There is an old saying in bodybuilding circles: the legs are the foundation for the body. One of the worst mistakes people that hit the gym make is that they will build up the muscles in the upper torso and avoid performing effective leg exercises.
This is not a good idea because weak leg muscles will not support a muscular upper body. In fact, you may suffer knee problems due to such a lack of symmetry. And speaking of a lack of symmetry, having a well developed torso and underdeveloped legs does not exactly present a proper aesthetic look.
Muscles in the Legs
The leg is comprised of a greater number of muscles that you initially assume. Of course, the calf muscles and the quadriceps are the most obvious muscles. There are muscles in the hips, the feet, and even in the knee region. All of these muscles perform the basic functions a bipedal creature needs to perform. The stronger and more enhanced the muscles of the leg are, the greater they will be able to perform effectively.
- Quadriceps - front of thigh
- Illiopsoas – connect the lower spine and hip to the top of the thigh.
- Adductors - inside of the thigh which help move the leg towards the middle of the body.
- Hamstrings – rear of the thigh
- Gastrocnemius and Soleus – rear of the lower leg
- Tibialis Anterior – Lying mainly on the front of the lower leg
Benefits of Targeted Leg Exercises
The benefits of targeted leg exercises are varied. Yet, they all yield the same results.
- Improve the strength and endurance of the legs which in turn, yields a ripple effect of various improvements in the body as a whole and not just the legs.
- Stronger leg muscles are not prone to becoming tired. Such enhanced endurance aids those that need to walk great distances or stand for extended periods of time.
- The potential to suffer injuries will be reduced. No, this does not mean you will be invulnerable from injuries in any way. Rather, the strength of the leg muscles can withstand more impact which limits injury potential. Stronger muscles in the knee, for example, may prevent ACL or MCL tears under certain circumstances.
- Working out the legs can actually increase the body’s growth hormone potential. That means you will experience muscle growth throughout the body when you work the legs regularly.
Barbell Squats – This involves performing squats with a barbell with heavy (or light or moderate) weight on it. This exercise can grow the quad muscles tremendously.
Bodyweight Squats – These squats are performed at very high repetitions and they will enhance endurance significantly.
Leg Extensions – These are isolations exercises that help define the quads and can also aid in rehabbing injuries.
Calf Raises – Frequently overlooked, these exercises enhance strength allowing the calves to support the body.
Butterfly Hip Abductor Flyes – This machine exercise does not exactly enhance your look but it will greatly reduce the potential for painful groin injuries.
Lunges – Performed either with or without a barbell and either in place or walking, these exercises strengthen all the muscles in the leg. That is why they are frequently employed in athletic training regiments.