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The 6 Best Leg-Strengthening Exercises After Age 40

Try this lower-body routine for muscle, strength, and mobility.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

Regardless of your age, strengthening your legs is a vital component of a comprehensive fitness program. However, the older you get, the more important it becomes to train your legs regularly. After you pass age 40, your body will begin a more rapid decline in strength, mobility, and independence. The good news is that with just a few simple leg-strengthening exercises incorporated into your workout routine, you can drastically reduce or even reverse the age-related decline in muscle, strength, and coordination that occurs as you go through your mid-life years.

The following is a list of the best leg-strengthening exercises you should be doing as you pass 40. Perform each exercise for eight to 15 repetitions, for a total of three sets. Aim to include these exercises twice per week in your training program.

Read on to learn more, and next, don't miss 9 Best Exercises for Men To Get Bigger, Stronger Legs.

1. Lunges

woman demonstrating lunges with dumbbells to boost your muscular endurance

Lunges are a great exercise for everyone, but they are especially vital to perform as you age. Not only do lunges strengthen the quads, glutes, and hamstrings, but they also improve balance, mobility, and coordination.

I recommend performing walking lunges holding dumbbells for added resistance. Experienced fitness enthusiasts can use a barbell, provided you have a setup that allows you to safely unrack and rack the barbell. If you are newer to fitness and lunges, then bodyweight lunges are also a good option. Each lunge should begin with a big step, followed by lowering your body toward the ground by bending both knees and keeping your torso upright.

2. Squats

woman bodyweight squats

Squats are another vital functional movement you should be including in your leg-strengthening exercises. They are very effective at hitting your lower body muscles. Additionally, retaining the ability to get up and down from a seated position is a key factor in maintaining independence and quality of life as you age.

I recommend performing squats with an amount of resistance that allows you to perform the eight to 12 repetitions with good technique but still providing a muscular challenge. A classic method is using barbell back squats. However, goblet squats and bodyweight squats are great alternatives if you are unable to perform them with a barbell.

Focus on keeping your torso more or less upright when squatting. Push your knees "outward" as you squat down to eliminate the tendency for them to cave inward.

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3. Deadlifts

mature woman demonstrating deadlift exercises to change your body shape after 40

The deadlift is a challenging leg-strengthening exercise that helps with leg flexibility and assists with maintaining your ability to pick things up off the ground.

You will need some form of external weight with a handle to properly perform deadlifts. Dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells are all viable options. Begin with the weight on the floor in front of you. Hinge forward, and grab the handles of the weight. Keep a neutral spine and squeeze your glutes as you stand back up.

4. Step-ups

man's legs close-up step exercise

Step-ups are a great way to hit your legs if you have access to a set of stairs or even just a box.

You can hold weights in each hand or do bodyweight step-ups. To perform one leg at a time, step up and down repeatedly on the same step. To alternate, climb the sets of stairs holding the weight. You will probably want to do 15 steps on each side, per set, either alternating or performing one side all the way through before switching.

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5. Leg Extensions

Leg extensions are a great way to keep your knees healthy and target your quads from an angle you don't normally hit with squats, lungs, and deadlifts.

Ideally, you would perform leg extensions one at a time using a quad extension machine at your gym. If you don't have access to a leg extension machine, you can lie on your back with one leg in the air and the other foot on the ground, beginning with a bent knee on the leg that's in the air. Extend your knee until your leg is straight. Slowly return back to the starting position.

6. Hamstring Curls

The last of our leg-strengthening exercises is the hamstring curl. This move is great for keeping your knees and hips healthy by maintaining strong hamstrings with a large range of motion.

The best method is performing these on a hamstring curl machine one leg at a time. If you do not have access to a hamstring curl machine, you can lie face down on the floor with your feet flexed and your toes on the ground. Bend one knee, and bring your heel toward your butt. Slowly reverse the motion. Repeat for all repetitions on one side, then switch to the other leg.

Tyler Read
Tyler Read is a personal trainer and has been involved in health and fitness for the past 15 years. Read more about Tyler
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