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story.lead_photo.caption Lauren Ritchie demonstrates the Kettlebell Leg Warmup for Master Class. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/CELIA STOREY)

Functional leg training is one of my favorite topics because I believe that functional training lends itself perfectly to the lower body. Even though many of us have to sit a lot for work, people with all types of lifestyles and occupations use their leg muscles all day long. All of us could use legs that are always ready to perform the activities we always perform.

Legs provide the foundation of everything related to movement. They move us from point A to point B; they give us the ability to climb, leap and rise from a seated position. But a construction worker uses them in a different way from someone who works in the Human Resources department. Postal workers need their legs to perform different functions from a high school athlete. We all need our legs to provide the specific movement patterns that are unique to our lifestyle, occupation and hobbies.

This sounds a bit like analyzing the obvious, but that's what functional training is all about. It's training to help the body perform its daily activities easily, confidently, with less risk of injury. It's adjusting training stimulus to elicit results that coincide with one's daily movement patterns.

The fun part is analyzing one's daily activity patterns to isolate certain common movements that are performed over and over.

Most people don't realize the same movement patterns tend to be repeated at home, at work and during their leisure time — but they definitely are. And they can create overuse injuries and imbalances.

My advice is to think about the things you do the most and work backward from there. Do you squat, lift or climb throughout the day? Is most of your day spent in a chair? The answers to such questions will guide the exercise prescription decisions to create the ideal workout.

Regardless of which exercises make up the bulk of the lower body functional program, a proper leg warmup is paramount. This week's exercise provides exactly that, an easy to follow warmup activity that is appropriate for all fitness levels.

1. Select a medium-weight kettlebell and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Hold the kettlebell with both hands, arms outstretched toward the floor while standing upright.

3. Squat down as far as you feel comfortable or until the base of the kettlebell touches the floor.

4. Pause for 3 seconds, then step back with the left foot and tap the left toe behind you.

5. Bring the left foot back underneath you and perform the same toe tap with the right toe.

6. Continue for 10 alternating toe taps with good upright posture.

The Kettlebell Leg Warmup is so effective because the knees remain slightly flexed throughout the set. This requires the quadriceps to fire constantly, which helps them fill with blood and oxygen to prepare the legs for the coming workout. The key is to determine how far back to step based on your own fitness level, so experiment with different distances until you find one that's right for you. Enjoy!

Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.

vballtop@aol.com

Style on 11/04/2019

Print Headline: Functional leg training perfect for lower body

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