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Legs

Legs make up around 50% of total muscle mass in your body and the majority of the muscles in the leg are considered long muscles, in that they stretch great distances. They are involved throughout your day-to-day activities, whenever you are walking, rising up, walking down a flight of stairs, lifting yourself or objects from up the floor, picking up your kids or moving furniture. Therefore, strengthening your leg muscles help make everyday tasks easier.

The following muscle groups make up the majority of muscles found in your legs:

1. Quadriceps
Located in front of your thighs.

2. Hamstrings
Located at the back of your thighs.

3. Gluteus
Located in your buttocks.

4. Calves
Located at the back of your legs, below your knees and above your ankles.

Quadriceps

Anatomy: The Quadriceps is a four-headed muscle covering the front and sides of the thigh. The four muscles are:

  • Rectus Femoris
  • Vastus Medialis
  • Vastus Intermedius
  • Vastus Lateralis

What Does The Quadricep Do:  These muscles extend the legs at the knee (straighten the knee). They are important for standing, walking, climbing stairs, squatting to pick something, athletic activities. Almost every action you do with legs involves the quadriceps.

If you sit in a chair and straighten your knee a few times, you can see and feel the quadriceps in action on the front of your thigh. Since Quads extend over the kneecap, they also help to keep your kneecap in its proper position in a groove in the end of your thigh bone.

Since quadriceps are used for walking, running and many other physical activities, they are prone to injury involving strain, tears and other damage. Poor quadriceps strength can also increase the risk of knee pain. Therefore having strong, flexible and healthy quadriceps is as important as all other muscles in the body and exercising them is paramount.

Exercises that mainly work the quadriceps muscle groups include Barbell Squats, Leg Press, Hack Squat, Lunges and Leg Extension. 

Dumbbell Squat

Leg Press

Leg Extension

Hack Squat

Dumbbell Lunges

Barbell Squat

Hamstrings

Anatomy: The Hamstrings muscle runs down the back of the thigh where they attach to the knee joint and consists of three separate muscles:

  • Bicep Femoris
  • Semitendinosus
  • Semimembranosus

What Does The Hamstrings Do: The hamstring muscles cross two joints, the hip and the knee, therefore they have two actions, which include knee flexion (bringing the heel towards the buttocks) and hip extension (moving the leg to the rear).

During running, long jumping or any other explosive movement, the hip needs to extend and then hyper-extend to propel the body forward. These muscles play an important role in shifting the load from your knee to the hips. If hamstring strength or flexibility are lacking, running speed and long jump distance will be decreased. Your hamstrings contribute to functional motion, such as walking, and also help you to achieve speed, power and agility.

Strengthening the hamstrings will help to stabilize your hips and keep your spine properly aligned. Imagine your skeleton system as a connected chain. If one link moves out of alignment, problems ripple throughout the chain. If your hamstrings are weak and tight, it will limit both range of motion and explosive power and also affect your ability to jump, run, land and quickly change direction.

The exercises that work the hamstring muscles include Walking Lunges, Stiff Legged DeadLiftLying leg curlsSingle Leg Curl and Seated Leg Curls

Stiff Legged Deadlift

Walking Lunge

Lying Leg Curl

Glutes

Anatomy: The Glutes consist of three muscles that form the buttocks:

  • Gluteus Maximus
  • Gluteus Medius
  • Gluteus Minimus

The Gluteus Maximus is one of the largest and strongest muscles in the body. It is also the most superficial, producing the shape of the buttocks. Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus lie directly underneath the Gluteus Maximus.

 

What Does The Glutes Do: Glutes is responsible for the movement of the hip and thigh. These muscles stabilize the hip joint and relieve the pressure of the femur, strengthening the structure of the leg overall.

Glutes is involved in nearly all types of human locomotion including walking, running, bicycling, crawling, going uphill. It is the primary muscle powering standing and ascending stairs.

Sitting for hours a days can weaken these muscles and this can make you weaker in nearly every lower body exercise. Weak glutes can cause the pelvis to tilt forward. This not only puts more stress on your lower spine, it pushes your lower abdomen outward, making your belly stick out-even if you don’t have an ounce of fat.

By incorporating variety of exercising targeting your butt from different angles, you can activate your gluteal muscles and build more muscle all over. The more muscle in the glutes, the better and shapely your butt will look.

