Leg Strength for Aging IndividualsLower body training is also ideal for older individuals who are at risk of serious injury from falling and bone fractures. It improves overall balance, which means greater confidence in daily activities and a lessened likelihood of falling down. Furthermore, a study conducted by Deakin University in 2002 showed elderly individuals with greater leg strength showed markedly improved mobility. Those with better muscle strength also showed decreased knee and hip injuries.
As knee and hip injuries are the most common lower body ailments affecting seniors, important strength exercises focus on these areas. For knees, leg curls provide the most benefit with the lowest risk of injury. Similarly, side leg extensions or the use of a hip adductor machine are great for preventing hip injuries.
Leg Strength for RunnersAthletes who participate in running events also reap significant benefits from lower body strength training. Stronger leg muscles require less energy to keep a runner in motion. Therefore, runners with greater lower body strength report having increased stamina. Additionally, lower body strength training can reduce the risk of being injured while running. Specifically, runners need to have strong ankles, knees, and hips in order to stay active and healthy.
Taking the StairsOne of the easiest ways to improve lower body strength is to climb several flights of stairs each day. The energy required for climbing steps comes almost exclusively from the legs. To improve the effects of stair climbing, try only using every other stair. This forces the body to perform a lunging movement, which can increase upper-leg strength.
Most Popular Lower Body ExercisesAmong the most popular leg strengthening exercises are lunges, calf raises, and squats. Both of these moves can be performed using just your body weight. This makes them easy to do even without access to a gym or other fitness facility. However, both moves can also have weight added to increase difficulty.
Meanwhile, other lower body exercises are commonly performed using specialized gym equipment. These include leg curls, leg extensions, and leg presses. Leg curls focus mainly on the hamstring muscles, while leg extensions focus on quadriceps. Leg presses utilize all of these muscle groups in a single motion, making them a great addition to a lower body workout.
Training One Leg at a TimeAlthough many exercises call for both legs to be utilized, many trainers recommend focusing on one side at a time. Performing exercises on one leg improves a person’s balance and can help prevent injuries. Single-leg training is also especially important for runners, who must rely on each leg individually. The power for each stride uses only one leg at a time during the normal course of running.
One of the best single-leg exercises is the “step up.” This move requires you to step on and off of a small bench. Sets are alternated between steps with the right leg and steps with the left. Over time, weights held in the hands can be added to make the step ups more challenging. Single-leg dead lifts are also great exercises, which work the backs of your legs while improving posture and balance.