Leg workouts: unleashing its benefits, anatomy, and more
Leg workouts are an important aspect of any bodybuilding activity. Training your lower body parts is a great advantage to stimulate the growth of the muscles in the upper body.
Bodybuilders all around the world would sometimes focus in sculpting their upper extremities and they often neglect their legs. Some gym-goers would have a very beautiful upper body sculpt but they have tiny legs. Their body is not in coordination because they focus much of their time in the arms, back, abdomen, and belly. It must be noted that a symmetrical and aligned physique is what’s important in determining the real body build.
The muscles in our legs are one of the largest muscles in our body. Investing time in the leg workout can yield a metabolic effect in the long run. It produces hormones that enable muscle growth and increase in size. In addition, leg workouts help to build stronger legs that can build your endurance, cardio, and core strength.
To better understand the benefits and how does leg workout works, let us know first the anatomy of our lower body parts:
The structure of the legs
Our legs are composed of different muscles. The first group of muscle is the quadriceps or the quad. The quad is located at the front of the thigh and it is composed of four muscles.
These muscles are “rectus femoris”, “vastus lateralis”, “vastus medialis”, and “vastus intermedius”. These group of muscles flexes and extends when the hip is extended. These group of muscles is inserted into the femur, quad, and knee. Check out the image below:
The next group of muscles is the calves which are comprised of “soleus” and “gastrocnemius.” It is located at the back of the lower leg. These group of muscles serves as the plantarflexion (extension of the toes when pointing) at the ankle. This enables the heel to move up and forward when walking or running. Check out the image below:
The next group of muscles is the hamstrings which are muscles of the thigh and can be found behind the knee. it is composed of “bicep femoris or long head”, “semibranosus”, “bicep femoris or short head”, and “semitendinosus“. These muscles are responsible for bending the knee, middle rotation, and extending the hip joint. Check out the image below:
From the above-mentioned information, we can, therefore, conclude that the legs comprise of various muscles since we use it daily to walk, stand, run, or getting to different places. Now, here are some of the benefits of investing time in leg workouts:
Benefits of leg workouts
Builds the core
The first benefit of leg workout is that it builds the core since it requires conscious effort to grow and contract. There are several leg workouts such as hip flexions, hamstring stretches, and leg curls that can strengthen the core.
The core refers to the group of muscles in the middle of our body. If we have strong leg muscles, it can also improve our body’s ability to push and to lift. It can also improve the body’s flexibility.
Maintains the density of the bones
Leg workouts can also maintain the density of the bones and prevent from having bone fractures and diseases such as osteoporosis, arthritis, and deformity. Exercises such as squats, leg curls, and lunges can help in weight loss. Adding strenuous leg exercises can increase resistance and make your leg muscles to grow and adapt. If you have successfully shed some pound, your bones and joints can experience less stress.
Various exercises such as walking, bicycling, and running are activities that encourage the growth of leg muscles, provide cardiovascular benefits, and improve our health. The growth of the muscles can increase our body’s metabolism since it has more stored energy versus fat. In addition, leg workouts can enable fast weight loss if combined with proper nutrition and healthy lifestyle.
Yields less leg injury
Aside from increasing bone’s strength, leg workouts can also reduce leg injuries. If you focus on a single muscle in each of your exercises, it can give stress to other muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons of your body. Eventually, you might experience an injury while exercising legs, or any parts that deal with core strength and balance.
Runners may experience knee injuries if they don’t engage in leg workouts that use the muscle or the tibialis anterior in front of the lower leg. Thus, this is how important leg workouts are.
Now to guide you in working out your legs, here are some of the exercises that you can try:
Leg workouts to try
If you wish to see an improvement on your legs, less strenuous workouts will not give much impact since our legs are used in working throughout the day. Dedicate on intense workouts so you’ll be able to develop thick, bigger, and stronger leg muscles.
As you force yourselves in several workouts, you’ll feel shaking, burning, and trembling but you must go on. It is just natural for your legs to resist the workout but you need to exert extra effort to see positive change on your legs.
Since our legs are composed of different muscles, you’ll need to use various angles and exercises to stimulate it. It must be noted that all exercises must be in perfect form to prevent injury and become sustainable in the future.
Now that you are familiar with the anatomy of leg muscles, location, function, and the benefits of leg workouts, let’s check now the workouts to help build the legs. It must be noted that before starting, power walk or stretching is required. Ten minutes of warm-up is a must so you will be ready for the series of exercises.
The first workout to try is the dumbbell lunges. This type of exercise primarily develops the strength of the quads and also the hamstrings, glutes, and calves. It also requires a dumbbell, which is available in any gym.
To start the workout, stand in an upright position with the dumbbells in your hands. Move your feet apart and distribute your weight evenly.
Next, step forward with your right leg and lower your body. Keep your balance, your head up, and your torso upright. Using your heel, push and stand again in the starting position. Repeat the steps with your left leg. Don’t let your knees touch the floor when lunging.
