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Your leg muscles are by far the largest and most important muscles in your body with respect to movement, stability and overall power. If you've ever played any type of sport, it becomes fairly obvious that most of your power comes from your legs - whether it's cycling, baseball, golf, bowling, swimming or anything similar.Basically, any activity requiring the propelling of an object (such as shotput, basketball and baseball) or your own mobility will require appropriate leg exercises to help with balance, core stability and overall power.
As further incentive, the better you keep your legs now, the greater mobility you'll have at an advanced age. You'll go more places and see more things without worrying about how far your legs will take you. I read an article somewhere about how far an average person walks in their lifetime. If I remember correctly, we walk around the Earth about 7 times. Wow!
It's important to keep your legs in shape like a well-tuned machine - let your legs carry you farther than you ever imagined!
So let's hammer this in a little more...
Why perform leg workouts?
Prevent Injuries and Relieve Joint Pain!Just like any other joint in the body, your knees, hips and ankles are supported by the surrounding muscles in the leg. Luckily for you, your leg muscles are the largest muscles in your body! This doesn't mean that these joints are safe, however. Your hips, knees and ankles are the most commonly injured areas on the body. These have taken a toll on my own sports career.
Some may argue that most leg injuries are the result of torn ligaments (tough connective that hold muscles to bone) and tendons (more connective tissue that holds your bones together). It's important to remember that these injuries wouldn't have occurred in the first place if there had been adequate muscular support surrounding them!
A particular example is the typical knee pain that many people feel later in life. This is usually due to weak supporting muscles surrounding and attaching near the knee for many years of their life. What happens is that the decreased support allows the bones (the tibia and femur) to rub together and wear away the cartilage between the bones.
This cartilage is meant to be a sort of cushion for shock absorption during walking, running, jumping and even standing. When the bones rub together, this cartilage is worn away making small movements extremely painful.
By maintaining strong legs throughout your life, you're giving the knees, hips and ankles the support they need to carry you as far as you want to go, injury free! Furthermore, injuries such as ankle sprains, muscle pulls, and ligament tears are far less likely when they're surrounded by strong supporting leg muscles.
Already feeling knee, ankle or hip pain? Have no fear! It's never too late to start working out your legs! Performing leg exercises should gradually ease a lot of the pain. Why? Because you'll be adding the support that your joints need!
Confidence! This is the key to many aspects of life. Do you think you can do it? If you do, then you will! It's kind of like my going to medical school - I never thought I could do it! But here I am. Having strong legs gives you the confidence to complete certain tasks that you might not have tried before. Carrying boxes, your kids, and all of your groceries will become really easy! Walk up those 10 flights of steps to your apartment instead of taking the elevator. It's more satisfying than you might think! Give yourself a challenge and complete it! This is only the start of your confidence building!
I'll make this simple: work your legs more than your competition! No matter what sport your playing, your legs are the key ingredient. Keep them in shape! You'll break down personal barriers that you never thought were possible.
Let's take a baseball pitcher for example. He works his shoulders and rotator cuffs, runs constantly and eats a healthy, balanced diet. Doing long-toss drills and working on mechanics constantly throughout the off-season hasn't improved the velocity on his fastball at all. What's wrong?
There're no leg exercises! Yes, running keeps your legs toned, but this doesn't really make you stronger in itself. Your legs are important for pushing the rest of your body - without them, how could you get any leverage or momentum into anything? Whether it's a golf swing, bowling approach, throwing a football or even picking up something. Your legs provide the power - other muscles play supporting roles.
Yes, your arms push. But the power behind that push comes from your legs! The same applies for most other athletic movements.
So you'll start working out your legs, right? Good!
Just like with any other muscle group, you should always start with the largest muscles and then move to smaller muscles. In this case, we'll want to target the quadriceps and hamstrings first, then the thighs, and finally the calves and shins.
This is a general rule that applies only if you're starting from the beginning. If, however, you find that your shins and calves are much weaker in comparison to your hamstrings and quads, then you can start with the smaller muscles in this case. You need to have enough support for the big guns like the leg and thigh muscles.
The concept behind this is to be able to strengthen the weaker muscles when you're well rested. If you've already done all your big muscle workouts (which also require work from the smaller muscle groups), then the smaller muscles will be more fatigued when you begin working them out.
This may result in a plateau phase! It'll be difficult to strength your upper leg if the lower leg is weak.
Be sure you're doing both compound (exercises requiring multiple muscles) and isolated exercises (those that isolate individual muscles). But beware - only start doing compound exercises when your legs are strong enough.
For example, if you're starting a program with questionable knees and hips, then you should build up your quads and hamstrings first using isolation exercises for a few weeks - or until you feel capable to perform the most advanced exercises). Not only will this improve on the pain, but it'll also give you the much-needed support for the compound exercises that come later.
It's nice if you're doing leg exercises, but are you doing them enough? It's important to get in at least 5 or 6 upper and lower leg exercises in each workout. No, this does not mean hit the leg press every time you see the gym. Avoid overtraining! Doing too much can be just as bad as doing nothing at all. Make sure you're separating your leg exercises by at least 3 days.
Video demonstrations of leg exercises are coming very, very soon! Hang in there and check back soon for updates!
Questions? Comments? Stories? Let's hear what you have to say!
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