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Winning Ways:
Creating Legs Just Right For You

Wednesday, November 4, 1998

By Gregory "Graig" White
SJSports Physical Fitness Advisor

When it comes to creating legs that are strong and shapely, there is something to keep in mind. Thighs are supposed to be big, and remember "big" is a relative term. The largest, heaviest bone in the body is the femur, which is covered with lots of muscle. Just think, in one thigh, the bone and the surrounding muscle can account for 5 to 10 percent of your body weight.

Due to hormones, some women have thighs that may be fleshy. Men and women start out with identical muscularity, but when sex hormones start to circulate, men build muscle in their thighs while women accumulate fat.

With that in mind, here are a few moves that will help you on your road to create legs that not only look good, but also help you feel better.

Leg Extension

When doing the leg extension, it is important to know that the muscle involved in this exercise is the quadriceps. The area you want to pay the most attention to while doing this exercise is to make sure you are properly aligned. When you sit down, you want to make sure that your knees are lined up with the axis of the machine. (If you aren't sure how to do this, get someone who knows to help you.) Once this is done, check the weight that you can handle. Place your ankles behind the leg bar so that the bar is touching the leg just above the foot. Hold on to the handles on the sides of the machine, keeping your upper body straight and supported by the machine's back support. Lift your legs so that they are straight, but do not lock them. While exerting, you should exhale. Lower the weight slowly and under control without letting the weights touch.

Seated Leg Curl

The seated leg curl is a movement that places the emphasis on the hamstring. Just like with the leg extensions, you want to make sure that your body is properly aligned. Once again, you want to make sure that your knees are lined up with the axis of the machine. You want to adjust the back to assure that you are properly supported. Adjust the leg bar so that your feet are on top of the bar, just above your heels. Lower the bar near your thighs so that it rests on them. Flex your knees so that your heels come under the seat as far as you can go comfortably. Control the weight throughout the movement, exhale on exertion. Allow the weight to return to the starting position slowly and under control. Inhale as your bring the weight back to the starting position.

Standing Calf Raise

When doing the standing calf raise, it is important to remember to keep your shoulders over your hips. With this move, posture is everything. This is a move that can be done with or without weights. Another thing to keep in mind is to experiment with the angle of your heels. By doing this, you will work on different areas of the muscle and secondly you will find a position that will be comfortable for you. But don't angle them too much, by doing so you may place too much stress on your ankles and knees.

Leg Press

Here is a bonus exercise. The leg press is probably the greatest leg exercise in the world next to the squat. The leg press strengthens your butt, quadriceps, and hamstrings without some of the limitations that the squat may produce. The first thing that you must do, as always, is to make sure the machine is properly adjusted. Once that happens, get on and place your feet flat against the foot plate. Make sure that your knees are slightly bent so that undo stress will not be placed on them. Extend your legs so that you may take the safety hooks off. Slowly lower the weight towards you, stopping when your thighs are parallel. Make sure that your toes do not go beyond your knees. Extend your legs stopping short of locking the knees. This exercise is one that can give you great results in a short period of time, when done properly.

So, as you can see, the secret to having strong shapely legs is actually not a secret. By doing these moves consistently and properly will help give you the legs you have always wanted.

I would like to thank our model, Ms. Gail Slaughter of Salem, and Glenn Lodge Jr., Executive Director of the John B. Campbell Family & Fitness Center in Salem County for their support and use of the facility.

Photos by Art Redd

Do you have a fitness or conditioning question for Graig? Send it to If your question is used in an article, you will receive a free Team Conditioning Systems t-shirt.

For previous Winning Ways, visit Graig's Archives

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