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Legs, Legs, Legs: Don't Neglect Them In Your Workouts

Like the foundation of a house, your legs are the foundation of your body. Most of our physical activities involve the use of our legs, even those actions that seemingly use our upper bodies.

Throwing a ball involves legs as much as it does arms. Our legs propel the body forward, giving impetuous to the throwing action of our arms.

Watch any athlete throw a ball of any sort. They are not throwing with their arms, they are throwing with their whole body.

The thigh muscles of the legs make up the single largest muscle group in our bodies; the quadriceps and the hamstrings (thigh biceps). Working and developing our legs gives us great muscle mass.

Since muscle mass consumes more calories than other tissue, strongly developed legs will do more for our fitness program than any other single muscle group.

I once overheard a renowned bodybuilder turned power-lifter make the statement, "If I were allowed only one exercise I could do, I would choose to do squats." His logic was that performing heavy squats worked every part of your body and your cardiovascular system.

Machines are fine for leg extensions, hamstring curls and calf raises, but nothing works the quadriceps like squats. Whether done with the barbell across your shoulders or held chest-high in front, they will make your thighs strain when you do them deeply enough.

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Leg Exercises:

The Squat - This is best accomplished with your heels slightly elevated, like on a piece of 2X4 stud. With your legs at shoulder width, the bar may be either across your shoulders (traditional method) or held in the front at shoulder height.

Squat until your thighs are slightly less than parallel to the ground and then return to the start position.

Be sure to use a rack with limit stops if you are working with heavy weights. It is smart to have a workout partner or a spotter who knows what they are doing.

If no spotter is available, try using a bench to limit your squat travel. Straddle the bench and squat until your posterior just touches the bench and then return to the start position.

In this manner you will avoid getting stuck in the down position with a lot of weight on the bar.

An alternative squat for "finishing" work is called a hack-squat. This is performed with the barbell held behind you with your arms at full length and your heels slightly elevated.

Squat until your thighs are nearly parallel with the ground and the weights on the barbell are nearly to the floor. Return to the start position.

Leg Extensions (machine) - These will define your quads, particularly low near your knees and is a great leg exercises to building leg muscles easily.

Hamstrings and Glutes - The muscles on the rear of your leg, from the back of your knee to the small of your back.

Lunges with dumbbells are performed while holding two light to moderate weight dumbbells and taking a long step forward, stretching your rear leg until you knee nears the floor.

Rise back to upright position and step forward with the other leg.

This exercise may be done while remaining in nearly the same spot, or by traveling forward with each step.

Thigh Curls (machine) - With a curling motion, much like with your arms, curl the weight until your hamstring is fully contracted.

This may be done with each individual leg or with both together.

Calf Raises - Using a barbell or a Smith Machine, stand with your toes on the piece of 2X4 you used for the squats.

With your legs straight, lower you heels until they touch the floor and then return to the start position. Repeat.


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