Squats & Lunges
I’ll be upfront and honest, I am not a fan of leg workouts. I’m not sure anyone really is. If there’s a workout that takes its toll on my body and results in Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), it’s legs. My family can tell you that I move like a 90-year-old man for two days after a hard leg workout. And sitting down on a chair (or toilet) and getting up are chores in themselves. There, that’s out of the way!
I have very strong legs. I think it’s because I’m short (5’5″) and have always had to walk fast to keep up with others and the fact that people will short limbs seem to have more power and strength due to muscle/bone length ratio. Also, because the lower body contains large muscles, I know that if I add lean body mass to my legs, I’ll boost my metabolism and burn more calories at rest. So, I tend to push myself during leg workouts, even though I dread the next couple of days.
Working the legs helps the body in many ways. It helps increase bone density as well as providing balance and a good base of support for the rest of the body. If you don’t have a strong lower body, you can develop poor posture and risk injury in every day activities and sports.
When I first started lower body workouts, I struggled with balance. My lunges were shaky and I didn’t have good range of motion in my squats. I spent the first few weeks just doing lunges and squats without any resistance. I also did some basic balance exercises, some of which used basic Yoga poses. My personal trainers helped give me some good balance and core exercises to help me.
Once I felt comfortable and could balance with a narrow stance, standing on one leg, or on an unstable surface such as a Bosu® Balance Trainer, I started adding resistance such as dumbbells or a medicine ball. I increased the number of reps and the amount of weight over time. The point being… don’t go in and grab 25 lb. dumbbells and start doing walking lunges.
I also started out using selectorized weight equipment (standard weight machines) for leg presses, leg extensions, hip abduction & adduction, and calf raises. You really don’t need to worry about balance for those exercises. These exercises allow you to work the quads, hamstrings, glutes, calf, and other key muscles of the hips, upper leg, and lower leg.
As I’ve progressed, I now do a leg workout (Wednesday & Saturday) that typically looks like this:
- 5-7 minutes warm up on treadmill, stationary bike or elliptical
- Sumo Squats 3 sets of 15 reps with various pauses during the concentric motion (1st set is low resistance to warm up the muscles)
- Step-ups (12-inch step) with Medicine Ball Twists 3 sets of 15 reps/leg (Life Fitness Cable Machine) 3 sets of 12 reps
- Wall Sit – with or w/0 stability ball as unstable support 3 sets of 30 minutes
- Glute Bridges/Raises (double- and single-leg); may use 12-inch step
- Walking Lunges 3 sets of 12 lunges using 25 lb. weights or 8 lb. medicine ball with twists
- Free Weight Leg Press Machine 3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Calf Raises (Using Leg Press Machine) 3 sets of 20 reps
- Leg Extension Machine, 3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Hip Abduction Machine, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Hip Adduction Machine, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- 10 minutes of cool-down cardio to help move blood through the muscles and remove waste. This will help with DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).
This workout takes about 45 minutes.
As with other workouts, there are several variations that I throw into these exercises using resistance, trunk rotation and weight progression. If you are starting an exercise program, I strongly advise against adding resistance or doing movements without working on your balance and stability. As we get older, we all tend to lose our balance and flexibility. Ease into your program and let your body readjust to exercise. It will happen.
To Your Health!
Please see your physician before changing your diet, starting an exercise program, or taking any supplements of any kind.