Leg Strengthening Exercises Can Help with Daily Life
Whether you’re getting up from a chair, going up and down steps, or carrying groceries, your legs are involved in almost all of your daily activities. But, what if your leg muscles are weak, or not performing at their best? Your daily activity, as well as your physical fitness, can take a major hit, according to the Mayo Clinic. That’s why leg strengthening exercises are so important.
We pulled together this post to help you run ideas by your doctor, physical therapists, or personal trainer. It includes tips for using your Excy portable exercise bike, as well as other leg strengthening exercises provided by our friends at PT-Helper.
Don’t Get Caught Up in Social Media Images
So often, leg strengthening exercises showcased across social media and fitness marketing materials are designed for the physically fit. But what about those who are just getting started in their fitness journey? Are recovering from an injury? Or, if the person is deconditioned? Often times, they simply hear “Go on a walk” or “Take the stairs.” But, that’s not enough and not always possible. People often need help to identify movements that can help reduce lower extremity muscle imbalances, increase flexibility, and help improve core and joint stability. Simply ignoring the weakening of your legs will only lead to dysfunction and may even increase the incidents of injury, chronic disease, low-back pain, knee injuries, and other musculoskeletal injuries.
Make sure to see your doctor, physical therapist, or hire a certified personal trainer before starting a new program. These professionals can help you focus on specific leg strengthening exercises for your injury, chronic health condition, or musculoskeletal impairments.
Leg Strengthening Exercises Should be Progressive
There really is no cookie cutter answer or silver bullet checklist because every person is unique. The below exercises are progressive in nature and are designed to strengthen the legs over time. Focus on your individual functional capacity and short-term and long-term personal goals.
Since everyone is unique, we don’t have a standard timeline for these phases. Talk to your doctor about increasing the duration and workload at a level of 10-25% every three workouts performed every other day. On the opposing days, use Excy for cross training upper body ergometer workouts.
PHASE 1: Small Motions to Increase Stability
For our Excy riders, this means doing very light back and forth partial cycling motions with light resistance while focusing on maintaining optimal posture during the cycling experience. Depending on your mobility and condition, try push and pull motions to exercise while lying down on the floor or in bed. In addition, visit our low recumbent cycling position and semi-recumbent bike position while cycling in a chair.
During this initial phase, focus on range of motion. If you are post surgery, talk to your surgeon on how to do these small motions to regain full extension. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do full rotations. Just focus on pushing back and forth and slowly increase resistance and duration over time. Motion is lotion for the joint. The goal is to get the joint moving to enhance stability, increase muscular coordination, and to keep the body moving in a controlled environment. Some people might need to start at two minutes, others at 10 or 20 minutes.
Below are popular Excy use cases for leg strengthening exercises, including this video on how to focus on rhythmic movements:
Other exercises to consider for strengthening legs during Phase 1 can be things like Seated Marches, Seated Side Stepping, Seated Heel & Toe Raises, Seated Knee Extensions, Calf pumps. Visit PT-Helper for details into how to perform these exercises.
PHASE 2: Increase Rotations to Increase Stability Endurance
Once you have mastered small back and forth motions, set the resistance to a light workload and pedal in full rotations/circles. Take time to pedal slowly at the easiest levels until it feels smooth and controlled in both directions. Applying too much resistance before building up strength will only lead to frustration. Remember, you are in this for the long haul. Building up strength is a marathon, not a sprint. Dial up the resistance as needed, but during Phase 2, keep resistance at a level where you can pedal smoothly. Many find that they can pedal at a higher level of resistance in reverse, so embrace backwards pedaling. The goal is to start increasing endurance and your overall work capacity while also enhancing joint stability. Keep loads at a light to moderate pace.
Popular Excy cycling positions for full rotations:
Other exercises to consider for strengthening legs during Phase 2 can be things like: Sit to Stand (Supported and Un-supported), Standing Marches, Calf Raises both Feet or only 1 Foot, Standing Hamstring Curls w/ Support, Hip Abduction, Mini Squats, Figure 8 walk, Sideways Walking. Visit PT-Helper for details into how to perform these exercises.
PHASE 3: Strength Level Training for Legs and Muscle Endurance
In Phase 3, the goal is to build on the success of Phase 1 and 2 to gain more strength. Use the same positions mentioned above, but increase the level of resistance. When cycling in full rotations at higher levels of resistance, it might feel strange at first, almost like it’s “sticking” at the top of the rotation. There’s a big advantage to pedaling, spinning or cranking Excy with controlled forces through that feeling of it “sticking” that you can’t get from a flywheel experience.
At higher levels of resistance, embrace the friction as a muscle-strengthening activity. Excy’s constant rotational resistance exercise approach demands that muscles that are usually spared of doing work due to assistance from a flywheel, actually work. Try this pedaling forwards and backwards using full rotations to work muscles from multiple angles at higher forces. At these higher levels of force, it will be hard to go for longer periods of time. So, pedal for as long as you can, then rest, then do it again. In Phase 3, dial up resistance for back and forth motions, which will almost feel like a leg press. To increase cardio output, do these back and forth motions at a faster pace.
Other exercises to consider for leg strengthening exercises during Phase 3 can be things like: Kettlebell box squats, Resisted Knee Extensions, Kettlebell Elevated Deadlift, Resisted Hip Abduction, Resisted Hip Adduction, Side Stepping with Band, Stair Walking, Forward (or Reverse) Lunges. Visit PT-Helper for details into how to perform these exercises.
Phase 4: Kinetic Links, Balance and Flexibility
Not everyone will have a goal to get through every leg-strengthening exercise phase. If you move into phase four, it’s important that you first put yourself through the previous phases to help build a strong foundation.
Phase 4 is more advanced and is focused on using Excy to increase leg strength while also improving flexibility, core strength, balance, and overall neuromuscular control. This phase will place more stress on joint regions of the body, including feet and ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, and the back. The higher the resistance, the higher the stress. The goal during this phase is to incorporate the whole body into the process of strengthening the legs, with much more focus on core and balance exercises. During Phase 4, experiment with back and forth motions, isometric exercises, and full rotations with varying degrees of resistance.
Below are popular Phase 4 Excy leg exercises to help the body produce higher levels of functional strength.
Other exercises to consider for leg strengthening exercises during Phase 4 can be things like: Deadlifts, Farmer’s Walk, Goblet Squats, Knee Extension Machine, Knee Flexion Machine, and Leg Press Machine. Visit PT-Helper for details into how to perform these exercises.