Improve Flexibility, Balance, and Blood Flow With These Simple Leg Routines

While cardio is an important component of your exercise routine, stretching and strength workouts should also be incorporated to improve your stability, power, balance, flexibility and injury prevention. These 7 basic leg strengthening exercises focusing on improving the six muscle groups in the legs.

  1. Step-ups – Not only is this great for your legs, but it also benefits your lungs. Using a box or step, step up with one leg and back down on the other leg, alternating sides each time. This is a great exercise to help lift your glutes, as well as a complimentary cross-training routine for runners or biking.
  2. Lizard Posture – Stretch the hip flexors with the yoga posture known as lizard. Come to a runner’s lunge and lower your straight leg knee down to the floor. Tilt the pelvis slightly forward. If you desire a deeper stretch, roll onto the outside edge of the front foot and use your front leg hand to gently push the knee outward. We all carry stress in our hips, and this opener will help keep the hip flexors happy.
  3. Hand Walk – Strengthen the muscles from the low back to the heels. With your feet on the ground, lean forward and place your hands in front of them. Slowly start walking your hands away from your feet, bending the knees as needed. Once you have walked to an almost plank position, start walking your hands back. Tip: Keep your stomach muscles tight to help build ab strength as well.
  4. Bridge Posture – Lying on your back, soles of the feet to the floor, rest your arms to your sides. Walk your heels to meet your glutes. Inhale and lift your hips high. Until your body forms a straight line with your shoulders. Hold for approximately 30 seconds, rest, and repeat.
  5. Lunges – Strengthen your quadriceps and hips with this leg toning exercise that will help your balance and agility. Step one foot forward and keep your knee at 90 degrees (in line with the ankle). The back knee bends and lowers close to the ground. Lunge and spring back to standing position, alternating on the opposite side.
  6. Wall Sits – Place your back on the wall and lower your hips down as if you were sitting in a chair, leaving about 2 feet between your feet and the wall. Hold for 60-90 seconds and rest. This helps strengthen the thighs.
  7. Calf Raises – Your calf muscles help pump blood to the heart. When they contract they compress veins that flow toward the heart.  Stand on a block or stair and let your heels hang off the edge. Raise your heels so the body weight shifts to the balls of your feet. Hold this position for a second or two before lowering your heels. Perform 12 to 15 repetitions. These can also be done seated to take stress off of your back.
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