It’s not an uncommon sight: a dedicated weight lifter or fitness enthusiast who religiously works his upper body and completely ignores his leg muscles. Typically it’s because building a big barrel of a chest, massive shoulders and impressive “guns” are the priority. Men aren’t the only ones guilty of neglecting the muscles of the leg. Many times women become too sensitive about the size of their thighs and glutes so they concentrate on reducing their legs instead of focusing on how to build up leg muscle. There are important reasons for working your legs, though, and not all of them are geared toward bodybuilding. Everyone of all genders and ages can benefit from strong leg muscles.
The Fat Burning Factor
You already know that maintaining muscle helps with burning fat for healthy weight loss. It stands to reason that the more muscle weight you put on, the easier it will be to take fat weight off and keep it off. You leg muscles are the largest muscle group you have, taking up the entire lower half of your body. Building lower and upper leg muscles will go a long way in increasing your overall muscle mass for increased fat burning potential.
Keeping You Mobile
It’s easy to take your leg muscles for granted, but just try to get through one day without using your leg muscles and you’ll recognize the essential role they play in keeping you agile and mobile. The importance of agility and mobility are obvious for athletes, both professionals and weekend warriors, but these elements increase in importance as people age. A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology concluded that leg extension strength in older adults is associated with the ability to keep balance and prevent falling. Additionally, the medical information website Patient says that problems with balance and gait are directly related to muscle weakness, both in the upper leg muscles, such as the quadriceps and abductors, and in the lower legs where calf muscles affect foot flexion.
Symmetry: It’s Not Just for Bodybuilders
It’s no secret that symmetry is as important to bodybuilders as muscle building. According to Bodybuilding.com, an evenly developed body has no noticeable weak points and simply looks better. Aside from the appealing physical appearance, symmetry in your muscles can help reduce the chances of injury. The muscles of your body are all connected, and the ones that aren’t connected directly are linked together through other muscles. They all team up to get you around and allow you to do what you do. However, if one section of the team is weaker than others, it can’t perform properly, resulting in injury whether you’re working out or just performing simple, daily tasks. Former endurance athlete Mark Sisson explains that having weak hamstrings, for example, may result in torn cartilage, bad knees, an abnormal inward curving of the spine, or all three.
How to Strengthen Leg Muscles
In the simplest terms, the answer to how to build up leg muscles and strength is to work them — but work all of them. There are different schools of thought on whether you can or should work upper and lower body on the same day, but ExRx.net recommends dedicating one entire workout day to your leg muscles. Do exercises such as:
- calf raises
- leg curls and extensions
- hip adductors and abductors
- hip flexions
Two to three sets of each exercise will challenge your leg muscles to start growing in strength and size. Those strong muscles will pay you back for the effort by helping keep you lean, reducing your chances of an injury, and keeping you on your feet and on the go.