Leg strengthening exercises are something I often overlooked or skipped during my training. I felt like they were irrelevant for my goals and I didn’t understand how important they are to include in a workout plan. I’ve since learned that they are essential for everyone, in particular women, due to the hip/pelvic and low back pain we seem to develop from sitting, carrying children, and wearing heels. Whether you love or hate leg day, strengthening your lower body is vital and produces benefits that go beyond appearance.
So when you question why you need to strengthen your lower body or feel tempted to skip them all together, remember the following advantages:
- Boosts metabolism. Your legs contain some of the largest muscles in your body, and therefore, require more effort to train. This means you’ll spend more energy performing lower body exercises which will lead to more calories burned, greater fat loss, and a higher metabolism. There is also some evidence that shows the hormonal response created from training your legs will also help you build more upper body strength.
- Upper body and core strength. This is something I recently learned in my PT course. Multi joint movements, like squats and deadlifts, incorporate just about every muscle in your body. So in addition to your legs, your arms and abs will work to balance/stabilize and move the weight. And you’ll build strong knee, hip, and ankle joints which may reduce your risk of injury. This is really important for functional movement and our day-to-day activities.
- Improve athletic performance. Strengthening your legs will improve your athletic ability. If you are a runner, weight bearing exercises for your lower body may improve your endurance and power. They’re also essential for counteracting all the physical stress we place on our bodies when we run. Additionally, you may notice increased performance in other areas, like being able to jump higher and move faster.
So what type of leg exercises should you be doing?
My favorites ones are multi joint movements since they recruit more muscles and essentially offer more “bang for your buck.” They are also a surefire way to get my heart rate soaring. Squats and dead lifts are great staples to include. Single-leg/unilateral movements like lunges and step-ups are also beneficial since they help balance out both sides of the body and really isolate the muscles.
If you’re new to training the lower body, I would recommend working with a professional to ensure you are doing the movements properly and to avoid injury. As always, please check with your doctor before beginning a new workout program.
Check out this YouTube video on how to correctly do a squat:
Make no mistake – leg day is HARD. I often feel like I am going to crawl home after training the lower body. But trust me…they are super important! Not only will these exercises help you tone and strengthen your legs, but they’ll improve metabolism, balance, and performance.
Do you love or hate leg day?