What exercises can I do to strengthen my lower body?

F. Michael Gloth, III
Geriatric Medicine
Simple walking is an excellent exercise for your legs. Other worthwhile exercises include stair climbing, running, walking in a pool, and simply sitting in a chair and straightening the legs individually and alternately. Additional workouts can include using weights, either free weights or one of the many varieties of resistance exercise equipment available.

Partial squats, are also useful. Full squats (when your thighs actually touch your calves) can be particularly hard on the knees, and they are not recommended. Squatting no further than 90 degrees should be more than adequate for building up your leg muscles and improving balance. Back leg kicks, can also be helpful, particularly for toning up the buttocks muscles.
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Leg Lifts
Muscles worked: adductors (inner thigh)

  • Starting point: Standing, weight on left foot, right leg extended in front of you until the toes are resting on the ground about 10 inches in front of your left foot.
  • Action: Slowly sweep your right toes to the left, beyond your left foot. Use your inner thigh muscles to pick your right foot up and move it back to the starting point. Complete one set of 10 to 12 reps for each leg.
  • Tip: Keep your knees straight and your weight on your stationary foot.
  • Time: Aim for four minutes.

Hip Hiker
Muscles worked: abductors (outer thigh)

  • Starting point: Standing, weight on left foot, right knee bent with right foot setting on a stable 4- to 6-inch rise (such as a stair step or a sidewalk curb), hands on hips.
  • Action: Slowly straighten your right knee so that you are lifting your weight up onto the step or curb. Hold for five seconds and then slowly lower your weight back onto your left foot. Complete one set of 10 to 12 repetitions. Reverse legs and repeat.
  • Tip: When using a step, stand sideways so that your feet are parallel. When using a sidewalk curb, safety first! Choose a sidewalk curb that is not near traffic.
  • Time: Aim for four minutes.

Heel Raises
Muscles worked: gastrocnemius, or gastroc (calves)

  • Starting point: Standing, legs straight, feet one inch apart.
  • Action: Slowly rise up onto the balls of your feet, lifting your heels off the ground as high as you can, and then slowly lower your heels back to the ground. Complete one set of 10 to 12 reps.
  • Tip: Keep your legs straight, but don't lock your knees.
  • Time: Aim for four minutes.

    Dr. Vonda Wright, MD
    Orthopedic Surgery
    Here are some examples of exercises for your lower body:

    Prisoner Squat: Quads, core, butt, legs
    1. Engage your core and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
    2. Hold your arms straight out in front of your shoulders.
    3. Lower your body until your butt is parallel to your knees by pushing your butt back and bending your knees. Try to keep your knees above your ankles.
    4. Keep your back flat and chest upright.
    5. Keep your weight on your heels, not your toes.
    6. Perform two sets of 10.
    Split Squat: Quads, calves, core, butt
    1. Stand with your left foot in front of your right in a staggered stance with your front knee slightly bent and your weight on the heel of the front foot and toes of the back.
    2. Engage your core and squeeze your butt.
    3. Slowly lower your body until your hip is parallel to your front knee. Your front knee should be over your ankle and the back knee nearly touching the floor. Keep your torso upright.
    4. Pause in this position while squeezing your butt and rotating your hips slightly forward. Push back up to starting position quickly.
    5. Perform two sets of 10 on each leg.
    Airplane: Quads, core, balance
    1. Stand with feet together, core engaged, and arms extended to the side at shoulder height.
    2. Bend the left knee slightly and bend forward at the hips in a controlled manner with the right leg extended behind your body until your shoulders, back, and ankle form a straight line.
    3. Hold in this position for five seconds to control balance with your core and return to the starting position.
    4. Perform for 45 seconds.
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    A good workout for your lower body may consist of some of the following exercises:

    • Squats or single-leg squats
    • Lunges – forwards or backwards
    • Bridges – double or single-leg
    • Lateral lunges

    If you would like further assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out and I would be glad to assist!

    Harris H. McIlwain, MD
    Rheumatology

    Do the following exercises to strengthen the lower body:

    • Lying on your back with the 1-pound weight strapped just above your ankle, slide one leg out to the side and back to the middle. Now, do this with the other legs. Repeat once, then twice; gradually increase up to 10 times twice daily.

    • Sitting in a chair, with the weight strapped at your ankle, straighten out your knee and lower it back down to the floor. Be sure to go only as far as is comfortable, and use only 1-pound weights for this resistance exercise. Repeat once, then twice, and then gradually increase up to 5 or 10 times twice daily, if you can do so without pain.

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    Continue Learning about Leg Exercises

    Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.