Men… Don’t forget leg day, it’s actually more important than you realise. Not just to balance out that physique, but also to put you in the best position for ageing sustainably.
Men hold a lot of their strength in the upper body, but lower body strength is a little more challenging to build and keep a hold of.
Thanks to testosterone, muscle is built pretty easily for men, but for some reason, it seems to be concentrated in the upper body. Compared to women, men have almost double the strength in their upper body and only about a quarter more in the lower body.
This may come as no surprise to the many men out there who struggle to build any bulk onto their lower half. We can probably think back to the hunter and gathering days, where men needed to hunt food and carry their wins home.
Unfortunately for mens legs, not only do they not build muscle as easily, they also don’t age as well. A 2005 study of male strength and ageing found that muscle thickness, strength and power are more significantly reduced in the lower body when compared to the upper body.
Lower body strength is incredibly important as we age, when strength wanes, our mobility decreases and ability to balance is reduced. A lack of lower body power can prevent us from striding fully, leading to a foot shuffle, making us more prone to tripping. Therefore ensuring we maintain strength throughout our lives is an important way to help us avoid falls and injuries as we age. Even a small trip or fall can cause avoidable injuries.
Making sure that you focus on leg strength regularly when you’re young will help equal your lower with your upper body strength and put you in a better place as you age. Particularly for men who train at the gym a lot and neglect the lower body workouts.
Make sure you do a holistic leg programme, it’s easy to focus on your quad muscles (the thigh muscles at the front that you can see), but a good programme should also include hamstring strength and lower leg strength exercises.
Here are our top three leg strength exercises:
*Some of these exercises use weights, the weights you choose depend on what strength you are starting with, it’s best to start light and build up, come see us at Muscle Medicine first and we can help you get started.
The Walking Lunge
This is a great all round exercise and is quite self explanatory in the title
Start standing with your feet together
Step one foot forward into a lunge so that your front leg is bent with a 90 degree angle and the other knee bent behind you
Step the back leg forward to meet the front and stand up straight again
Repeat with the other leg and ongoing
If you want to add weights you can start with some light dumbells in your hands which will be by your sides.
This is a great one for hamstring strength as well as for the entire back (what we call posterior chain strength)
Stand straight with arms by your side and some weights in your hands
With a straight back and micro bend in your knees, slowly lean forward towards your toes
Only move to where is comfortable and hold for a moment
With stability and keeping your back straight, slowly return to the starting position
Add weight as you gain strength. A bar is the best resistance to use for this exercise. Start with a bar and no weights to get used to the movement.
This is a great exercise for calf strength but also one for people who get plantar fascia and achilles problems too.
Stand straight, I like to hold onto something for stability
Slowly on both feet, lift your heels so that you raise up on to your toes
Slowly drop the heels back down (its really important that you slowly and steadily come off the toes as this is the eccentric loading part of the exercise and the best place to build strength)
Do this exercise for 3 sets of 10 reps, if this is easy increase the reps
If you’re feeling comfortable with both legs try doing balanced on one leg and the other slightly raised above the ground.
If you would like to add some weight you can hold weights in your hands if you're confident with your balance, or you can wear a weighted backpack or vest.
Glute strength is also really important when talking about ageing with grace and keeping us away from tips and falls. Check out the muscle medicine blog for more glute strength information and tips.