Challenge to Change: Are your arms sore yet?

By Bobby DeMuro

Remember that our new challenge involves strength training. While I showed you several upper body exercises last week, there are more components to having a strong and healthy body than just bicep curls and shoulder presses.

In fact, too many people trying to improve their fitness focus only on cardiovascular activities and upper-body weight lifting, usually neglecting lower body training. This can be a big problem - lower body strength is critical for muscular symmetry, posture improvement, and the metabolic benefits of strength training.

Lower body strength training is important for many - including older people at risk of serious injury from falling and bone fractures. Lower body training improves balance and can markedly improve mobility in those with previous injuries.

Knee and hip injuries are the most common lower body injuries for senior citizens, so it is important for simple strength training exercises to improve coordination, stamina and balance.  Muscle strength in the legs also correlates with decreased pain and injury in hip, knee and ankle joints.

Lower body training is for the young, though, too. Athletes of all sports find significant benefits from lower body strength training. Stronger leg muscles require less energy to remain motion; athletes with better lower body strength also have increased stamina.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, lower body training reduces the risk of being injured while participating in sports. Runners and other athletes must have strong ankles, knees, and hips in order to stay active and healthy - and simple weight lifting exercises can help promote that health.

Don't have access to a gym and still want to build strength? While some of the lower body exercises we highlight in this week's video can be done anywhere, there are still other ways you can strengthen your legs without a gym membership. One of the simplest is to climb several flights of stairs every day. The energy expended is used almost entirely in the lower half of your body, and this activity promotes balance and single-leg strength.

Speaking of single-leg strength, focusing on exercises one leg at a time goes a long way to improving balance and preventing injury. Single-leg training is also important for runners, specifically, who rely on each leg individually throughout the rotation of their running mechanics.

Step-ups, lunges, and the single-leg dead lift (shown in the video) are great choices to promote single-leg strength and joint stability, while working to prevent injury.

Just like with the upper body exercises, it can take a while to establish your lower body strength training routine. Use these exercises as a base, and strengthen those legs while focusing on preventing injury. Next week, we'll focus on core strength training exercises, posture, and lower back safety in our third and final installment of the weight lifting challenge. Tone up!


About the author:Bobby DeMuro is the Founder of No Fizz America, a non-profit dedicated to health and fitness. He is also the founder FusionSouth, a sports conditioning firm. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook .

You can listen to Bobby on his weekly radio show on Radio Exiles.

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