Leg strengthening exercises are often staples of any workout routine, and for good reason: strong legs help a person walk and run more efficiently, work in conjunction with core muscles to support the spine and upper body, and generally help prevent injuries during normal daily activities. Countless leg strengthening exercises exist, and a person looking to do a leg workout will first need to determine his or her fitness goals before beginning. A trip to the gym will offer several exercise machines designed specifically for building strength in the legs. Exercises can often be broken down into categories according to which leg muscles are being strengthened.
Calf muscles, for example, will require different exercises in many instances than hamstrings, though some exercises will work both sets of muscles. Calf raises are fairly easy to do and do not necessarily need to be done at the gym. Raises are done by finding an elevated platform such as a step on a stairway and standing on that platform with the heels of the foot hanging off. The balls of the feet should be firmly planted on the platform; the heels should hang down, then should be raised, so the weight of the body is now on the balls of the feet. This is one of the most important leg strengthening exercises for the calf muscles.
Squats and lunges are indispensable leg strengthening exercises that work several muscles at once. Squats can be done with or without barbells or dumbbells, which can enhance the workout by adding additional weight. A person will stand with his or her legs about hip width apart. He or she will then lower the upper body toward the ground until the knees are bent at about a 90 degree angle. The back should be kept straight throughout; when the person reaches the lowest point in the squat, he or she will hold the position and then return to the starting position.
Lunges are also important leg strengthening exercises that involve lowering the body toward the ground, but instead of lowering the body straight down, the person will lunge forward so only one leg supports the body's weight. The other leg will stay back at the starting position, and the spine should stay straight throughout the motion. Once the person reaches the lowest point in the lunge, he or she will hold the position, then return slowly to the starting position.