HOW CAN I BUILD STRONG LEGS?

ALICE LIVE­ING, WH colum­nist and PT at Third Space, Lon­don, re­veals why strong legs can carry you over the fin­ish line and be­yond

Women's Health (UK) - - IN THE KNOW -

When you say you want strong legs, what do you ac­tu­ally mean? Do you dream of run­ning marathons with them? Or is it more about be­ing able to do heavy squats in the gym? I con­sider my own legs to be fairly strong, but when I run any­thing over 5km, they turn to jelly. It’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that strong legs are goal-spe­cific and rel­a­tive to your phys­i­cal abil­i­ties and per­sonal ob­jec­tives. So, in the in­ter­ests of giv­ing you the best ad­vice I can, I’ve honed in on a goal that just about any­one can aim for – that is, legs that move well, re­main in­jury-free and have a sub­stan­tial range of move­ment in or­der to per­form tasks well, such as tak­ing you from A to B with­out get­ting tired.

In or­der to achieve this, a com­bi­na­tion of strength and mo­bil­ity ex­er­cises are key. It isn’t just the legs you want to strengthen, it’s the en­tire pos­te­rior chain. In­clud­ing the erec­tor spinae (the mus­cles that run along­side your spine), gluteal mus­cles, ham­strings, gas­troc­ne­mius (calves, for want of a bet­ter word) and soleus com­plex, this is es­sen­tially the rear side of your body.

In terms of spe­cific strength work, ne­glect­ing your pos­te­rior chain can cause a mul­ti­tude of is­sues, such as poor pos­ture, lower back and knee pain, short­ened hip flex­ors and a weak­ened core. Th­ese de­creases in strength can then trans­fer into poor ath­letic per­for­mance and lead to in­jury. So, now do you un­der­stand why I’m al­ways bang­ing on about the ben­e­fits of train­ing your be­hind?

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