Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Work those quadriceps!

The quadriceps, or front thigh, muscles are among the largest in our bodies. They are the rectus femoris, the vastus lateralis (externus), the vastus intermedius and the vastus medialis (internus). They are responsible for knee extension (as a straight leg kick if you are angry at someone ha ha ha) and hip flexion (as when you lie down and extend legs outward, then *bend inward).

When you walk or run, you automatically work your quadriceps. But how many of us, in this day of automobiles, elevators and more) do that? All cardiovascular equipment that involves the legs involves the quadriceps. The gluteus maximus is probably the only muscle larger than they are. However, as with all muscles, you want to strengthen your quadriceps for strength and for circulation and bone health. The fact that the quadriceps are so large is optimal for strengthening them to increase your metabolism. As you may already know, this muscle build up will use more oxygen and more energy, and so burn more calories, even when you sit or sleep. Strong quadriceps also improve stability and posture (not as much as strengthening abdomen or back).

The squats are great for working hips and legs, and increasing metabolism. Lunges work well for squats. Knee extension exercises are also good for squats. Variations on this, like changing the angle of your angles, or concentrating slowly on one leg at a time, will work different quadriceps muscle fibers and avoid fitness plateaus, where your health and strength do not worsen or improve. Taking a band, putting it around one foot and a time and holding on to it to keep it taut, while lifting a straight leg for inches at a time works wonders on the quadriceps muscle fibers as well. A squat against the wall for seconds at a time works. You want to do about two quadricep exercises a week, besides cardiovascular exercises. This applies to the healthy, intermediate person, not to sick, weak or athletic people training for specific sports.
If you are advanced, plyometric squats and lunges work well for leg muscles, including quadriceps. Rest your quadriceps for at least a day in between working them out on leg machines or plyometric movements. To find out more about me, including about my books, go to www.louizapatsis.com.

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