Leg muscles are something most people ignore, including gym regulars who spend the most part of their time working on the upper body. Strong legs may not contribute much to aesthetics but they sure make a big difference in your daily activities. From getting in and out of your car to house cleaning to running a marathon, everything becomes easier if your legs have the strength they need.
Functional training replicates daily movements by moving your body in every plane of motion, as opposed to isolation exercises. Doing these exercises regularly increases flexibility, improves posture, and reduces your chance getting injured. Start with these 9 exercises and feel the difference.
1. Walking Lunges
Start by standing with your feet together and your hands on your hips. Inhale to take a big step out with your right foot, bend your knee towards 90°, hovering your left knee a couple of inches above the ground.
Exhale to step your left foot to meet your right and stand up. This time, take a big step out with your left foot on an inhale. Bend your left knee towards 90° and hover your right knee a couple of inches above the ground.
Exhale to step your right foot to meet your left. Continue alternating for 10 lunges, then turn around and go the other way for 10 more.
Make sure to keep your abs engaged and shoulders back for the entire exercise.
2. Side Plank Leg Lifts
Start by lying on your side, leaning on your right forearm and placing your left hand on your hip. Flex your feet and stack your left foot on top of your right.
Press down through the edge of your right foot and your forearm to lift your hips and torso off the ground into a side plank.
Keeping your side plank, exhale and lift your left leg in the air as high as you can without sinking your hips.
Inhale to slowly lower your left leg back down, keeping your side plank position, squeezing your thighs and knees together. Continue lifting your left leg up and down for 8 reps, and then switch sides.
3. Wall Sit
To begin, stand with your back against the wall and the feet hip-width distance. Walk your feet out about 1½ feet, then keeping your back on the wall, slide down into a squat position.
Readjust your feet to make sure that you end up with a 90o bend in the knees, with the knees stacked above the ankles.
Bend the elbows and place the hands behind the head. Keep your belly engaged and your torso upright. Hold this position for one minute.
Begin by standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width distance. Have your heels in and toes pointing out slightly.
On an inhale, start to bend your knees and sit back like you are going to sit in a chair. Keep the chest lifted and the core engaged.
Exhale to stand back up. See if you can keep the weight in your heels and drive through your heels when you come back up to stand. Repeat for 20 reps.
5. Speed Skaters
Start with your weight on your right leg, bend your knee like you are going into a squat, and keeping the left leg straight, tap the left toes towards the floor behind you.
Exhale and leap laterally to land on the left leg, bend your left knee into a squat and, keeping the right leg straight, tap the right toes to the floor behind you.
Continue hopping side-to-side for 20 reps each side.
Start by standing with your feet together. Bend your knees and lower into a deep squat position to bring your hands down to the floor.
Jump your legs back, lightly landing in a high plank position on your hands. Jump your feet back into your low squat position and jump up, reaching your hands overhead. Repeat for 10 reps.
7. Low Lunge Kickbacks
Begin in a low runner’s lunge position on your right leg, with your fingertips on the floor in front of your toes. Keep your back straight and your gaze forward.
Lean your weight forward so all the weight is on your right foot. Now kick your left leg up into the air, squeezing your glutes and thigh.
Slowly lower back into your runner’s lunge position to tap the left toes to the floor. Repeat for 6 reps, then switch sides.
8. Downward Dog With Leg Raises
Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Tuck your toes, press into your hands, and lift your hips towards the ceiling.
Lift your right leg high towards the ceiling, squeezing your glutes at the top, and slowly lower the leg back down to tap the toes to the floor.
Repeat lifting and lowering the same leg for 14 repetitions, and then switch sides.
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Place your hands down alongside your body, with your hands pressing into the mat.
Walk your feet in towards your butt and keep them hip-width distance. Exhale to press through the feet and palms and lift your hips towards the ceiling.
Inhale to slowly roll back down to the mat, one vertebra at a time. Repeat for 15 reps.