Whether you’re looking to become the next gold metal runner or you simply want to be able to climb stairs without becoming winded, adding in specific leg exercises to your weekly workout routine will help strengthen the muscles you need to move your body from point A to point B. Too many people focus on sculpting their upper body, thinking that the cardio they do is enough exercise for their lower half. While cardio does help strengthen your legs, there are certain muscles that don’t get enough focus simply by running.
While you may be so focused on your biceps that you can’t even begin to think about your calves, consider this: sculpting your lower half increases your overall lean muscle mass, which helps you burn fat and calories faster. If you’re working on sculpting your overall form, you don’t want to forget about your legs. These leg exercises for men will get your bottom half sculpted in no time.
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Working out your calves, your quads and your glutes, lunges are a great place to begin. Make sure you stand with your back straight and feet shoulder width apart. To increase the intensity of the exercise, hold weights in both hands. Begin by choosing the lightest weight that still makes you struggle. Once you are in position, take a large step forward with your right foot – toes straight ahead – and then bend your knee at a 90 degree angle while also bending your left leg towards the floor to make the position less awkward. Hold that position for a second or two, then return to your original position. Begin by doing three sets of ten reps on each side, and then increase the sets to four once it becomes easier. When four sets are easy, increase the weight and begin again with three sets. (Increasing sets and weights happens over a period of weeks or months)
Leg curls work out your calves, and all you have to do is hop on the leg curl machine. Make sure you’re choosing an adequate weight. Again, start with the lowest weight that makes you struggle and move up from there when you feel ready. Sit down on the machine and grab onto the handlebars. Place your feet on top of the padding so that the back of your heel is resting on it. Slowly bend your legs down as far as you can, then slowly bend them back up. Do three sets of ten reps, increasing the sets to four right before you increase the weight.
Lifting, with your legs? While deadlifts seem as though they’re working out your top half (which they are), they’re also working out your glutes and hamstrings. The trick is knowing how to lift properly so that you don’t throw out your back in the process. Make sure you begin by standing with your feet shoulder width apart. When you grab onto the barbell – fitted with proper weights for your personal goals – make sure you grab onto it with your palms facing down and your hands shoulder width apart. Keep your back straight, bend forward, and lower the barbell towards your ankles. Using your leg muscles (not your back!) lift the barbell back up towards your original position. Start with three sets of ten reps, then increase from there.
Holding weights of your choice at your sides – you guessed it, lowest weight that makes you struggle – stand with your heels hanging off of the side of a step (or other similar structure). Slowly raise yourself onto your toes, and then slowly come back down. If this isn’t challenging, increase your weights. Do three sets of ten reps, increasing weights and sets afterwards. As you may have guessed, this exercise strengthens your calf muscles.
In order to work out your quads, head over to the leg extension machine. Sit down on the machine, bending your knees and making sure your feet are underneath the pads so that the pads are resting on your shins. Straighten your legs so that they are parallel to the floor, and then slowly bring them back down. Complete three sets of ten reps, then increase the reps to four, and then increase your weight and begin again with three sets.
If you want to work out a lot of leg muscles at once, the leg press works out your hamstrings, quads, glutes and calves all at the same time. Get onto the leg press machine, making sure that your feet remain shoulder width apart and your toes are pointed straight ahead. Push forward so that your legs are almost fully extended – but be sure not to extend them all the way – and then slowly bring them back in. As you may have guessed, you’ll do three sets of ten reps, being sure that the weight you are using is challenging to you. If you want to work your leg muscles a little more, try using this machine one leg at a time.
As the name suggests, the glute machine works out your glutes. Place your hands onto the handlebars (often there will be a place to rest your forearms), make sure the weight is set to something that will challenge you, and place one foot onto the bar. Push up on the bar until your thighs are almost parallel to your back, and then slowly lower the bar again. Do three sets of ten reps with each foot, and then increase the weight when necessary.
Stand so that your feet are shoulder width apart, one in front of the other. Try to place one foot about a foot and a half in front of the other one, toes pointed straight forward. Hold weights down at your sides, making sure you’re using a weight that challenges you but doesn’t cause the exercise to overly strain your muscles. Slowly begin bending your knees, so that the front leg ends up at a 90 degree angle and your back leg almost touches the ground. Slowly bring yourself back up to a standing position, and complete three sets of ten reps with each leg. This exercise works out your calves, glutes and quads.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your toes pointed straight forward. Position yourself so that the barbell is resting across the back of your shoulders, but not resting on your neck. Grip the bar tightly slightly wider than your shoulders. Make sure that you keep your back straight, and then slowly begin to sit down, stopping when your thighs are parallel with the ground. Still keeping your back straight, slowly stand back up. Complete three sets of ten reps, and then increase the weight when you feel comfortable doing so. Squats work out your calves quads and glutes.
Sumo squats are very similar to regular squats, except your feet are placed slightly wider than shoulder width apart and your toes are pointed outward. Load the barbell with weights that are challenging but not overly so, and make sure the barbell is placed across the back of your shoulders. Slowly begin to bend down, keeping your back straight, so that your thighs end up parallel to the ground. Slowly stand back up to your starting position, and complete three sets of ten reps, increasing weight and sets when you reel ready. Sumo squats will exercise your quads, inner thighs and glutes.
Leg exercises should be a part of your weekly cardio and strength training. When just starting out, begin by specifically training your leg muscles once a week. Since your legs are composed of so many different muscles, training them more often than once a week can be exhausting. Once you feel as though you are ready to increase your amount of exercise or you have reached a plateau, you can increase to two leg training days a week. When training twice a week, try having one day be a “heavy” workout day, while the next day is lighter. You can use heavier weights and less reps on the first day, then lighter weights more reps on the second. If you don’t want to implement the heavy and light separation, you can also focus on different muscles on day one and day two. You could focus on your calves and quads on day one, while your glutes and hamstrings are on day two, etc. Once you move up to twice a week, make sure you give your legs at least two whole days to rest before working on them again. If you begin to train twice a week and your legs are constantly sore, try moving back to just once a week again.
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