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Build strong lower body for best life

How strong is your foundation?

Just as building a house begins with a solid foundation, so it is with our bodies; we need to build that strong base of support. The lower body is home to the largest muscle groups in our bodies. They are muscles that we use the most in everyday living, such as squatting to pick things up off the floor, walking and even just standing.

While each muscle has a specific purpose, they all have to work together to create pain-free, smooth movement.

If the lower-body muscles begin to atrophy, so does your confidence level for going for a walk, having to step up and down, even getting out of a chair. But when lower-body muscles are strong, your confidence level increases as your risk for falling and incurring bone fractures decreases. And for seniors, keeping those muscles strong is vitally important for maintaining independent living; knee, hip and ankle-joint injuries are the most common lower-body issues affecting seniors.

Major lower-body muscles

Gluteals: Three muscles that make up the buttocks. The gluteus maximus, nicknamed “glutes,” is the largest of our three gluteal muscles and covers the entire buttocks. Its primary function is to move the thigh to the back. The other two gluteal muscles enable you to move your legs out to the sides.

Hip flexors: A muscle group located in the front of your hips. They act as a stabilizer for hips and the lower body. Their main function is to help lift knees upward as in marching or walking up stairs.

Quadriceps: Four muscles in the front of the thigh that allow you to extend your leg as if you were kicking a ball.

Hamstrings: A group of three posterior thigh muscles located behind the thigh bone. They enable you to bend your knees backward, bringing heels toward your buttocks.

Outer thigh (abductors): Muscles on the outside of the thigh that move your leg away from the midline of the body.

Inner thigh (adductors): A group of five muscles located on the inside of your thigh that are responsible for bringing your legs toward the center of your body.

Calves: A group of muscles that extends from the back of knee to the Achilles tendon. The gastrocnemius, the upper part of the calf muscle, and the soleus, a smaller muscle that lies beneath the gastroc muscle, are responsible for flexing your foot downward as if you were standing on your toes.

Exercise mistakes

Selecting favorites: Avoid working one specific area because of cosmetic desires. You need balance in the workout. If you continually strengthen one lower-body area to the neglect of its neighboring muscle groups, you can mess up your posture alignment.

Forget the burn: It is better to focus on proper form than going for the much-talked-about “burn.” Think of going slow and being in control.

Neglecting stretch: When lower-body muscles are tight, you could be dealing with back issues. Remember to strengthen weak muscles and stretch tight muscles.