Leg Exercises for Overall Strength Training
The muscle groups in the legs, specifically the upper legs and hips, contain most of the largest and strongest muscles in the body. When they work together, the hip flexors, quads, glutes, and hamstrings have the ability to generate more force and burn far more energy than the muscles of the back, arms, shoulders, and even the core. They have to, since one leg can weigh as much as a fifth of the entire body. And unlike other muscles in, for example, the hands and wrists, the legs need to be strong enough to carry and transport the remaining four fifths of the body on a regular basis.
What does this mean for a workout focused on strength training and weight loss? It means two things: 1.) Leg exercises, more than any other exercise, have the ability to drive the heart rate up quickly and maintain that high speed for a long time. And 2.) strong legs form an anchor or a base that can help us generate strength, exert more force and accomplish more work with almost all of our muscle groups. With strong legs, the rest of the body has the power to do more, lift more, and move faster, all of which can optimize workouts targeting other areas.
When the legs are strong, the rest of the body can gain strength faster and also lose weight more efficiently than it otherwise could.
Leg Exercises: Why Heart Rate Matters
During a workout, how does a faster heart rate contribute to more efficient strength training and steady weight loss? Researchers have learned that as the heart works at different speeds, the metabolic process of the body change. Stored energy can be processed in different ways to accommodate a changing demand for energy conversion and storage, and as they activate and deactivate, these processes take their cues from the speed of the heart.
At the heart’s slowest speed, or resting rate, the body’s demands are low, so extra energy is converted into storable units for later distribution (like fat cells or glycogen in the liver.) When the heart is at its maximum speed, energy and nutrients are taken from storage and delivered quickly to cells in a high state of stress. Since the maximum heart rate is almost impossible to maintain for more than a few minutes, the most efficient strength training and fat burning workouts take place in the “fat burning zone”, when the heart is working at 40-65 percent of its maximum speed.
To develop strong legs and get the most out of leg exercises like those in the video below, athletes should concentrate pressure and resistance in the muscles of the legs and stay in motion in order to support a high and steady heart rate.
Leg Exercises for Strong Legs and Optimal Fat Loss
In the video below, the Kbands trainers demonstrate an excellent short exercise set that can elevate the heart rate, keep it high, and build strong legs. To complete this workout, athletes will need to attach the KB Duo to a strong anchor point and adjust the straps so they hang just above the floor. Each of the three exercises in this set involves twelve reps, so the entire workout can be completed in about five minutes.
Athletes should begin by holding a handle of the KB Duo in each hand, facing the anchor point, and stepping backwards until the bands are tight. With his body weight supported by the straps, the athlete in the video raises one leg off the floor. He bends his supporting leg at the knee and drops his center of gravity until the pressure of the move is fully concentrated in the hip, quad, and hamstring of the standing leg. He then straightens the standing leg and drops back down again 12 times. While he completes these leg exercises, his body weight is supported by the straps, but he still needs to rely on his strong legs for balance and control.
When he finishes the leg exercises on one side, he switches to the other side and completes 12 more reps.
Leg Exercises and Strength Training: Jumps
After the first round of leg exercises, athletes should move to the center of the floor for the final set of this strength training workout. Notice how the athlete in the video stands with his feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and bends at the knee, supporting his body weight with the muscles of his upper legs. He then jumps straight up into the air, using his arms to control his motion and gain height. When he lands, he stays in control and uses his feet and lower legs to absorb the impact. He jumps 12 times without pausing, loosing height, slowing down, or putting diminished energy into the jump.
This set of leg exercises may seem simple, but if athletes give their full energy to each move, this workout can build strong legs, burn fat, and generate steady results. The success of this workout, as with many strength training and fat burning leg exercises, lies in the heart rate. If athletes can boost the heart rate into the 40-60 percent zone and keep it there as long as possible, the result will be strong legs and a stronger, leaner body.
Controlled rest periods are an important aspect of strength training during leg exercises like these. After each round, (12 reps of leg bends on each side followed by 12 jumps), athletes should rest for 30 seconds before starting the cycle from the top. The entire set of leg exercises should be completed about four times, and during each cycle, athletes should devote their full energy to the moves. Without adequate rest periods, energy starts to diminish and the heart rate drops, so the exercises aren’t as productive.
The success of this set of leg exercises will depend on high and consistent energy output. Athletes should commit fully to each round. A simple heart rate check during each rest period can reveal the level of energy invested in each move.