Body Core and Legs, exercises and some advice
For a complete physique you must have powerful legs - simple as that. Without strong legs, you simply won’t be able to maximize your overall physique! The legs are often neglected because everyone wants a huge upper body.
The legs are the most powerful muscles on the human body, I think they deserve some attention. Not only that, but as you well know the legs are half of the entire body, and you would look like a complete moron with a nicely built upper body and scrawny legs. Many teens find that their legs are very powerful and end up loving to train them. Don’t neglect them, read this article and get on your way!
Strong legs require a solid foundation. When you run, your abdominal and back muscles fire to stabilize your spine. Your core gives you a place to drive from, so If your core is weak, your legs suffer. The motion demands that the back and abdominal muscles stabilize the body, just as they do during a run.
Big legs start with big hips. Perhaps the athletes with the most powerful hips are hockey players. Hockey players constantly work the gluteus maximus (the densest muscle in the body), gluteus minimus, piriformis, abductors and adductors. These muscles stimulate motion and stabilize the hip.
Big legs continue with thick thighs. Running backs in American football have huge thighs. Running constitutes much movement in the knees.
Big legs end with big calves. Sprinters need to have strong, fast calf muscles.
Anatomy of the Thighs
The front portion of the legs consist of 4 powerful quadriceps muscles: the rectos femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis and vastus laterals. The main function of the quadriceps muscles is to extend and straighten the legs. The back portion of the legs is known as the hamstrings, or leg biceps. The main function of the hamstrings is to curl the leg back.
Anatomy of the Calves
The 2 headed muscle of the lower leg is known as the calve. It consists of the soleus muscle and gastrocnemius muscle. The main function of the calve is to flex the foot.
Your body core is the midsection of your body, from your groin to your shoulders. The core includes the pelvis, abs, back and chest muscles. It is this core that offers stability, balance and flexibility. Every movement you make originates in the core - whether you are reaching for your toothbrush or running a marathon. If the core is not properly conditioned it will limit your physical abilities.
Working the muscles in your body core will improve the effectiveness of movements in your limbs. Most exercise routines focus on building muscle. By creating a stable, strong base for those muscles you can optimize the strength and flexibility of each limb.
The exercises and products developed to strengthen your body core do so by creating resistance or instability so that the core muscles must respond to maintain balance. The exercises are gentle on the body but are intense and beginners will quickly ‘feel’ the muscles being used. Proper alignment is key so having a trainer to check your position will help identify the safest and most effective way to perform an exercise.
The exercise ball is a great tool for strengthening the abs, but it also helps you reach those hard-to-get-to muscles (such as the TVA and erector spinae), as well as improving your balance and overall coordination.
Position the ball under your hips and lower torso with the knees straight or bent. With hands behind the head or behind back, slowly roll down the ball. Lift your chest off the ball, bringing your shoulders up until your body is in a straight line. Make sure your body is in alignment (i.e., head, neck, shoulders and back are in a straight line), your abs are pulled in and that don’t hyperextend the back.
Position the ball under your abs and hips, hands on the floor and legs straight and off the floor. Hold that position for 20 to 30 seconds, keeping your body in a straight line, abs pulled in. Keeping balance, slowly raise your right arm out to the side, taking care not to roll or allow any part of your body to collapse. Hold that for a few seconds and switch arms. This is tougher than it looks!
Lie on the ball with the head, neck and shoulders supported, knees bent and body in a table-top position. Lower the hips towards the floor without rolling on the ball. Squeeze the glutes to raise hips until body is in a straight line like a bridge. Hold weights on the hips for added intensity and make sure you press through the heels and not the toes.
Place your hands on the ball in front of you, arms parallel. Pulling your belly button towards your spine and tightening your torso, slowly roll forward, rolling the ball out as far as you can without arching or straining the back. Push the elbows into the ball and squeeze the abs to pull the body back to start. Avoid this move if you have back problems.
Get into a pushup position with the feet on either side of the ball (turning your ankles so that you are hugging the ball). Hold body in a straight line with abs pulled in, hips straight and hands directly under shoulders. Slowly twist the ball to the right while trying to keep your shoulders level, then to the left. Don’t sag in the middle.
Bridge. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Keep your back in a neutral position, not arched and not pressed into the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Raise your hips off the floor until your hips are aligned with your knees and shoulders. Hold for three deep breaths. Return to the start position and repeat.
