Did you know that there are over 600 muscles in the body? The three main muscle types within the body are skeletal, smooth, and cardiac muscles. Skeletal muscles are exactly what they sound like: they are muscles attached to the bones in your body and can be voluntarily moved. Smooth muscles are involuntary muscles–meaning we don’t control when they move– that are a part of the digestive tract and other internal organs. Cardiac muscles, also involuntary, work to make your heart function properly. Because each muscle group has specific functions in the body, they each need different things to strengthen them.
In Fitness 101: Upper Body Muscle Groups, we discussed upper body muscles, lower back muscles, and arm and finger muscles. For the second part of this blog, we will focus on lower body muscles, including the glutes, hips, pelvic floor, hamstring and calf muscles.
Lower Body Muscles
Made up of several large and strong muscles, the glutes require regular exercise to form a tight and toned bottom. Squats, lunges, stair climbing, and leg presses are a great starting place for strengthening and tightening the glutes. Beginners should use their body weight as resistance, eventually working up to dumbbell weights or resistance bands as the muscles become more toned.
This group of muscles is often left off the list of essential muscles to strengthen. However, strengthening hip muscles helps to prevent the risk of injury. Adductor hip muscles help move the legs inward, while abductor hip muscles move the legs outward. Find the adduction and abduction machines at the gym or utilize resistance bands at home.
Pelvic Floor Muscles
Just like hip muscles, pelvic floor muscles aren’t often discussed or even thought about much. Running from the tailbone to the front pubic bone, these muscles are the support system to pelvic organs. When these muscles weaken, urine leakage can occur during specific activities, such as running, jumping, coughing, and sneezing. To strengthen this area, squeeze the muscles that prevent you from urinating and hold as long as you can. Repeat and aim for ten sets.
There are three main hamstring muscles in the body: biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. These muscles run along the backside of the thigh and are essential for hip and knee function. To increase the strength of the hamstring muscles, complete ten reps of hamstring curls, lunges, and deadlifts.
At the lower back leg, there are numerous muscles known as the calf muscles. Not only does regular exercise of this muscle strengthen it, but it also aids in injury prevention. Jumping rope and seated or standing calf raises work well to strengthen and tone the calves.