You already work your arms, legs, and chest, but there’s one body part you’ve almost certainly missed in your training, and that’s one of the most important: your legs. Your feet are your foundation in whatever activity you do. They provide balance and support for nearly all movements, so any lack of mobility and strength in your legs can compromise your ability to run, jump, lift, and even walk efficiently and painlessly. Begin by treating your legs like all other muscle groups, and build a foundation for strength, agility and performance. Use these tips to train your legs.
Know Your “Foot Complex”
About a quarter of the bones of the body are in the feet. This means your body needs 33 joints per leg to remain mobile in order to move optimally.
For example, “the big toe plays an important role in forward propulsion of the body,” says Perry Nickelston, DC, owner of stopchasingpain.com, “It needs to be raised to 65 degrees.” He says the people he’s examined are only at 45 degrees. “Or, you can’t propel your body with optimal hip extension, thoracic rotation, and glute max activation. Other muscles and joints must work harder to compensate, and the result is often fatigue, poor performance, aches and pains.” Injuries happen.”
The ankle is also included in the foot complex. a study in American Journal of Sports Medicine found that restricted ankle mobility predisposed the subjects to overuse injuries.
Finally, if you have flat feet, foot training is a must. Fallen arches cause the foot to roll inward toward the midline of the body, putting the joints out of alignment and setting you up for knee and hip pain.
3 exercises to strengthen your legs
If you’ve ever sprained your ankle, you know that it doesn’t take long to injure your wheels. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much time to train your legs. All you need is these moves.
1. Outgoing Roll (Shown Above, Right)
What it does: Stretches the muscles of the soles of the feet.
how to do this:
- Stand with feet slightly shorter than the length of your regular step.
- Keeping the heel of your front foot off the floor and both knees straight, slowly roll your front foot out toward the pinky-toe of your foot. Try to move the ball of your foot past your pinky toe. This will feel like the kind of movement that could sprain your ankle – but it is safe when done with control.
- Pause for a moment at the final range of motion so you feel a stretch in the leg, then roll it back so it’s flat on the floor again.
- Do 1 set of 5 slow repetitions on each leg.
2. Heel Circle
What it does: Moves the ankle and joints in the toes.
how to do this:
- Use the same stance as above, then roll your back foot onto your toes so they’re bent under the foot and pointing behind you.
- Begin making big circles with your heels so that you rotate and spread your toes in different directions.
- Do 1 set of 5 slow repetitions in both directions.
3. Banded Squat (shown above, left)
What it does: Strengthens the arch of the foot.
how to do this:
- Stand with feet shoulder-width outside and parallel to each other. slide the end of an exercise band (we like the gray Cook exercise band, but performbetter.com) under the ball of one foot, then wrap it in front of your opposite leg, above the knee.
- Stretch the band around the other foot and lower it back under the ball of the opposite foot. The band should now form an X.
- Keep your knees apart, and squat down as far as you can. Lean forward slowly, and keep your weight on your heels and the balls of your feet.
- Do 3 to 5 5’s, or as many as you can until the band slips off one foot. Repeat throughout the day.
Mark Cheng is a faculty member of Fusionional Movement Systems and owns a sports medicine practice in Santa Monica, CA. drmarkchang.com
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