- Exercise & Fitness
Great Workouts for Your Quads and Calves - Part Two
If you have read Part One of Great Workouts for Your Quads and Calves, you will already be aware of the advantages of having strong legs. However, even without having read it, common sense dictates that, even for seemingly insignificant actions, such as walking or standing for an extended period, some strength in the leg muscles is required.
Whether desirous of improving the basic level of strength in your legs, or developing your quads and calves until they are capable of doing extraordinary things, there is some work required to make this possible. The results of exercises that concentrate on the legs are particularly beneficial to those who take part in certain sports. These can include sports like basketball and football, that involve a significant amount of running, as well as those that are based on running and jumping, like sprinting and triple jump. Bodybuilders would benefit from exercises to develop their quads and calves, not only for the purposes of a uniform physique but also to support the increased weight of the developed musculature.
Legs with well-conditioned muscles can also benefit people who do not take part in any exercise or training to a significant extent. Jobs that involve manual labour, particularly lifting and carrying heavy and/or awkward objects, as using a proper technique to lift with the legs is necessary to prevent suffering injury to the back. Further, the bony joints of the legs – the knees and ankles – do not have the muscles and sinew of the remainder of the legs, which requires the support of the adjoining section of the leg.
Developing the leg muscles is not solely about them being big or looking a particular way, but it is also about them being strong enough to cope with the strain of extended pressure. Getting the legs used to the work that they will be put to is key to ensuring that they can cope and going slightly beyond this will offer even more benefits.
Situations that make it necessary to stand for long periods are another reason to exercise the legs to make them strong. As with the rest of the body, resting the legs is naturally required, but where they are required for extensive exertion or for extended periods, it is important to be able to build up the stamina to cope with this. Just increasing the strength of your legs a little will offer a great deal of benefit.
It is all too easy to take the body’s abilities for granted, only realising how important they are when they are hindered in some way. In order to avoid this, it is prudent to spend some time and effort in working on the legs to ensure they remain in good condition and capable of any activity that is asked of them, even if this does not involve taking part in any sport.
Part of the process of working the muscles is to keep them flexible to enable them to carry out any task required of them, without resulting sprains, strains, pulls or any other injury. While it may give the impression of being an insignificant act, stretching is key to keeping the muscles stretched, flexible and ready for exercise. Stretching is also convenient as it can be undertaken anywhere and can also be completed to varying degrees of intensity. For example, standing on the balls of your feet and toes and stretching your arms up to the ceiling is an easy way to give your body a kick-start in the morning, or to banish any stiffness. This action works wonders on the calves when undertaken on a regular basis and is at the lower end of the intensity scale. For a more intense result, position yourself on the floor as if preparing to complete some push-ups. From this position, push your body up into an inverted V and raise up onto your toes. Lean back onto your legs to fully engage the calves and hamstrings in the stretch. Hold this pose for a count of ten before releasing for a few seconds and doing it again. This exercise can be varied by spreading the legs apart as wide as possible to benefit from stretching the hips too. Many of the poses that are completed within the boundaries of circuit training can also be completed as stretches.
Circuit training can comprise a number of different activities and make it possible to achieve effective results in a shorter period than other forms of exercise would require. This is due to the fact that you can push yourself to the full extent of your ability, pushing yourself flat out until you physically cannot do any more, which will allow you to get the desired result. This is the principle of High Intensity Training.
Further, the variety of exercise that can be undertaken means it will remain interesting enough to prevent keeping fit from becoming a chore. It is easy to switch from one exercise to another to put some variety into your workout regime and to work many muscles in the legs. Circuit training exercises can be as simple as running on the spot – high knee lifts that mimic a sprint. Stay on the balls of your feet while carrying out this process and move the legs as fast as possible while raising the knees as close to the chest as possible. Time yourself and stop the clock when you cannot take any more and gradually try to better this time.
This can be varied in several different ways that will be advantageous to the quads and calves. Using a step machine or simply stepping up and down onto any raised platform that is sturdy enough to hold your weight is especially great for the quads. One complete rep is to step up and back down with both legs. Intensify the routine by performing as fast as possible and gradually building up the time spent doing it.
Sprinting back and forth between marked points is a great exercise to incorporate into circuit training. Not only does the actual exertion help the development of the muscles, but the process of stopping and turning in a different direction is also dependent on strong calves. Push yourself even further by stopping after each complete circuit and getting to the floor as if doing push-ups, in turn, pace each foot up so that it is near level with your hands while the other remains straight. The action should mimic that of climbing up a wall.
Cycling is the perfect exercise for those keen to develop the muscles of their legs, working both the upper and lower regions at the same time. The level of intensity can be varied by adjusting the speed, length of time spent and gear. Even if you do not make use of any gears that can simulate riding up an incline, turning the pedals as quickly as possible is the best way to achieve noticeable results in a short period of time. This can be undertaken by way of a spinning class, but even cycling at full speed for a few minutes within the confines of a circuit training routine can prove to be a fantastic benefit.
There are a range of other exercises that can be included under the heading of circuit training, with each needing to be carried out for a few minutes before moving onto the next one.
Even when sitting down, it is possible to exercise the calves by pressing your toes into the ground and raising your heels for a few seconds before lowering them again, continuing to do this. This can also be undertaken while standing, by raising up on your toes and down again, which is a form of resistance training.
Lunges are effectively a large, exaggerated stride that helps to make the quad muscles stronger. Standing with your legs shoulder-width apart, take a large step forward with the left leg an bend the knee to dip into the position. Bring this leg back to its starting point before doing the same with the right. Count two lunges on each leg as one repetition and complete a set of ten repetitions.
Squats work in the same manner as lunges, requiring the quads to be strong to enable them to be completed effectively. Stand with the legs a little over shoulder-width apart and push your bottom out as you bend your knees, as if preparing to sit in a chair that is slowly being pulled back just out of reach. Start with a set of ten and increase this number as you become stronger and your stamina improves.
If you are unable to do the splits, stretch the legs apart as wide as possible, initially holding for a count of ten. Work on the quads by increasing the time in which you hold the pose and widening the legs ever further, which offers the added bonus of making the hips more flexible.
Anyone who has undertaken even a small amount of martial arts training will be aware of the intensity of the training process. Even during the warm-up, the legs are given a work out. However, the benefit of this type of exercise is improved further when the kicks are factored in. Front kick, side kick, X kick and round house kick are just a few of the kicks that are carried out as part of kick boxing training and there are several others types used in other martial arts.
No matter what your fitness goal, there is likely to be a branch of martial arts that can offer some benefit. The intensity of the manner in which you practice can also be varied to enable you to achieve the results that suit your purposes. Besides this, it is also possible to work the hips to make the joints more flexible. Standing side on to your ‘target’, raise your bent leg in the air so that your shoulder, hip and knee are in a straight line. Follow this by slowly straightening your knee so your foot can reach your target; complete a set of ten reps before doing the same with the other leg.
Strengthening the quads and calves with this form of exercise also helps to aid balance, which is essential to train and compete effectively.
Lifting weights, for many people, is the best way to work on the quads and calves, and can be a versatile solution for those seeking strong and defined muscles. Forcing your body to handle more weight is an ideal way to develop the muscles of the legs, as long as it is the right type of weight. Being heavy due to excess fatty tissue is not a benefit in this situation. It can be as simple as strapping on ankle weights before going for jog or completing high-knee lifts.