Identifying Leg and Glute Muscles
Your legs and glutes are the largest muscle groups in your body. They help you walk, bend, lift your legs, stabilize your body, and promote your back health. It is important to know something about these muscles as you exercise them. Being able to visualize where they are and how they work will make your workouts more effective.
Hip Flexors and Quadriceps
The hip flexors assist you in lifting your legs to the front. You use these muscles while walking up stairs or standing up on a step. They are located opposite of your glutes. If you sit a lot during the day, they may be shorter than normal. Exercise and stretching can help strengthen them so that they are more useful.
Your quadriceps are located in the front of your thighs. As you can see by the prefix quad, there are four main muscles in this group:
Rectus femoris (the largest)
The main function of this muscle group is to allow you to extend your leg from the knee, as in walking or bending.
Your buttocks are often referred to as your “glutes.” This is actually a group of three muscles: gluteus maximus (the largest), gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus (smallest).
The gluteus maximus helps you walk and jump. The gluteus medius helps with more lateral movement. The gluteus minimus is used to help rotate the leg outward. It is also located underneath the area where, one might say, you have saddlebags.
The more strengthened a muscle is, the more calories it burns at rest. So even if you are sleeping, muscle mass will be burning calories. Fatty tissue does not do this even while you exercise. So the more muscles you have, the more calories you burn at rest.
Thighs and Hamstrings
A special word needs to be said about your thighs, particularly your inner thighs. This area is one of the least worked areas of the body. And yet, it is also the one that will be called upon repeatedly in labor.
The inner thigh is called your hip adductor. It helps move your legs across the body, for example, in crossing your feet over each other, or doing dance steps. It also helps stabilize your knees. The outer thigh is called your hip abductor. This muscle helps move your foot away from your body and helps in stabilizing your hips and knees.
The easiest way to remember the difference in their functions is to look at the prefix. To add to the body is to be a hip adductor — you are moving that leg inward, toward your body. The abductor moves away from the body.
The hamstrings are located in the back of your thighs. They function to bring your heel toward your glutes and to help you bend your knees. They do work with the other muscles in this area to produce a movement, such as bringing your leg up behind you. Many women find this area to be a tight area, which can cause pain. Stretching and warming up before a workout can help alleviate this problem.
How can I prevent leg cramps at night?
Many pregnant women suffer from leg cramps, particularly at night. Well-toned and strengthened muscles will be less susceptible to this problem, which can be very painful. Stretching the lower leg just before bed and ensuring that you have plenty of calcium and potassium in your diet are ways to help alleviate this problem.
The calf muscles are located in the back of your leg, below the knee. The soleus and gastrocnemius muscles make up this muscle group. The soleus muscle lies underneath the gastrocnemius muscle, which is what you see when you look at your calf. These muscles help you stabilize the ankle joint and move when you lift your heel.
Your anterior tibialis, or shin muscle, is on the front part of your lower leg, under your knee. Unless you are suffering from shin splints, you probably don't pay much attention to this muscle, which is contracted as you lift the ball of your foot.