7 Leg Exercises for People Over 50

• Written by Katie

This article was contributed by Matt Claes of Weight Loss Made Practical

Resistance training can be effective at any age, but you may have to make adaptations. Discover some leg exercises that are suited for people over 50.

Before going straight to growing and strengthening your leg muscles you want to keep in mind that it is typically recommended to warm up first. This will improve performance and help you avoid injuries.

Some leg warmup exercise examples include quarter bodyweight squats, high knees, marching in place, and butt kicks.

1. Leg Extensions

There are many ways to do leg extensions at home. However, most people over 50 will want a good resistance band, a chair to sit on, and something like a towel to put under their thighs.

With this equipment, you can take the following steps to do a leg extension:

  1. Anchor the resistance band behind the back chair legs on some side and around your ankles on the other. Sit on the chair and put the towel or similar object under your thighs.
  2. Slowly stretch your legs forward as far as is comfortable.
  3. Lower your legs back into the starting position in a controlled motion.

No matter what equipment option you choose (including body weight), leg extensions can be a great way to work your quadriceps (front thigh muscles).

As you can see from the exercise, these muscles have to work to keep your legs stretched. When climbing stairs, you work these muscles. By strengthening your quadriceps, these activities can become easier.

Additionally, one of the benefits of leg extensions for ageing adults is that they don’t require much balance as you are already sitting down.

2. Box/Chair Squat

Squats are one of the most fundamental leg exercises. The box/chair used when performing this exercise also offers reassurance to people over 50. They offer extra support to avoid falls.

Take the following steps to do a chair squat:

  1. Position yourself in front of your chair or a sturdy box. Stand up straight with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  2. Slowly lower yourself down to the chair. Try to take a few seconds to get there, keeping your knees straight above your feet.
  3. Sit on the chair for one second.
  4. Stand back up in a controlled motion.

If you want to strengthen leg muscles like your quadriceps (front thighs), glutes (bottom), hamstrings (back thighs), and calves, you want to do 6 to 12 repetitions per set. You should stop when it becomes too difficult to complete a rep.

For some people after 50, squats can already be challenging.

However, you can also use resistance bands or hold heavy objects like dumbbells, a sandbag, or even just a heavy backpack to make the exercise more challenging.

As long as you do this safely, give your body enough nutrients, and rest enough, using more resistance can help you strengthen your legs more.

3. Lunges (Ankles)

You want to keep two things in mind before doing the next leg exercise. First of all, lunges can be relatively challenging for balance. It may be smart to hold something to avoid accidents.

Secondly, lunges can be challenging for your leg muscles, which can be a good thing, but you don’t want to overdo it either. With these things in mind, take the following steps to do two lunges:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Take a big step forward with one leg. Your foot should be at a distance where you can achieve the angles in the following step.
  3. Slowly lower your body until your front knee and hip are at 90-degree angles.
  4. Push yourself back. Most of the force will come from the front leg.
  5. Repeat the movement but with your other leg in front.

As well as holding onto something, people over 50 who find lunges challenging can position their feet wider than shoulder width apart.

Challenging your balance safely can help improve or slow down loss of balance.

Similar to squats, lunges are a great exercise to strengthen leg muscles like your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. Because more weight rests on each leg, you may not need any extra resistance.

An added benefit of lunges is that they work the muscles around your ankles more too.

4. Standing Hamstring Curl

Many people will need resistance bands to make standing hamstring curls more challenging but you could also try out the bodyweight version to see if it is hard enough.

Take the following steps to do a standing hamstring curl with a resistance band:

  1. Anchor the resistance band somewhere sturdy on one end and around one ankle on the other.
  2. Hold something for balance and fold the leg with the resistance band as far as is comfortable. Keep the rest of your body in the same position during the movement.
  3. Lower the leg again.
  4. Repeat the same number of repetitions with the other leg.

Standing hamstring curls are basically the opposite of leg extensions. That means they work the hamstrings (back upper thigh) instead of the quadriceps.

The part of the hamstring muscles you train with curls is responsible for folding your legs. Additionally, they correct some of the movements of the quadriceps so that you can stay balanced.

Standing hamstring curls can be a good idea for people over 50 who want to reduce their risk of falling. It can also help to build or preserve muscle mass.

5. Seated Leg Abductions

Seated leg abductions are another exercise where most people will need resistance bands to see results. Once you have that, take the following steps to do a seated leg abduction.

  1. Loop a resistance band around your upper legs and close to your knees. You already want some tension in starting position. Sit down on the tip of your chair so your legs can still move relatively easily.
  2. Slowly move your upper legs outward as far as is comfortable.
  3. Move your legs back to the centre in a controlled motion.

Seated leg abductions can be helpful for over 50s who struggle with balance but still want to train the muscles in their thighs.

Other people over 50 who are confident in their balance can do standing leg abductions instead. This may allow more space for their legs.

Additionally, it is possible to lie on the floor on your side and attempt a more challenging version of leg abductions.

All of these movements help to improve strength in the thigh muscles.

Together with the other leg muscles, these help you stay balanced. One place you are likely to see an improvement is when climbing the stairs, as you will be more steady on your legs.

6. Lying Leg Abductions

This leg exercise works more of your thigh muscles than a sitting or standing leg abduction. However, this makes it more challenging.

Follow these steps to perform a lying leg abduction:

  1. Lie down on your side. Move the highest leg to the side so the low leg has room to move. Something like a yoga mat can make the exercise more comfortable.
  2. Slowly raise the lower leg as far as comfortable. Keep the rest of your body in the same position.
  3. Lower the leg again in a controlled motion.
  4. Repeat the same number of repetitions on your other side.

As you may have concluded from the short explanation above, lying leg abductions work your inner thigh muscles.

Strengthening these leg muscles can help you stay balanced and, in turn, reduce your risk of falling.

You can perform this leg exercise, as well as the sitting or standing versions, using a resistance band.

7. Deadlifts

Deadlifts sound scary and are an intense compound exercise, but if you approach them right the benefits are amazing. Take the following steps to do a bodyweight deadlift:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet about shoulder width apart.
  2. Tilt your upper body slightly forward while keeping your spine straight and slowly going through your knees. Go as far as comfortable or until your hands are at about the middle of your shins.
  3. Stand back up and tilt your upper body to an upright position in a controlled motion.

People over 50 will likely want to play it safe and start with the bodyweight version. This is especially advised if you are not used to the deadlift technique yet.

Over time, you can consider deadlifting dumbbells or similar weights to further strengthen your leg muscles. For these workouts, you need to keep your spine straight and shoulder blades slightly back.

Deadlifts mainly work your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and lower back muscles. They also teach you how to lift objects in your daily life with a technique that minimises injury risk.

Exercise Safely

It is important to be mindful of your limitations when taking up new exercise regimes. Speak to your doctor first, as they can advise you on which exercises will best benefit you and which should be avoided.

If you are someone who is worried about falls, or you just want some extra reassurance when exercising, consider a LifeConnect24 personal alarm. You can find out more by viewing our pricing page, or get in touch with our helpful team on 0800 999 0400.

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LifeConnect24 Personal Alarm supports you at home 24/7
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