Exercises for Strong, Sculpted Legs

Photo Credit: Exey Panteleev CC-BY-2.0
Regular exercise, like walking and bicycling, can help keep your legs strong and toned. Exercise helps reduce the chance of diseases like osteoartiritis, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Calf raises and leg lifts focus on the lower leg by stretching and strengthening the muscles on the back of your leg below the knee. Strong leg muscles stabilize and protect your knee and ankle joints, which reduces the likelihood of injury and joint pain. Add some calf exercises to your regular exercise routine for strong lower legs. 
Front leg lifts target the muscles that support and stabilize the knee joint. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out. Lean back on your forearms in a reclining position. Bend your left knee and plant your left foot flat on the floor. Keep your right leg straight with your toes pointed toward the ceiling. Slowly lift your right leg off the floor toward the ceiling. Lift until your leg is about 6 inches off the floor. Hold the lift for 5 seconds and then lower your leg back to the floor. Repeat 10 times with each leg. 
Calf raises strengthen the long muscle on the back of your leg and strengthen the ankle joint. Stand on the balls of your feet on the edge of a stair step or a step-up exercise stool. Allow your heels to hang off the back of the stair. Hold onto the wall or stair rail for support to maintain your balance if necessary. Allow both heels to drop slightly below the level of the stair or stool. Hold the stretch for 2 seconds and then push your body up on the balls of your feet until your heels are above the level of the step. Hold of 2 seconds and return to the start position. Repeat 10 raises, up and then down. 

Avoid Knee Injury

Photo Credit: Nevit Dilmen CC-BY-SA-3.0  2010

Your knees take a pounding every day. Every step you take, climbing stairs, walking through the grocery store, pressing the gas and brake pedal in your car, and standing up and sitting down all require movement of your knee joints. Running, jogging and jumping are high-impact activities that can cause injury if your knee muscles weak or the joint not as flexible as it should be. You can avoid knee injury by strengthening your knee muscles with exercise and taking a few common sense precautions. 
Take care of your joints by drinking plenty of water, eating healthy foods and keeping your weight under control. Extra pounds can take a toll on your knee joints. Losing weight can  help you avoid acute injury and long-term chronic pain due to deterioration of the joint. Extra stress is placed on the knee joint, muscles and tendons with every step when you are overweight. Regular exercise, rest, hydration and a healthy diet can help you lose weight and save knees.  
Most knee injuries can be attributed to weak muscles in the leg. Exercises that strengthen the hamstrings and quadriceps muscles can help prevent knee injury and pain. Balance exercises also help promote knee health. Use a balance board to exercise and strengthen the leg muscles. Simple exercises that you can do just about anywhere, any time include standing on one leg for 60 seconds, standing on your toes, shifting your weight to your heels for 30 seconds or more and swimming. Swimming is an excellent whole body aerobic workout. 
If you are already experiencing knee pain, stiffness or weakness, see your doctor to rule out injury or a condition, such as gout or osteoarthritis. Consult a personal fitness trainer to help you develop an exercise and diet program to improve your knee health. 

Strengthen Your Knees

Photo Credit: AKha CC-BY-SA-3.0 2011
Everyone needs strong knees. A knee injury can interfere with your normal activities and even prevent you from walking without a crutch or a walker. The time to think about your knees is before you experience an injury or knee pain. The knee joint is connected to and surrounded by several leg muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstring and calf muscle.. Strengthening these muscles can help you avoid a painful knee injury. Perform knee strengthening exercises 3 times each week with a day of rest between exercises.
Strengthen the quadriceps to help avoid knee injury by performing some squats. Stand up straight with your feet spread a few inches wider than your hips. Keep your hands at your sides with your palms facing your hips. Lower your shoulders and pull them back  Squeeze your abdominal muscles and look straight ahead. Inhale and bend your hips and knees at the same time while lowering your body to a sitting position. Keep your knees from going forward past your toes as you lower your body to a squatting position. Stop lowering your body and hold the position for a few seconds just as your heels begin to lift off the floor. Try to keep your feet from shifting and keep your knees and hips close together. Exhale and move your body back to a standing position by pushing up using your feet. Repeat this exercise 5 times and increase the number of repetitions when you feel stronger.
Calf raises strengthen the muscles in your lower leg. Strong calf and shin muscles can help prevent knee injury. Add a barbell weight to increase the effectiveness of the calf raise exercise. Beginners should perform calf raises without using a barbell or under the supervision of a personal trainer. Place a barbell with 10 to 20 pounds of weight on top of your shoulders, behind your head on your shoulders at the base of your neck. Breathe in and tighten your abdominal muscles. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and flat on the floor. Shift some of the weight to your heels for stability. Exhale and lift your heels off the floor in a rolling motion from heel to the ball of your foot. Your body weight will shift to the balls of your feet. Lean forward slightly to maintain your balance if necessary. Hold this position for a few seconds. Exhale and roll back until your feet are flat on the floor again and your body weight is on your heels.
Sit up tall on chair with your feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your thigh muscles and hold for 10 seconds. Relax for 5 seconds and repeat the 10 second squeeze. This exercise will help strengthen the quadriceps. Strengthen the hamstring by sitting on the chair with your feet flat on the floor. Pull your heels back toward the chair seat while keeping your feet on the floor. Stop when you feel the hamstring pull slightly. Hold the position for 10 seconds and then slide your feet back toward the front of the chair. Try to do 10 repetitions of this exercise.