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3 Key Leg Stregthening and Stretching Moves

Add these key exercises to your routine and you'll not only improve strength and balance, but also make strides toward preventing knee pain and injury.

1. Calf Lift
What It Does
Strengthens and sculpts calves; enhances balance.

How to Do It
Stand with the balls of your feet on a step or curb and your heels hanging over the edge. Hold a wall or railing for balance. Slowly lift up on your tiptoes as high as you can go, and then slowly lower your heels until they've dropped lower than the step. Repeat 10 times.

2. Squat
What It Does
Strengthens and tones quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles.

How to Do It
Start with your feet hip-width apart. Then shift your hips back and down, as if you were lowering yourself into a chair. As you do this, engage your abdominal muscles and raise your arms to shoulder height, either straight in front or folded, as shown. Stop just before your knees reach a 90-degree angle; don't let your knees move past your toes. Rest your weight back on your heels. Pause, then slowly return to the starting position and repeat 10 times.



3. Forward Lunge
What It Does
Works and shapes your entire leg; enhances balance and coordination.

How to Do It
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and a weight in each hand (or skip the weights altogether). Take a giant step forward with your left foot, lifting your right heel off the ground. Moving very slowly and breathing naturally, lower your torso straight down, keeping your upper body perpendicular to the ground. Stop when your back knee is 1 to 2 inches from the ground, and your front knee reaches a 90-degree angle. Keep your left knee in line with your ankle (don't push past your toes). Pause, and then slowly come back up. Do this 9 more times, and then step your feet back together. Repeat 10 times on the other side.

 

Text by Erin O'Donnell

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