The leg includes the glutes, thigh, and calf. Since it is such a large, muscular area of the body, there are endless possible leg exercise programs. Clearly, the most obvious is to just walk; most sources recommend 10,000 steps per day, preferably at varying inclines. Common aerobic and cardio activities—running, elliptical training, and cycling—work the leg muscles predominantly. Also, many core exercises incidentally engage the leg muscles.
Targeted strength training of the legs can improve stamina, improve balance, and reduce risk of injury from cardio or athletic activities. Leg training often targets muscles that would normally be neglected, so it tones areas that can remain lax even in otherwise fit individuals.
The quadriceps are the muscles at the front of the thigh. Most gyms have an apparatus that targets the quadriceps by having the legs extend against resistance. An athletic option is to shoot baskets—the upward thrust of the legs needed to make a 3-point shot comes from the quads.
The hamstrings are the muscles at the back of the thigh. Most gyms have an apparatus that targets the hamstrings by having the legs flex against resistance. To work the hamstrings (along with the glutes), do the bridge: Lie on back with knees bent and feet flat on floor; tighten whole muscle area running from butt to back thigh to slowly lift torso off the ground starting at tailbone; come up until thighs and back form a straight line and hold for a few seconds; reverse the movement to come back down. i
The glutes are often engaged by other thigh exercises, such as squats and lunges. WebMD gives perfect squat directions: “Keep feet parallel, shoulder-width apart. Slowly lower the hips as if sitting in a chair; then return to standing. Make sure your knees do not push out in front of your toes. Keep your torso tight and back straight.” The cite adds that you can hold hand weights to increase the intensity of the squat. [i]
WebMD similarly gives perfect lunge instructions—the lunge works both the quads and hamstrings, along with the glutes: “With your feet parallel and hip-distance apart, take one giant step forward. Lower your body slowly, bending both knees, and return to standing. Repeat on the other side. Bend your knees no more than 90 degrees. Keep your front knee stacked right over your front ankle. Do not rest your back knee on the ground.” The cite adds that a backward lunge is a good variation to more seriously engage the glutes, and a sideways lunge effectively targets the inner thigh muscles. i
The calf comprises about 20 separate muscles, many of which are involved in flexing the ankle and moving the toes.[ii] Most gyms have an apparatus that targets the calves by having the ankles flex against resistance. You also can work your calves by holding weights in your hands and coming up on the balls of your feet and back down.
Leg exercises tend to be a little more dynamic and fun than other areas of strength training, so enjoy.
[i] Rev. by Brakeville, Ross. (2016). “Slideshow: How to Build a Better Butt.” (Accessed 15 August 2017). http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/ss/slideshow-build-a-better-butt.