Whether you're a fitness enthusiast, athlete, or someone who's looking to improve your well-being, working out not only provides a way to improve your strength and cardiovascular fitness, but it is also a great stress reliever.
However, when lifting weights, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of building the vanity muscles in your arms, chest, and abs, so it's important to remember one of the most basic rules of fitness...never skip leg day.
Strong legs play a crucial role in almost every physical activity, whether you’re a runner, weightlifter, or simply trying to improve your overall health.
The good news is, Jacked Up offers the best value for world-class power rack exercise equipment anywhere on the Web.
In this blog post, we’ll dive into some reasons that strength training legs are important for everyone and some basic exercises that you can do to power up your leg day workout.
Improve Athletic Performance
Your leg muscles are responsible for powering through sprints, jumps, and other explosive movements that are required in many athletic activities.
Increase Strength, Power, and Muscle Gain
One of the obvious benefits of leg exercises is increased strength and power. Leg muscles like the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes are the largest and strongest muscles in the body. By strengthening these fibers, you can generate more force when jumping, running, lifting weights or even performing more mundane tasks such as bending down to pick something up off of the floor.
Over time, as your major muscles get stronger, your conditioning will improve and you're likely to have more energy at the end of the day.
Improve Speed and Agility
Your leg workout can also help improve your speed and agility, enabling you to move quickly and change direction faster. When we run or jump, we use a combination of power, speed, and agility to perform these actions. Exercises like box jumps, step-ups, and plyometric drills are great for improving explosive power and agility.
If you participate in sports or would like greater athletic performance, incorporating these exercises can drastically improve your efficiency and fluidity of movement.
Weak muscles in your legs can lead to a variety of injuries, such as pulled muscles, strains, or compound knee issues. Sometimes these injuries can be the root issues in larger injuries such as back pain, or hips that feel out of alignment. That's why it's important to focus on your leg workouts, not just for muscle gain, but for overall body health.
By exercising your legs regularly, you can prevent these injuries and also improve your overall mobility and stability. Consistently doing lower body workouts with a power rack is a great way to prevent injuries from happening. Optimizing your leg workout with an at-home power rack will allow you to gain maximum benefits from your at-home workout.
Stronger Muscles Offer Support
Leg exercises help build the foundational strength for most physical activities. When your leg muscles, including your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves, are stronger, they offer better support and stability to your joints, such as hips and knees, while moving or under load.
Therefore, the chances of overusing, straining, or damaging your joints are less likely. Squats and lunges are two of the best exercises to consider for building those support fibers that stabilize your basic body mechanics.
Reduce the Risk of Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain can be extremely detrimental to our ability to perform even the simplest of tasks and can affect our ability to work or engage in basic activities that we enjoy. By building up your glutes and lower back muscles, you'll improve support to your spine and reduce the risk of lower back pain.
When you are involved in physical activities, these muscles protect your spine from undue stress and pressure, allowing you to complete the exercises safely and effectively.
Burn Fat and Build Muscle
Many leg exercises are great for burning fat and encouraging muscle growth at the same time. By incorporating leg exercises into your regular workout routine, you can see significant results in your overall body composition.
Increase Your Fat Burn Rate
One of the primary benefits of a leg workout is the fact that it can boost fat-burning enzymes in the body. As a result, these exercises increase metabolism, which helps burn calories throughout the day, even when we're at rest.
Compound exercises such as squats, lunges, and deadlifts engage multiple muscles, which means that they burn more calories than targeted exercises such as bicep curls or triceps extensions. When you perform leg workouts, you not only burn calories, but you're also burning that extra layer of fat at a higher rate.
Develop More Muscle Mass
The muscles in your legs can be divided into four categories: quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. When you regularly exercise these muscles, you not only tone them but build size and functional strength as well.
For instance, doing squats regularly has been found to help build and develop muscles in such a way that it also leads to better posture and balance. Moreover, stronger muscles and greater mass or tone help improve the overall functionality of your other body parts.
Increase Bone Density
As we age, our bones naturally become weaker and more brittle. However, weight-bearing exercises (such as leg presses or lunges) can stimulate bone growth and increase bone density. This can help prevent osteoporosis and other bone-related conditions.
How Bones Respond to Stress
Bones respond to stress and tension by either breaking down or building up bone tissue. This explains why astronauts who spend long periods in zero gravity develop weak and brittle bones. Similarly, sedentary individuals who do not engage in exercise or resistance training will also have poor bone density.
Conversely, athletes and individuals who perform weight-bearing exercises, such as running, jumping, or lifting, will have stronger and denser bones. However, not all exercises are equal when it comes to bone density. The most effective workouts for increasing bone mass are those that target the lower body, such as leg exercises.
