Strong Quads & Longevity

Tamra L. Christiansen, Director of Fitness and Wellness

What if I told you that the lyrics, “knocking me out with those American thighs” has some truth to it?

I have talked before about the importance of building lean muscle, especially after age 40, but this rings to be true at any age. After age 40, we tend to lose eight percent of our muscle per decade, and get this: after age 70, the rate of muscle loss can almost double. It can be up to 15 percent per decade. Many issues occur when we lose lean muscle mass, a serious one being Sarcopenia, which means “lack of flesh.” Sarcopenia is caused from a sedentary lifestyle/lack of physical activity, obesity, chronic diseases like kidney disease, loss of mobility, insulin resistance and reduction in hormone levels (Source: Cleveland Clinic).

So, this brings me to my main point for this article: strong quadriceps help with longevity. Several studies have been done on this subject, but one from The National Library of Medicine states, “Quadriceps muscle strength is a discriminant predictor of dependence in nursing homes.” We want to age well, not just age. If someone loses quadriceps strength, a trickle-down effect tends to happen. As the legs get weaker, it becomes more difficult to stand and walk, so this person tends to socialize less, which can cause depression. Strong legs aid in hip strength, meaning a less likely chance of falling; quadricep and glute strength allows us to stand erect; and strengthening in the legs also helps build bone, which is so important as we age. 

Our trainers can integrate mighty muscle moves into your week and workouts! Remember to build all muscles with a well-rounded program that can be designed by any of our trainers for you. The leaner muscle you have, the stronger your bones, the better you move, and the better your health will be! (It helps with aesthetics as well.)

Here are seven exercises that keep the quadriceps strong:

•  Squats: These are the most effective for building quad muscle. Before you think, “I cannot squat, it will hurt my knees,” remember that you are in a squat position every time you stand up from a seated position.

•  Lunges: There are many variations to these to keep the knees feeling good while building up the legs. Using the TRX strap system helps with training balance and takes pressure off the knee joints.

•  Leg Press: This builds the glutes as well as the quads.

•  Wall Sit: Stand with your back against the wall, slide into a seated position and hold for 30+ seconds. Increase the time you can hold this to build strength. This also can be done with your back against a stability/Swiss ball, which creates a supported squat motion.

•  Leg Extensions: While I am not a fan of the legs extending up and down with too much weight, I am a huge fan of holding the legs in an extension with a challenging amount of weight. This reduces friction and pressure on the knees.

•  Step-Ups: We need this to simply step up on things like stairs, hills when we are walking, or golfing. This is also a great way to include more cardio into your workout!

•  Box Jumps: A good, controlled jump up onto an elevated surface helps with reactive training of calf muscles, quads and glutes. This is an advanced exercise that can be built up to by starting on shorter surfaces and moving up to higher steps/boxes. 

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