Jackie Wright " Two excellent exercises for a strong and toned lower body
In addition to squats, which were featured in last week’s column, the following two functional exercises for the lower body are also excellent for strengthening and toning three major lower body muscle groups (i.e. quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteus maximus). Clear it with your physician and then add these exercises to your training regimen and enjoy the results.
Lunges (targets the quadriceps, gluteus maximus/hamstrings; stabilizers are the abductors/adductors and your abdominal/core muscles):
– Begin by staggering your legs apart with the majority of your body weight placed into the front heel and the back heel remaining elevated throughout the exercise (i.e. this helps to prevent strain on the Achilles tendon of the back leg).
– Engage your abdominal/core muscles by pulling your navel toward your spine, pull your buttocks together and lower the body no lower than a 90 degree angle at both knee joints.
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– Drive your body up through your front heel and extend both legs fully without locking the knees.
– Perform one to three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions, two slow counts down and up, two to three times per week for each leg. Inhale as you lower the body and exhale upon exertion as you lift.
– Once you are able to complete this exercise for one to three sets of 8-12 repetitions easily, maintaining proper form throughout, then you may consider adding dumbbells held in your hands or a barbell placed on your shoulders as external resistance.
– Always begin with lighter weights and gradually increase the weight increment.
– You should not experience any pain or discomfort in the knee joint.
Hip Extension (targets the gluteus maximus/hamstrings; stabilizers are the abductors/adductors and your abdominal/core muscles):
– Begin by kneeling on the floor placing your elbows on the floor directly underneath your shoulder joint and palms on the floor. Maintain a neutral spine not permitting the low back to arch. The head and neck should be a natural extension of the spine.
– The right thigh should be parallel to the left thigh as you begin and end the repetition.
– Contract your abdominal/core muscles by pulling the navel toward the spine and keep your core engaged throughout the exercise.
– Lift the right leg up behind you from the hip joint, to hip height (i.e. the thigh should be parallel to the floor), maintaining the 90 degree flexion at the knee joint.
– Once you have achieved a hip-height position with the right thigh, lower the leg back to the beginning position parallel to the supporting left thigh.
– Repeat one to three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions for each leg, slow two counts up and down, two to three times per week. Exhale as you lift and inhale as you lower the leg.
– Once you are able to complete one-three sets of 8-12 repetitions easily, maintaining proper form, then you can add a dumbbell behind the knee of the working leg. You will need to “hug” the weight behind the knee to prevent it from slipping out and choose a light weight to begin.
Excellent muscle strengthening exercises will be featured next week for the outer hips and inner thighs.
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