Leg exercises are an important part of staying fit, regardless of your age or ability. Strong legs improve your lean muscle mass-to-fat ratio, improve bone health, aid with balance to prevent falls and help alleviate aches and pains in your legs and lower back.
When people think about leg strengthening, they think about squats, lunges and other exercises that involve standing upright. But there are plenty of seated exercises that can help you build muscle and get stronger. Just grab your favorite seat and get going!
1. Leg Extensions
Leg extensions build strength and muscle tone in the quadriceps, the muscles on the front of the thigh. This exercise also encourages flexibility in your hamstrings, the muscles on the backs of the thighs.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit with both feet on the floor and an erect posture, with your shoulders aligned over your hips. Extend your right leg out in front of you as far as you can without rounding in your lower back. Contract the quadriceps muscle at the top, then lower the foot down. Repeat on the other side.
2. Calf Raises
The calf muscles along the back of the lower leg play a crucial role in helping you balance and propelling you forward. Calf raises also promote ankle mobility.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit with an erect posture and both feet flat on the floor. Press into the ball of your foot on the right side and lift the heel up as high as you can. Contract the calf muscle at the top and hold for a few seconds, then release and switch sides.
3. Hamstring Curls
The muscles along the backs of your thighs are called the hamstrings. Strong hamstrings protect your knees and your lower back.
HOW TO DO IT: Scoot over toward the right side of your chair. Move your right thigh over and off the right side of the seat. Maintain erect posture. Extend the right leg, then bend the knee pulling the right heel toward your right buttock as far as you can. Hold and squeeze your right hamstrings and buttock, then release. Do one set, then move over to the left side of your chair to do the left leg.
4. Seated Jumping Jacks
A seated version of the childhood favorite, chair jumping jacks not only provide a cardiovascular workout, but they also tone the inner and outer thighs.
HOW TO DO IT: Scoot your hips up so you're sitting forward in your seat. Keep your posture erect as you extend your arms and legs out to the sides. Open your legs as wide as they will go, then bring them in to center. Squeeze your knees together to activate your inner thigh muscles, then repeat.
5. Knee Lifts
This exercises strengthens your hip flexors, a group of muscles on the fronts of your hips that help you maintain good posture and hip stability. It also strengthens your abdominal muscles.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit tall in your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Contract your abdominal muscles and lift your right thigh off the chair. Lift it as high as you can without your lower back rounding, pause for a moment, then lower your leg back down. Switch sides.