Whether you’re a seasoned athlete, or an exercise novice who spent their formative years on the couch, everyone needs to commit to a strength training routine. Cardio is excellent for aerobic capacity and fat loss, but it’s vital to have a solid foundation of strength to avoid injury and muscle atrophy in the future. If your interests lie in losing weight and becoming more fit, one of the most important muscle groups you can train are your legs.
The most effective exercise you can do for both leg strength and overall fitness involves interval training. This concept involves engaging in intense, yet short bursts of activity, followed by longer, lower intensity phases of exercise. For instance, one of the most popular interval training programs for beginners is Couch-to-5K. In this program, the goal is to build up your cardiovascular endurance and leg strength by going on jogs that combine running intervals with walking, the goal being to eventually run five kilometers, or a total of thirty minutes at a time.
Use this technique at any level of fitness in order to improve muscle strength and general stamina. If you are already quite fit and accustomed to running, you may want to try going for runs interspersed with intervals of sprints. Sprinting is anaerobic and really focuses on building leg strength.
Don’t forget your lower legs in your workout! Doing simple toe raises is a great way to get started. You can also try to do some plyometric work with jumping and balancing on your toes and holding your body weight with your calves. Jumping rope, playing soccer, and dancing are all great and fun ways to get started improving these muscle groups. You could also consider doing a training program like Athletic Quickness that increases speed while building up lower leg muscle.
Squats and Lunges
You really can’t consider challenging your legs without doing some squats. Squats are among the most basic and effective leg exercises, and you can do them using either your body weight, handheld dumbbells, or a bar.
If you’re a beginner, it’s best to start small and do only body weight squats, and the advantage is that you can do them literally anywhere. Make sure you always use proper form when squatting to prevent injuries to your back or knees. Lunges are also effective, and you can incorporate walking lunges into a cardio routine. When you’re up for an alternative to traditional intervals and running, climbing stairs will also help tone your thighs and strengthen your lower body. If you take two steps at time, you’ll give yourself a more intense workout.
Whether you’re training for a race, or you’re beginning a pilgrimage to a renewed body, it’s important to recall the classics. Standard, simple exercises for legs will be the best at building your foundation of strength, and after a while you’ll be able to explore other activities with more confidence.