Onto the next muscle in our class that is super important for daily living: LEGS! I find people constantly asking the question “Why do we do small range movements in class? Why do my legs shake so much during these small range movements?” and we’re here to provide the benefits of those small range movements. We start every single class in that dynamic warm up, with the goal to get your heart rate up and get your muscles warm! We typically keep the large range movements in warmup, so your legs have adequate time to warm up before jumping into the small range movements. So here comes the question, “Why are these small range movements so important to my legs?” In these small range movements, we are relying on isometric movements. These movements focus on flexing specific muscles one at a time without allowing the muscles to contract or expand. Isometric movements place the tension on specific muscles without moving the surrounding joints. These movements are useful for improving physical endurance and posture by strengthening and stabilizing our muscles! Holding the muscle contraction allows the muscle tissue to fill with blood and create metabolic stress on the muscle. Hence, improving strength and endurance. These movements will help us not only improve our muscle stability, but it can also lead to long term effects such as helping with pain relief for your lower back, knee osteoarthritis and even neck pain! Bet you didn’t know those small range movements held so much power did you?!?
Now let’s talk more specifically about the different muscles in the legs. What are we working in what exercises and how does this help us daily?
First up, QUADS!
If you didn’t take anatomy or haven’t seen any type of it in a while, you’re probably wondering what muscle this is. The quads are the muscles located on the front of your thigh! Want to know something cool about the quads? The Latin translation of ‘quadriceps’ is ‘four headed’ because the group of muscles contains four different muscles! How cool is that?!? Anyways, back to why we should keep working to strengthen them. The quads help improve the stability of your knee, which can decrease the risk of knee injuries and improve your overall athletic performance. When you get out of your car, or walk to work, or climb the stairs to work you’re using your quads! Your quads are necessary for knee function. Having weak quads can not only diminish your knee’s function, but it can also put you at risk for knee cartilage loss. Which can ultimately lead to knee osteoarthritis. Improving the strength and flexibility of our quadriceps can really help boost our knee function! So, what exercises really target our quads? Any type of squat we perform in class! Chair squat, sumo squat and even horse pose are just a few examples! All of these exercises work to strengthen our quads which help to keep the pressure off our knees keeping them healthy.
Next up, Adductors!
The inner thigh muscles, also known as our adductors, stabilize outward rotation of your knee! You know that wobble you sometimes feel in your knees as they move side to side? That’s because our knee joint is designed to straighten and behind the leg forward and backwards, not sideways. That wobble you feel is the strength and support of the inner and outer thigh muscles! These muscles help control that “wobble” you sometimes may feel. Keeping our legs in good alignment, helps with knee pain! What exercises are specifically targeting these muscles? Any exercises with a turn out. Curtsy lunges, side lunges, sumo squat, power diamond and so on! Having our feet in a turn out during certain postures allows us to hit the inner thigh so we are able to strengthen those muscles furthering stabilizing those knees!
Finally, the Hamstrings!
The hamstrings are on the back of our upper thigh! The hamstrings include three large muscles running along the back of your thighs. These muscles include the: bicep femoris, semimembranosus and semitendinosus. All three of these muscles work together to keep your hamstrings moving! The hamstrings work in a pair with the quadriceps. The main function of your hamstrings is to bend your knees. They can also help with rotation of your lower leg. These different movements fine-tune the position of your lower legs as you walk! Weak hamstrings can leave your quads solely responsible for stabilizing your knees and hips which results in imbalances that can leave you vulnerable to various injuries! However, another BIG thing with your hamstrings is stretching them. While it is super important to strengthen your hamstrings, it’s just as important to stretch them post workout! Stretching them can prevent them from shortening and losing their elasticity. What’s a good hamstring stretch? The happy baby stretch we take at the end of glutes and also a good ole forward fold. Now, what exercises work the hamstrings? Any deadlift exercise, any type of hamstring curl, and hip thrusts (or large range movements in glute bridges) are some examples! The hamstrings play an important role in walking, running and even jumping!
As you can see, there are SO many muscles in our legs we work daily by just walking that we don’t even realize. Now, this post didn’t even begin to cover all of the muscles in your legs- it just covered the main ones we work in a workout! These are some of the leg muscles we really focus in on during our class sessions. Sometimes it really helps your brain to think about the muscles and make up of your legs as you’re working them, so you are able to get the full effort out of your workout! There are so many different muscles on our legs and so many great places to learn about them. If this post really left, you are wanting more I encourage you to go out there and do your research! Learn more about what you’re working as you work out each day. There are so many places out there to gain more knowledge on areas you’re interested in!!