Being strong and fit in the lower body can help you move through your day with greater ease. It can even improve performance during athletic activities like running and cycling, team sports like soccer or football, and even improve your golf game. In your daily activities, building strength in the low body makes it much easier when you need to squat down, climb the stairs, bend over to pick toys off the floor, or lift a child. A strong low body also helps avoid pain that can be associated with these everyday tasks and keep you from having lasting aches or twinges that keep you from being able to do all the things you want to do. You can run and jump as needed without worrying about falling or injuring yourself. Exercises for the low body include leg, hip, and glute strengthening movements. They often involve larger movements that also challenge your stability, helping you improve agility and balance and strengthen your core at the same time. Some low body movements are also smaller and still very beneficial for building strength. Sometimes the small movements get discounted, but they can often have just as large an effect. Lower body strength training also can boost your stamina and endurance, reduce your risk of falling, and decrease knee injuries. Strong lower body muscles create a strong stable foundation, increasing your range of motion and coordination. Rooting your low body into the ground helps create that solid foundation you need to feel stable and steady.
For kids, a strong lower body foundation is just as important. Children do much to enhance their lower body strength when they take part in daily active play like running, jumping, climbing and bicycling. Playground equipment also helps offer a variety of ways to exercise the lower body muscles and gain strength. Today’s children are sitting a lot more hours per day, though, and get less of the vigorous physical activity they need to build a strong lower body foundation. If you and/or your kids need some lower body strengthening, here are 10 fun exercises that you can do yourself or with the kids to increase muscle strength, build up strong bones and joints, and (bonus!) all sleep better at night.
Forward Lunge: In a standing position with your hands on your hips and your feet shoulder-width apart, take a large step forward with your right leg. Slowly bend your knees until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Both knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle and the right knee should not pass the tips of your toes. Slowly lift your body and step back into the starting position, pushing through the heel of your right foot. Repeat this movement with the same leg 30 times and then switch legs.
Heel Raise: In a standing position, hold onto a steady surface. Then, starting with your feet in a turned-out position, rise to the balls of your feet. Lower back into the starting position. Perform this lower body exercise as many of these as you can.
Side Lying Leg Raise: Lie on your right side with your right leg straight. Bend your left knee and place your left foot on the floor behind your right knee. Rest your head in your right hand or on your outstretched right arm. Keeping your right leg straight and your toes pulled in, slowly raise your leg up toward your left knee. Pull your belly button back toward your spine. Hold your leg in the up position before slowly lowering it to the floor. Repeat this workout 20 times and then switch legs.
Squats: This is a great quad workout that strengthens the quadriceps muscles of the thigh.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward. Bend your knees as if you were going to sit back in a chair, slowly counting, “1, 2, 3, 4” until your thighs are as close to parallel to the floor as possible. Hold this pose for two seconds and then straighten your legs to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 20 times.
Leg Circles: Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and your arms outstretched to your sides. Extend your right leg into the air and slowly draw an imaginary circle with that foot.
Keep your torso as still as possible. Repeat 30 times and then lower your leg. Switch legs to draw a circle with your other foot.
Kneeling Side Kicks: Begin on all fours. Balance on your right knee and both hands. Lift your left knee up off the floor and out to the side. Hold your left knee at hip height. Extend and bend your left leg 10 times. Return to the starting position and then switch sides.
Crab Walk: Sit on the floor with your knees bent, your feet flat on floor, and your hands flat and behind your body. Lift your hips off the floor, supporting yourself on your feet and hands. Walk backward and forward for 1 minute.
Bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent and the bottoms of your feet flat on the floor.
Lift your hips off the floor as high as possible and count to 10. Then slowly lower your body back to the starting position. Repeat the exercise 5 times.
Stair Climb: Find a long set of steps. Even better if the stairs are outside. Run up the steps but walk back down the steps. (It’s better for your knees.) Repeat this for 5 minutes.
Wall Sit: Stand with your back to the wall and your feet parallel to each other. Keep your back straight against the wall. Bend your knees to slide slowly down the wall. Your lower legs should remain parallel to the wall. Hold this position as long as you can and then slide back up the wall.
Repeat this 5 times.
Did you try some (or all!) of these lower body strengthening movements? Do you have any favorites? Maybe you have a few that you really didn’t like the first time. That’s ok! I have a few exercises and yoga poses that I really did NOT like until I did them more often, got stronger, and started to have fun with them. HAVE FUN! Remember, it’s not able getting to a specific point, or perfecting the movement, it’s about moving better and feeling better. If you want more, I incorporate these lower body strengthening movements into my various classes and courses – check out my classes page for classes and my courses page for information about online courses.