If your schedule doesn't allow for strength training at the gym, turning to tension cords could be the right move for a fitter you. These flexible cords -- also called resistance cords -- are ideal for toning your leg muscles at home or at the gym. Focus on doing eight to 12 reps, or until your calf, quad, hamstring or adductor muscles are fatigued. Check with you doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Your quads, on the front part of your thigh, are not one but four muscles. These muscles – the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis and vastus intermedius -- help flex your knee forward. The stronger and more flexible your quads are, the better they'll support your knees, making walking easier and less painful, touts the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Try standing leg extensions and standing hip adductions. For these moves, you'll attach the tension cord to a secure object and exercise one leg at a time.
Remember when you would extend your leg forward and lean on your thigh before a run in gym class? Those were hamstring stretches. Your hamstring runs along the back of your upper leg and, along with the quads, forms your thigh. Since both muscle groups form the thigh and support the knee, exercise both for double the reward. Grab your tension cord and do both standing and lying hamstring curls. Begin with standing curls, as these will be easier to master.
When you think of the calf, you're actually thinking about two muscles -- the soleus and gastrocnemius. It helps to think of the gastrocnemius muscle as the Big Brother, forming that familiar bulge that is your lower leg. Below it lies the Little Sister, the soleus muscle, tucked safely beneath. Together these two help your heel flex as you move forward. Stretching these muscles using a tension cord for seated calf stretches before exercising can prevent cramps and sprains. Look for exercises that involve tying the tension cord around your calf, and pulling your legs apart like the resist-a-chop.
It's easy to forget about your ankle when exercising the leg. After all, it's a joint, not a muscle. With a tension cord, you can tone the tiny ligaments that support the ankle and lower your chance of injury. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons notes that a sprained ankle can take up to six weeks to heal, and if not treated correctly, you're more likely to re-sprain the ankle. Calf stretches -- also known as plantar flexions, dorsiflexions, inversions and eversions -- use tension cords to strengthen the ankle area.
- Cram Session in Functional Anatomy: A Handbook for Students & Clinicians; Scott Benjamin, Roy H. Bechtel, Vincent M. Conroy
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Knee Exercises
- Ace Fitness: Standing Leg Extension
- Ace Fitness: Standing Hip Adduction
- Ace Fitness: Standing Hamstrings Curl
- Ace Fitness: Prone (Lying) Hamstrings Curl
- Ace Fitness: Seated Calf Stretch
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Sprained Ankle
- Strength Band Training, Second Edition; Phil Page, Todd S. Ellenbecker
Having studied at two top Midwestern universities, Catherine Field holds degrees in professional writing and patient safety. Writing since 2000, Field has worked with regional newspapers while publishing fiction online. She conducts medical communication research at a Midwestern medical institution and is slated to write a book based on her research findings.