To effectively work the glutes you need to incorporate exercises such as Step-UpsGlute KickbackGlute BridgesHip ThrustsBulgarian Split SquatSeated Hip Abductions.

Glute Bridge

Step-Up

Glute Kickback

Bulgarian Split Squat

Calves

AnatomyThe calf is the back portion of the lower leg and consist of two main muscles:

  • Gastrocnemius muscle - is visible from the outside forming the bulge. It has two heads, the medial and the lateral which together create its diamond shape.

  • Soleus muscle -is not visible from the outside as it lies directly underneath the gastrocnemius. It is smaller and flat muscle.


What Does The Calves Do
: These muscles elevate the heel, pull the toes towards the knees, rotate the bottom of the foot inward.  Your calves are responsible for a number of functions related to your daily life – when you lift up on your feet to reach a top shelf, climb the stairs, jump, run, cycle, kick a ball, you are using your calf muscles. The calf muscle pulls the heel up to allow forward movement.

The calf muscle act to stabilize your ankles and feet. When calves are strong, they are better able to provide this stability. Runners, walkers and those who play sports benefit from a strong calf muscles. Basketball and volleyball players can increase their vertical jump by targeting the muscles of the calf.

The development of calf depends upon activities you perform in daily life and the focused exercises you perform to enhance, strengthen and make them flexible. Taking time to work the calf muscles offers not only aesthetic benefits but also strengthens them activating the calf muscle pump and normal blood flow and having a positive impact on the stride.
Most men want strong thick calves and most women want thin, slender calf muscles.

A great way of strengthening the calf muscles is by performing Calf raises on a stepStanding Calf RaiseSeated Calf RaiseDonkey Calf Raise, Calf Press and One Leg Calf Raise. Try these exercises with bodyweight alone or with dumbbells. 

Standing Calf Raise

Seated Calf Raise

Calf Press

Importance Of Legs Training: Most gym-goers, enjoy training their chest and arms simply because these are the ‘mirror muscles’. By focusing on workouts that challenge your bottom half, you’ll be rewarded with strong glutes, athletic quads, healthy hamstrings and toned calves. Leg training is a critical element of your overall physique. Focusing too much on your upper body will make you look disproportionate. 

Benefits inherent in training your Glutes, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, and Calf Muscles are increasing your overall lean muscle mass, which, in turn, will improves your calorie and fat burning capabilities. Training your legs, particularly with multi-joint compound exercises, burns a higher number of calories than easier upper-body moves such as biceps curls or lateral raises. This leads to increased fat loss, which is also partly caused by the release of hormones you get when training legs. Since the muscle groups are so large, developed leg muscles will burn the most calories.

Training your lower body will not only burn more calories, it will improve your balance, increase your stability, make you a faster and longer runner, speed up your metabolism, keep the bones and joints healthy and relieve lower back pain as some back pain is due to weak hamstrings and tight hip flexors.

Good Pair Of Legs Are Aesthetically Pleasing: How you train your legs will greatly affect how they look. Many men like to build the size and muscle whereas women like streamlined slender look with tight slim hip.

The hamstring/glute muscle groups really define the shape of the legs. A long and nicely shaped hamstring muscle group compliments and accentuates the curvature of the glutes. Defined quadriceps muscles add to the overall shape and strength of the leg. Shapely calves create a desirous aesthetic look and compliment the whole leg.

Guys with huge chests and arms and skinny chicken legs look really unattractive. They look odd, and it is not very healthy having such big muscular imbalances. Guys look good with big, strong legs and rock hard glutes.

Women can create visually appealing shapely lower half with sleek curves in right places by incorporating a few different exercises into their training program. By working out and developing and shaping and firming the glutes with simultaneous fat loss the area can be lifted and tighten accentuating the lower body creating the illusion of leaner and longer looking legs. Just about every woman has some degree of cellulite. Targeting the hips and thighs by weight training exercises, will tone the troublesome spots where cellulite likes to linger. With the right exercise plan, you can reduce cellulite and make your lower body look smoother and firmer.

The absolute best way to get toned and strong legs for both sexes is to do relatively heavy leg work using compound movements. Combine this with getting down to a good body fat percentage and you will look stunning.