You can make 12 repetitions each leg in four sets. You can alternate each leg or finish the 12 reps first before switching to another leg. Make sure to rest for a minute in between each sets so you can breathe properly. You can also increase the weight of the dumbbells as well as the number of repetitions.
Face down leg curls
The next leg workout is the leg curls. This workout aims to develop the strength of the hamstrings through pulling of the machine. This can be done by both girls and boys too.
To start, lie face down on the machine. Make sure that your torso is straight and your legs are stretched. Put the pad of the lever at the back of your leg near your calves. Grab the handles of the machine and extend your toes.
Then, curl your legs and make sure that you do it slowly. Once you reach the contracted position, hold your legs for few seconds and get back to the starting position. Do this workout for 8 to 12 curls in 3 sets, taking a break in between sets. You can do this in alternate legs or both legs.
Back barbell squat
Another workout to try is the Barbell squat. This can be done by both female and male. This type of workout can build strength in the leg muscles, primarily in the quadriceps or quads. The secondary muscles worked in this workout are the lower back, calves, glutes, and hamstrings. You will only be needing a barbell, either a straight bar, trap bar, or machine.
To do this, place the barbell on the trap. Grab the barbell and place it on your back. The hand should grip firmly the barbell and the chest should be in front. Stand straight with your legs apart and your weight must be distributed evenly on your legs.
Then slowly bend your knees as you go down or squat with the barbell. Make sure that your hips are still aligned with your feet. The goal is to keep the torso upright when doing the squats. Then gradually ascend and get back to the starting position.
You can do this workout 4 to 6 reps for 4 sets. Remember to breathe properly as you do the workout, so you can finish the routine. Have a one minute break between each set. You can add the weight of the barbell and increase the reps, but just make sure to do it gradually.
Standing calf raises
The standing calf raises aims to develop the strength of the calves by using a machine.
To start, you can adjust first the machine according to your height. Then, stand in an upright position and make sure that your knees are not locked. Have your feet apart and place your weight evenly between your legs. Put your shoulder beneath the pads of the machine and your arms in the handles so you can maintain your balance.
Next, lift your body by flexing your heels as high as possible. Breathe in and breathe out too as you do the routine. rest for few seconds with your heels flexed, and get back to the starting position by lowering your heels level to the ground. Do this activity for 12 reps in 3 sets, taking a break in between sets.
You can also do this routine using straight bars or dumbbells instead of a machine, however, it takes practice so you can keep your balance and won’t fall on the floor.
The next workout is the leg presses. This activity aims to build the strength primarily in the quadriceps. Aside from the quads, this can also help develop the hamstrings, glutes, and the calves. Furthermore, the leg presses require a machine to complete the routine.
To start, lie straight on the machine and put your legs in the platform. You can choose whatever angle that you want, but for beginners, you can try the medium stance.
Push your knees and your legs as the platform moves. Repeat the movement for about 12 to 15 reps in 3 sets. You can take a rest in between sets. Make sure as well to do the leg presses slowly so you will be safe in the entire routine.
The next workout is the leg extension. The workout aims to work the quadriceps by pushing with the use of a machine.
To do this, sit on a leg extension machine and place your body at a 90-degree angle. Put the pad on the lower part of both of your legs. Grab the handles of the machine then extend your legs and your knees and make sure that it is straight with your body. Lock the knees for few second and get back to the starting position. Make sure to breathe in the entire routine.
Repeat this exercise for 10 reps and 3 sets. Always break for a minute in between the sets. In this routine, you can perform it one leg or a time or you can do it together.
The last workout in this list is the barbell deadlift. This type of workout develops the strength of the hamstrings Furthermore, it also strengthens the abs, glutes, calves, quads, upper and lower back, as well as the arm muscles.
This activity can be done with the use of a barbell, straight, or trap bar too. To do this, position yourself in front of the bar. Then stand straight with your feet apart. Make sure that you distribute evenly your weight between your feet.
Then, grab the bar firmly using both of your hands. Bend your hips and your knees and lift the bar onto your hips Lift your head up too and look straight in front. Make your torso straight and your chest forward. Gently put the bar on the ground and make it pass on your hips and knees again.
Do this activity for 4 to 6 reps in 4 four sets, making sure that you break in between sets. Beginners can try light weights first for this workout. Both girls and boys can try and perform the barbell deadlift.
In a nutshell, strong and well-developed legs are important in our physique. It has one of the largest group of muscles in the body and it is important in core strength, bone density, and improve metabolism. It supports the body’s wide range of daily activities thus it must be given attention too.
The above-mentioned workouts are some of the activities that you can try in developing the muscles of your hamstrings, calves, and quads. Make sure to check with your personal trainer first what kind of workout suits best for you. Always remember to be safe in starting the workout to avoid any accidents in the end. We know that you want to have a better body built but your safety must be given priority above all else.