The Importance of Working Out Your Legs

The Importance of Working Out Your Legs
The Importance of Working Out Your Legs (Image: Sjale/iStock/GettyImages)

Before you skip over those squats, consider how important it is to have a strong lower body. Your legs support you in everyday activities, they look good in shorts and can help you produce more power in upper-body exercises, such as the bench press. If you're an athlete in a sport that requires running, jumping or sprinting, you need strong legs to power you through your competition.

Additionally, building your upper body at the expense of your lower body leaves you looking asymmetrical. And, when you're watching your weight, work the large muscles of your legs to give you a metabolic boost.

Basic Function

Whether you rely on your legs to cycle, run or walk, you want them to have the stamina to cover the miles, whether you're training for a 5K, a mountain climb, a sight-seeing trip or a century ride.

You might rely on long runs or walks to help build your endurance, but you're missing a big part of the equation if you skip leg strength exercises. Stronger leg muscles propel you farther forward with each step, stride or cycle revolution. They tire less quickly and, for runners and hikers, can absorb the impact of your sport better.

A Balanced Body

You've seen them — those muscle-bound men who spend countless hours at the gym working on the mirror muscles of the biceps and pecs, only to strut off the gym floor on a pair of chicken legs. There's a reason why they wear baggy sweats.

Work your legs to create enviable definition in your quads, hamstrings and calves. Moves such as squats, lunges and step-ups develop legs match a strong-looking upper body, and give you the confidence to bare them in shorts or minis.

Men and women training for bodybuilding or fitness competitions need symmetry, or balance, in their upper and lower bodies, too. Neglect your legs, and you'll never progress beyond the prelims at your next competition.

Do not skip your legs today
Lunge your way to a lean body. (Image: milanvirijevic/iStock/GettyImages)

Power Production

Strong legs are intrinsic to pushing more weight, whether flipping tires, moving furniture or pressing a barbell over your chest. You need the power from your lower body to propel weight forward. Neglect training your legs and you're cheating yourself of a major source of power production.

Muscle Growth Boost

Many of the most common leg exercises are compound movements, which means they work multiple joints. For example, squats and lunges require you to engage your knee and hip joints — this means more muscles are challenged with each repetition.

Challenging a muscle with adequate resistance causes it to break down and release growth hormone to rebuild. The more muscles you work in one session, the more growth hormone you produce and the greater your potential for overall muscle growth, in your legs and in other muscles, including your chest, back and arms.

Metabolic Push

Working more muscles with an exercise also makes it a bigger calorie-burner. A lower body workout consisting of squats, step-ups, leg extensions and lunges burns a serious number of calories.

Having more overall lean mass in the form of muscle gives your metabolism a long-term boost, too. A leaner body burns more calories all day long — when you're working out and when you're not. This makes it easier for you to maintain or lose weight.

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