You need your legs to be strong to handle the plethora of activities you require from them. If your legs are weak, tire easily or just need to look better, there are many ways you can toughen them up. However, strength training is one of the fastest and most effective forms of exercise you can do. The key to getting the most benefit from strength training is to use techniques that will approach your leg muscles from both strength and endurance aspects.
Fast-Twitch, Slow-Twitch Technique
Your leg muscles have two different types of muscle fibers -- fast-twitch fibers for power and slow-twitch fibers for endurance. You don't know which you have more of, so you have to work both. For every exercise, "Men's Health" suggests that you do at least three sets and vary your reps from five to 15 per set. Your shorter sets use heavier weight, which targets fast-twitch fibers and your longer sets require lighter weight and target slow-twitch fibers. Choose a weight for each set that is too heavy to complete the last one or two reps.
The frog jump is a plyometric exercise that increases your muscular power and explosiveness as well as your strength. Hold a medicine ball or weight close to your chest and stand with your legs at least 4 feet apart and your toes turned out. Bend your knees and squat as low as you can while maintaining a straight back. Jump up and forward about 1 foot and then land back in the squat position. One jump equals one rep. Follow the fast-twitch, slow-twitch technique.
Squats are among the most effective exercises to toughen up your legs. They target every muscle in your legs and your butt. Take a barbell and rest it across the top of your shoulders. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Pull your naval into your spine and sit down and back. Only sit until your thighs are horizontal to the floor. Straighten your legs and stand up. Remember to follow the fast-twitch, slow-twitch technique.
Lunges target every muscle in your legs and butt. To perform them correctly, hold dumbbells in your hands with your arms relaxed at your sides and step forward with one leg. Drop your back knee halfway to the ground and bend your front leg at the same time. Think of it as an up-and-down motion rather than a forward-and-back motion. If you feel too wobbly, step slightly out to one side when you step forward to give yourself a wider base.
Tips and Safety
The best way to warm up for high-intensity training is to do 20 reps of each exercise with light weights. Also, it is best to stretch during and after your workouts rather than before because your muscles are completely warmed up. This type of training is not for beginners. Ensure that you have a few months of regular strength training under your belt so that your connective tissue has had time to adapt before you work with heavy weights. Consult your doctor before beginning this technique if you have any heart or blood pressure concerns.
Janet Ashforth first studied to become a personal fitness trainer for Gold's Gym in 1997 and currently owns her own fitness company. She uses fitness training, yoga, meditation, nutritional guidance and massage to guide her clients to health and wellness. She has held certifications from the American Council on Exercise and American College of Sports Medicine, and is a licensed massage therapist.