This is the front of your thigh, and is made up of 4 main muscles (the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and the rectus femoris) that extend the leg (think of the leg extension machine). These muscles are used for walking, running, going up stairs, and other physical activities. They are very powerful and often overused. This puts them at risk for strains, tears, or ruptures. During most leg training, the quads are usually the easiest to activate and tire out.
Exercises that emphasize the quads are squats, forward lunges, and leg press.
The glutes are one of the largest and strongest muscle groups in the body and is comprised of 3 muscles – glute medius, glute maximus (biggest muscle in the body), and glute minimus.
They are involved with AD-duction (moving towards the midline of the body) and AB-duction (moving away from the midline) of the legs as well as hip extension (think glute bridge). The glutes are important because they help stabilize the pelvis which will allow a good base for your spine to sit on top of. They are important in sprinting and lateral movements in sports. Most people, men especially, overlook this in their training and should instead place it as a main focus.
Exercises that focus on glutes include glute bridges, deadlifts, hip/back extension, and hip thrusters.
The hamstrings are located in the back of the upper thigh just under your glutes. The main function is knee flexion (think leg curls) and hip extension. It is comprised of three muscles – the biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus. This muscle group does similar movements as the glutes. Exercises that focus on glute strength will also target the hamstrings.
Exercises that focus on the hamstrings include leg curls, stiff leg deadlifts, and deadlifting in general.
The calves are made up of four muscles – gastrocnemius, 2 heads of the gastrocnemius, and the soleus. The function of this muscle group is primarily to elevate the heel when running, walking, or jumping – i.e. they’re VERY important!
Common exercises for calves – all variations of calf raises.
Now that we have basic anatomy of the leg you can take it a step further and train them properly. Generally, it is a good idea to emphasize on glute strength since it is overlooked so often. Keeping that in mind we will form a training program with that as the focus. As with any muscle group, it makes sense to start with compound movements and then go into isolation exercises. This means that we start with bigger movements that use more muscles first such as deadlifts, or squats and end off with isolation exercises that use one muscle group such as leg curls. Since they recruit more muscles, compound movements are more fatiguing. On the other hand, compounds allow for more weight to be moved.
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