(That you can do at Home!)
The Best Exercise to Increase Leg Strength? Many times when I am working with individuals I am asked for tips on how to increase leg strength. (Please check with your doctor to see if this exercise is okay for you to do.)
Our leg muscles are amazing, complex, and designed to perform a variety of functions. As a trainer, one of my jobs is to test older adult’s leg strength. I do this by having them perform a variety of exercises, usually on weight equipment designed for this purpose. And there is one thing that older adults are always surprised about is that usually, their legs are much stronger than they think.
So how can this be when many times these same adults are the ones who complain that they don’t have any strength in their legs? The answer, for most of us, is actually quite simple.
Sometimes our legs are not as weak as we think. Sometimes, we have developed bad habits that program our legs to not do their job fully, which gives us the illusion of weakness. Therefore more often than not, we need leg exercises that do two things:
- Reprogram the legs to do their job!
- Make them stronger at the same time.
I mention this for a very good reason: So many times we beat ourselves up thinking that our legs are weak when in fact, we have just developed a few poor habits that hinder that strength.
The exercise I am going to show you now is called a Wall Sit. Wall Sit’s are wonderful because they not only strengthen the legs, they reprogram them so that the right muscles are being used in the way that they should be.
My daughter saw me doing this one day when she was about six years old and told me with all authority that I was doing what she called, “The Invisible Chair!” I made the mistake of challenging her to see if she could sit in her invisible chair longer than me. She won.
(Pictured, an advanced position for a Wall Sit. Beginners do not bend the legs as much, but sit up much higher as will be explained below, and ask for your doctors approval first!)
So here’s what to do:
First, safety: If you have trouble with your leg strength, please do not do this alone. The idea is to pretend against a solid wall (not a door) that you are sitting down on a chair. A wonderful safety idea for many people is to do this near something they can grab to help them up. I have even seen people keep a stool of chair next to them during this that they could sit on if need be- however never grab onto a chair or equally unsteady object to pull you up, or you may pull the both of you over. Only use solid objects for safety.
- Stand up against a wall with you back to the wall and move your feet away from the wall about 12 inches or so, more if you’re taller.
- Slowly sink down as if you’re going to sit in a chair by sliding down the wall gently, keeping your back against the wall. (Some people do this with an exercise ball if properly instructed.)
- For beginners, only sink down 4 to 6 inches. (Always make sure, as the picture shows that your knees are behind your feet, and that your feet are not underneath you.)
- Stay where you are and just sit. Start out for 15 seconds and then stop. Each week add another 10 or 15 seconds, until you can Wall Sit for 1 to 3 minutes.
- CAUTION: Beginners. It’s much easier to sit downwards than it is to push back upwards; please only do this for short times with someone qualified to guide you.
The miracle of the Wall Sit is that while your leg muscles are working hard (and you will feel this!) is that they are also being reprogrammed to do their job to keep you strong. Certainly check with your doctor and PT if you have problems with your knees.
The good news is that this movement usually doesn’t hurt the knee joints. In fact, this movement is so popular that not only do PT facilities use it, so do professional athletes. They use it to gain the leg strength without wearing out the knee joint. You will feel this in the quadriceps muscle (the muscle group above the knees).
The best you could work up to is at least a minute everyday! And you will keep your legs strong and doing the work they are supposed to do. Blessings.
John Paul Ouvrier, known as The Wizard of Youth is a fitness trainer who specializes in working with older adults. Please consult with your doctor or medical professional before beginning this or any exercise program or advice. The contents of this article do not constitute medical advice. John’s websites are: http://wizardofyouth.com and http://fitness4charity.org