises
Foot box exercises are effective workouts that help improve balance, symmetry, and coordination while developing strength and agility in the hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, and calves. They also help build stability in the ankle joints as you move the foot in a box formation. Some people also refer to it as the "motion box."
There are various variations of the foot box exercise. You can do forward or lateral step-ups, step-overs, or dynamic step-ups. You can do them weighted or unweighted. You can even change the way you are stepping up, targeting different muscle groups with different variations. Ensure you don’t get to the point of pain or cramping during the exercise.
Ankle Mobilization Exercises
Ankle mobility refers to the flexibility of the ankle joint and the surrounding muscles and tendons. Ankle mobilization exercises aim to stretch and strengthen the ankle as well as keep them active. One common exercise is ankle circles. It’s done by sitting on a chair with the feet flat on the ground. Calmly raise one leg and point the toes down then up towards your chest in a circular motion.
Another ankle mobilization exercise is ankle flexion whereby one uses a resistance band to strengthen the toes. Loop the band around the front of your foot as you hold both ends with your hands then slowly point your toes forward and then back, releasing the tension.
Foot and Toe Raise
Sit on a chair up straight with your back supported and your feet flat on the ground. Begin by gently raising one leg, lowering it, then raising the other leg in a controlled fashion. A toe raise is similar to a foot raise but instead of the leg, raise the toes upwards while keeping your heels on the floor then lower your foot back to the ground.
Whether you’re working out at home or back at the gym sweating it out, incorporating leg workouts into your routine is integral to your health. If you experience ankle joint, or heel pain please discontinue and consult with a physiotherapist, as the exercise could compress the nerves and irritate symptoms further. Always use the proper form when doing exercises to avoid injuries and get the proper benefits.