We use our upper leg muscles every day. Our glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps activate when we walk, pick up objects, straighten our legs, or even stand. It's important that we keep these muscles in top shape.
If our upper legs are weak, other parts of the body will try to compensate for them. This may lead to pain, soreness, stiffness or restricted motion.
Leg muscles are also incredibly active during sports. Glutes are essential for pushing off and switching direction. This occurs during hockey and baseball, where players start and stop, or push off to gain speed. Weak glutes place extra stress on the knees and ankles, among other body parts.
Quads are used for rapid kicking motions in sports such as soccer or swimming. Uneven quad muscles can lead to problems in the hamstrings and hips. Conversely, if the hamstrings are weak, they can cause the quads and glutes to overwork.
Two Easy Upper Leg Exercises
Here are a couple of exercises to keep the legs balanced and ready for everyday and athletic activity (NOTE: Do not go to the point of pain or cramping during any exercise.):
Tightening the Glutes
- Lie flat on your back with your right side about 2 feet from a wall.
- With both legs extended and on the ground, bring the right leg straight out to your side about 30 degrees (touching the wall). You should feel your glutes contracting. (Your toes and knee cap should face toward the ceiling throughout the exercise.)
- Hold this position for six seconds.
- Repeat six times on each side, resting for a few seconds in between sets. Increase the amount of force used with each set.
Quad and Hip Flex
- Lie flat on your back with your feet together.
- Flex your hip up 30 degrees, keeping your hips level.
- Still keeping your hip flexed, lift one leg straight up about 1.5 feet from the ground. You should feel the middle of your thigh contracting.
- Hold this position for six seconds and repeat six times on each side, resting for a few seconds in between sets.
These are two of the simplest upper leg exercises that you can do. A Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT) specialist can provide additional and more complex workouts.
Muscle Activation Techniques
Individuals with unbalanced upper leg muscles may consider consulting an MAT specialist. A specialist can restore the body by identifying which muscles aren't working and which muscles are compensating. MAT identifies and corrects the core root of the problem, as opposed to the effect.
Range of Motion tests are conducted for the glutes. Here, the client lies on his or her back and brings one leg straight out to the side. The MAT specialist will see if each leg extends the same distance in a smooth motion and make sure the leg does not rotate during the test. If issues are found, the specialist can identify the affected muscles and use precise palpations along with customized exercises to activate them.
Range of Motion tests for the quad muscles include having the client lie flat on his or her back and lift one leg at a time with a straight knee. The client should lift each leg up as far as he or she comfortably can. The specialist will observe how high the client can lift each leg and whether the height is even for both sides.
Variations for these tests include externally or internally rotating the leg before it is lifted. This helps the MAT specialist isolate potential issues in different areas of the hips.
Restoring muscles often requires multiple MAT sessions for lasting results. By correcting compromised muscles, MAT restores the body to proper alignment and allows us to function as we were designed to--in a pain-free state.
Many people also use MAT as a complement to other treatments, including massage, chiropractic, and physical therapy.Balance your muscles with yoga.
Kate Allgood, MAT, SH is president of Balanced Bodyworks, a Southern California-based business that enhances and improves mental and physical health and performance. Services include Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT), which corrects muscular imbalances to relieve pain and boost functioning, and sports hypnosis, which improves athletic performance through visualization and reinforcement techniques. Allgood is also an elite athlete, previously recognized as one of Canada's best female athletes. For more information, visit http://www.balanced-bodyworks.com or call (619) 446-6846. You can also connect with Balanced Bodyworks on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/BalancedBodywks) and Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/balancedbodywks).
Note: Muscle Activation Techniques?, including the exercises described above, were developed by Greg Roskopf. For more information or to find a specialist near you, visit http://www.muscleactivation.com.