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8 Great Exercises for the Legs

Before starting any weight lifting program, check with your doctor. Tell him you plan to start weight lifting and get a clear go ahead from him. Also, if you are a beginner, start light. Begin with less weight and learn form first. Then work up to heavier weights. Starting out using too much weight and poor form can cause injury.


You will need a barbell. Standing, position barbell on the back of your shoulders. Descend until your thighs are parallel to the floor then raise back up to standing position, legs straight.

Keep the weight on your shoulders and not your neck. Look straight ahead, arch back slightly inward, feet shoulder width apart. Use a belt for heavier weights.

Step Ups

You will need a pair of dumbbells and a step or a bench. Stand about a foot in front of a sturdy bench or a step that’s 12 – 18 inches high. Your feet should be slightly less than shoulder width apart. Grasp a light dumbbell in each hand and let your arms hang at your sides. Your arms stay in this position during the entire exercise. This is your warm up exercise. Do it for a set time or equal numbers of reps on each side.

With your back straight, step up on the bench with your right foot. Next, slowly pull yourself up onto the bench using only your right foot. Stand as straight as possible for less stress on the lower back and legs.

Step off the bench and stand in front of it. Be certain to do the same number of reps for each foot. You can either alternate legs or complete a given number with one side, then switch to the other and repeat an equal number of times.

Front Lunge

You will need a barbell. Grasp a barbell with your hands slightly less than shoulder width apart. Raise it over your head and lower it so it rests across the back of your shoulders. Spread your feet shoulder width apart. Make sure your front knee never extends beyond your toes throughout this exercise.

Step forward as far as possible with your right leg until the top of your right thigh is almost parallel with the floor. Keep your left leg as straight as possible. Bending your rear knee as your forward foot hits the ground will strengthen your quads. It will also prevent your front knee from extending too far while doing this exercise.

Step back to the starting position. Repeat with other leg. For a more advanced exercise, do a lunge onto a step. Start low number of reps and work up.

Standing Toe Raises

Your will need a step and a post or wall for support. Place a step next to but not touching a wall or a post. Step onto the platform facing the wall and move forward until only your heels are on the platform. Your feet, from your arches to your toes, should be off the platform, only your heels there. You will need to use the wall for support throughout this exercise.

Slowly raise your toes as high as you can. To make this a tougher workout, pause at the midway point on the way up, then proceed to the top of the movement. Don’t pause on the way down.

Slowly lower to the starting position. Don’t bounce at the bottom of the movement. Doing this one leg at a time makes this movement tougher. Do this leg exercise in conjunction with a standing calf rise before moving on to the next exercise.

Dead Lift

You will need a barbell. From a standing position, hold barbell down at arm’s length with shoulder width or slightly wider or narrower grip. Lower bar to the floor by bending your knees and waist. Then return to standing position.

Keep the barbell as close to your body as possible (start with it close to the shins). Bend and straighten hips and waist simultaneously. Keep back straight and slightly arched inward. Keep arms straight.

Stiff Leg Deadlifts

You will need a pair of dumbbells. Stand with a light dumbbell in each hand, arms hanging at your sides, palms facing in. Slightly bend your knees. Use extreme caution with this exercise. It is a great hamstring developer, but it is tricky.

Keeping your back straight, slowly bend forward from the hips as far as you can, lowering the weights to the floor. Your arms remain straight. When bending from the hips, you should feel as though you are folding in half. Your upper back should not be rounded. Your stretch should be slow and controlled. Focus on your hamstrings to reduce the involvement of your back. The stretch is the most important part.

Slowly rise to the starting position. Once your flexibility improves, try some advanced techniques: stand on a step and let the weights extend beyond the level of your feet. Put your feet all the way together and point your toes out like a duck (this will give your glutes more of a workout). As you come up from the stretch, stop just after the weights clear the level of your knees. This will keep your muscles from getting a rest.

Leg Press

Your will need a machine (lever or press). Sitting upright, grasp side handles and push platform away with your feet until your knees are nearly straight. Return to starting position.

Adjust the seat so that your hips do not move when the legs are in to avoid back strain.

Lying Leg Curl

You will need a machine. Lie face down on the bench. Place pads behind your ankles. Raise lower legs until your heels touch the back of your thighs. Then lower back down.

Squeeze the hams, being careful not to let momentum take over. Stay controlled.

Content Created/Medically Reviewed by our Expert Doctors
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