Strong legs help promote summer activities: hiking, biking, swimming and more

Elderly woman wearing black cycling clothes and a blue helmet riding a bicycle on a road with flowering trees, bushes and hair roadside liner

My favorite summer activities officially start when the calendar turns to May. It’s prime time for swimming, running, biking, hiking, and whatever else gets me going and getting me moving. However, my first step is to get my legs in shape.

“Legs are the basis for most activities,” says Vijay Darianani, MD, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. “It’s home to some of the body’s biggest muscles, and building healthy legs can improve one’s performance, reduce injury, and increase endurance.”

Four groups of leg muscles to build summer activities

Four muscles do most of the work of the leg: the quadriceps, the gluteus maximus (gluteus maximus), the hamstrings, and the calf muscles. Here is a look at all.

Quadriceps (quad). Also known as the quadriceps, the quads are a group of four muscles (hence the prefix “quad”), which extend your leg at the knee and lead every movement of the leg: standing, walking, running, kicking, and climbing.

Brigades. The body’s largest muscle, the glutes (buttock muscles) keep you upright and help your hips and thighs propel your body forward.

Hamstrings. The hamstrings are a group of three muscles that run along the back of the thighs from the hip to just below the knee. They allow you to extend your leg directly behind your body and support hip and knee movements.

calves; The calf is made up of three muscles, and it starts at the bottom of the knee and extends to the ankle. They work together to move your foot and leg and propel you forward when you walk or run.

Highlight muscle strength and length

Darianani says strength and length are the most important focus for building summer-ready legs. “Strengthening the leg muscles increases strength and endurance, and lengthening the leg muscles improves flexibility to protect against injury.”

If you are new to exercise or are back in action after a break, you should first get your legs used to the daily movement. “Start simply by walking around your house nonstop for several minutes each day, or going up and down the stairs,” says Darianani.

Next, follow a walking routine. Every day, walk at a moderate pace for 20 to 30 minutes. You can focus on walking a certain distance (such as a mile or two) or taking a certain number of steps by tracking it on your smartphone or fitness tracker. Not only will you build leg strength – you’ll also reap a wide range of health benefits.

There are many different leg-building exercises, some of which focus on specific activities or sports. Below is a three-movement routine that targets the four major leg muscles. Add it to your regular workout or just do it as a leg routine a few times a week. (If you have any movement problems, especially knee or ankle problems, see your doctor before starting.)

To help lengthen your leg muscles and increase flexibility, try this daily stretching routine that includes several lower body stretching exercises.

dumbbell squat

Muscle worked: Glutes and quads

Repetitions: 8-12

groups: 1-2

comfort: 30-90 seconds between sets

Starting mode: Stand with your feet wide apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms at your sides, palms inward.

a movement: Slowly bend your hips and knees, lean forward no more than 45 degrees and lower your buttocks back and forth about eight inches. stops. Slowly raise to a vertical position.

Tips and techniques:

  • Do not arch or arch your back excessively

Make it easier: Move around without lifting weights.

Make it more difficult: Lower yourself at a normal pace. Wait for a while. Stand up quickly.

reverse lunge

Muscle worked: Quads, glutes, hamstrings

Repetitions: 8-12

groups: 1-3

comfort: 30-90 seconds between sets

Starting mode: Stand straight with your feet together and arms at your sides, holding dumbbells.

a movement: Step back on the ball of your left foot, bend your knees, and lower into a lunge. Your right knee should align with your right ankle, and your left knee should be pointing toward (but not touching) the floor. Push your left foot to stand up and return to the starting position. Repeat, stepping back with your right foot to do the lunge on the other side. This is one representative.

Tips and techniques:

  • Keep your spine neutral when descending into a lunge.
  • Do not lean forward or backward.
  • While bending your knees, lower the back knee straight down toward the floor with the thigh perpendicular to the floor.

Make it easier: Do lunges without weights.

Make it more difficult: Go forward in lunges, or use heavier weights.

raise the calf

Muscle worked: calves

Repetitions: 8-12

groups: 1-2

comfort: 30 seconds between sets

Starting mode: Stand with your feet on the ground. Hold on to the back of the chair for balance.

a movement: Raise yourself on the balls of your feet as high as possible. Hold for a while, then lower yourself.

Make it easier: Raise your heels lower off the ground.

Make it more difficult: Do the calf raise using one leg. Tuck one of your feet behind the other calf before it goes up on the ball of your foot; Do sets for each leg. Or try doing calf raises without holding on to a chair.