Segmental rotation. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your back in a neutral position. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Keeping your shoulders on the floor, let your knees fall slowly to the left. Go only as far as is comfortable. You should feel a stretch, but no pain. Hold for three deep breaths. Return to the start position. Repeat the exercise to the right.
Quadruped. Start on your hands and knees. Place your hands directly below your shoulders, and align your head and neck with your back. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Raise your right arm off the floor and reach ahead. Hold for three deep breaths. Lower your right arm and repeat with your left arm. Raise your right leg off the floor. Tighten your trunk muscles for balance. Hold for three deep breaths. Lower your right leg and repeat with your left leg.
Leg exercises to use in your leg workout.
Each of the leg exercises listed should be performed with proper form to not only avoid injury, but to also allow the muscle to go through a full range of motion and get the most out of the exercise.
Make sure as you lower your torso that you will have your knees at approximately right angles (a little forward of the shoelaces, shown below, won’t do any harm; if you have any discomfort in the front knee, then try to keep the knee behind the shoelaces) and avoid jamming your rear kneecap into the ground. Keep your torso vertical, abs tight, and shoulders and hips squared forward. You can have a buddy cue you, or if you are in the gym, do this in front of mirrors for visual feedback. Slowly lower your back knee down toward the floor, and exhale as you press back up. Drive the forward heel into the floor to activate the large glute (buttocks) muscles. Complete desired number of repetitions, then repeat with other leg.
In a squat rack, take a barbell off of the rack by placing it squarely on your traps and shoulders (not the neck) and grip the bar comfortably with your hands a little wider than your shoulders.
Carefully take a step or 2 back from the rack and get in a comfortable upright stance with your feet shoulder width apart or slightly wider. Your toes should be pointed slightly outward. They should NEVER be pointed inward.
Focus your vision on something straight ahead and slightly above you. Do not tilt your head backwards, downwards or to the sides as this will disrupt your balance.
Keeping your heels planted firmly on the floor and your back straight at all times, move your butt back and downward as though you were sitting in a chair behind you.
When your thighs reach parallel to the floor, return to the starting position by extending your knees and hips and pushing through your heels.
- Your knees should never extend out further than your toes.
- When pushing back up, always push through the heels, not the toes.
- The movement is up and down. There should be no sideways movement of any kind during the squat.
- Keep your back straight and chest up at all times.
- Squats can also be performed using dumbbells.
Body Position. Sit on the machine with your back and head against the padded support. Place feet on the foot plate about hip width apart, ensuring the heels are flat. The legs should form an angle of about 90 degrees at the knee with a little variation either way as long as the heels sit flat on the plate. The knees should be in line with the feet and neither bowed inward nor outward. Your bottom should not be raised from the seat platform. If it is, and the legs are at too sharp an angle, then you need to adjust the seat back until the correct position is enabled. You can recognize this poor position when the knees seem to be in front of your eyes and you feel cramped.
Brace the abdominal muscles and push the platform away with heels and forefoot by extending the knees and hips and pushing the back into the seat pad. The heels should remain flat on the foot plate and the front of the foot or toes should not be used exclusively to move the pad forward. Do keep the head steady and back against the seat. Don’t lock out the knees in an explosive fashion but do express a full range of motion. Return the foot plate to the starting position by allowing the knees to bend under control while maintaining the feet flat on the surface.
This muscle injuries can leave you shaking your head in frustration as you join the ranks of being the recipient of one of the most debilitating injuries in running. The good news is that preventative measures can be taken to prepare your hamstrings for the rigors of the road. By incorporating decelerative exercises into your training program, you can proactively fortify your hamstrings making them more resistant to injury as well as maximizing their functional performance capacity. As the leg swings forward the hamstrings must eccentrically decelerate the swinging leg prior to foot strike, and then rapidly concentrically contract at foot strike into pull through and hip extension. During the course of a race the hamstrings must lengthen and contract thousands of times.
Start with a light weight on the standing leg curl machine. Lift the leg with weight back in the concentric phase, pause, then as you start to lower the leg, let the weight free fall and catch it near the bottom of this eccentric phase. Your leg does not actually have to lose contact with the weight, only allow a sudden ‘drop and catch’. This simulates to some extent the eccentric swing phase during running. (Remember, concentric contraction is when the muscle is shortening as you lift your heel up to your butt, and eccentric phase is the lengthening phase when you lower the leg down again.)