The importance of working on legs (especially for folks over 30)

I am not a medical doctor. It is recommended to consult your physician before undertaking any physical exercise program.

This is a topic very close to my heart. For starters, I happen to be in that age bracket. And apart from being a fitness enthusiast, I also have a full-time job, with a family, chores, utility bills, washing the car, and all the other shit that goes to make a regular average person’s life today. And add to this, weakening leg muscles, and you have a slow cooking recipe for disaster.

The importance of having a strong pair of legs cannot be overemphasized. Most people are usually active in their youth. Many are involved in sports or some other form of physical activity, but as age ascends, the physical activity gradually decreases and one fine day you notice that you’re legs aren’t good enough to carry you any more. Since this decline is extremely slow, one hardly notices it until it is too late (or let’s say, almost late).

There are several common symptoms which indicate weakness and degradation of leg strength. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Pain on the sides of the knee-joint, every time on sits or stands.
  • Inability to sit all the way down on a chair/couch – just falling on the chair instead.
  • Inability to climb more than a couple of steps.
  • Stiffness in the hamstrings/hip joints, eventually leading to lower back stiffness and pain.

Although the list above is not exhaustive, yet I am sure many who are suffering from weak legs may have faced one or more of these at some point in the recent past. I have faced some problems of with my knees in the past and have successfully overcome them through focused conditioning and strengthening exercises. And as my first post for 2014, I would like to share some thoughts, drawn from personal experience, on how this can be problem can be overcome. I assume that you are still mobile and not suffering from any long-term permanent damage.

One of the most common culprits in this situation is being overweight. Now, here’s a catch 22 – Your knees hurt because you’re overweight but you have to use those knees to lose weight. I know..I know.. vicious cycle. But you really can do to overcome that challenge. And the first step in that direction is to strengthen the thighs and the knee area using movements which do not force them to carry your body weight. Most of these exercises can be done lying down on a yoga mat. Once your leg strength starts to show improvement, slowly graduate to body weight movements. And note that in all this duration there will be a certain positive impact on your overall body weight as well. And together it will set you on the path to improving the leg muscles and retain strength for the years to come.

A good place to start conditioning your lower body is the stationary bike. This is one very neglected piece of equipment, that is usually bought with the greatest of enthusiasm but ends up becoming the worlds best designed towel and underwear hanger. Start off with just 5 minutes of pedaling at the lowest setting. After keeping up that pace for an entire week increase the duration and shoot for 7-10 minutes for another week. After 2 weeks, gradually you can include step ups and leg extensions and at week 4 you might want to switch up your cycling routine to HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), by doing 3 minute sets of 2 minute slow + 1 minute fast; repeat. In my opinion, 5-6 weeks is a reasonable time, when one would start noticing positive changes to the leg muscles and also an overall improvement in agility and strength. Several Month’s ago I posted this article, where I have outlined a good 6 week conditioning program. You might want to check that out for exercise and/or schedule reference.

So if you’re pushing thirty and want your wheels to be able to run your truck through your forties and fifties, better start focusing on those leg muscles right away. And get stronger. Do share your wonderful thoughts and personal fitness experience in the comments section.

I hope 2014, brings a lot of happiness, cheer, flexibility and fitness to all your lives.

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