When it comes to building bone density, achieving progressive overload is crucial. This means gradually increasing the intensity and load of your workouts over time. For example, you may start with bodyweight squats and progress to using dumbbells, barbells, or a power rack for added resistance.
This type of progression ensures that your muscles and bones are constantly being challenged and stimulated, leading to greater bone density.
Enhance Overall Fitness
Finally, strong legs are an essential part of your overall fitness. By working out your legs regularly, you’ll improve your endurance, balance, and flexibility. This can benefit you in almost all aspects of life, from running a marathon to simply walking up the stairs without getting winded.
Increase Your Muscle Endurance
When you work out your legs, you naturally improve their endurance, allowing you to perform for longer periods without fatigue. The subsequent improvement in muscular stamina grants you the ability to sustain a particular activity over an extended period.
Aerobic exercises such as cycling, running, or stair climbing are great for improving your endurance, improving your athletic performance, and increasing the longevity at which you can place your body under exertion while minimizing fatigue.
Improve Balance and Coordination
Leg exercises can also improve your balance and coordination, enabling you to perform better in sports that require these skills. When we run or jump, we rely on our balance and coordination to maintain stability and control.
Exercises like squats, lunges, and step-ups require balance and coordination, improving the ancillary muscle fibers and body response required to perform these tasks over time. As such, incorporating these exercises into your workout regimen will naturally result in better athletic performance.
Incorporating Leg Exercises
Now that you understand the importance of leg exercises, here are some tips for incorporating them into your workout routine:
- Start with bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, or calf raises if you’re new to leg training.
- Gradually increase the weight and intensity of your exercises as you get stronger and more comfortable.
- Incorporate both compound and isolation exercises into your routine to engage all the muscles in your lower body.
- Remember that proper form is always more important than the amount of weight you're working with.
- Don’t forget to stretch and foam roll after your leg workouts to promote recovery and reduce soreness.
Five Basic Movements
When it comes to your leg workouts, it's important to hit all of the major muscle groups from the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Each of these can be performed in conjunction with one of Jacked Up's multifunctional Power Rack home gyms. Here is a basic overview of these movements so you can maximize your overall lower body strength.
Squats are one of the best leg exercises to work out not only your legs but also your butt and core muscles. They involve standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and bending through the knees and hips into a squat position while maintaining a straight back.
When properly done, squats are suitable for burning calories and building muscle mass. This exercise doesn't demand specialized gym equipment, and you can do them from anywhere. For beginners, body weight or dumbbell squats can help gradually increase strength and endurance. For more experienced athletes, a barbell with a squat rack may be more appropriate.
Lunges are a fantastic addition to your workout routine. They will activate and work all of the major leg muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. This exercise will also improve your stability and balance, which is necessary for most athletic activities.
Your starting position will have your feet hip-width apart and "lunge" forward with one leg until your knee is about 90 degrees, and then push back to a standing position. Lunges can be done using body weight, resistance bands, or dumbbells. As an alternative, the leg extension exercise targets the quadriceps almost exclusively and allows for heavier weight and greater growth.
A leg press utilizes a compound muscle structure, including the quads and glutes, to build muscle while burning fat. Leg presses come in various forms - vertical, horizontal, and angled. Each machine targets different muscles and helps to build up their strength. You can also adjust the weight stack of the machine, depending on your strength level.
Calf muscles are essential in the majority of human movements, like running or walking. Performing calf raises will strengthen your lower muscles, making it easier for you to complete bodyweight exercises like jumping, and increase your overall athletic performance.
This simple exercise is easy to perform and requires minimal equipment so that you can add it to your routine with ease. Try performing a standing calf raise by standing on a small, elevated surface such as a step and lowering your heel to the ground, and then raising in an even, measured movement.
Deadlifts are one of the most physically demanding exercises you can do in the gym. They work the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles, and help to strengthen and tighten them. Deadlifting involves standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and lifting a heavy weight off the floor.
This exercise can result in injury if performed improperly, so it's important to practice the overall motions before adding weight in order to complete them correctly. Start with lighter weights and slowly progress to heavier weights as you become more comfortable.
Conclusion: Leg Day with Your at-Home Gym Power Rack
Leg exercises are important for anyone looking to improve their athletic performance, prevent injuries, burn fat, build muscle, increase bone density, and enhance overall fitness.
Make sure to include exercises like squats, lunges, and leg presses in your next leg workout. Your core (and the rest of your upper body) will thank you.
As always, if you have any additional questions regarding how to power up your leg day, contact Jacked Up today. Or, if you're in the Temecula, CA area and would like to take a look at our state-of-the-art demo equipment, stop by and say hello. We'd be happy to see you!