Your legs/lower body, along with your back, is one of the largest body parts comprised of several different muscles, including the Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Calves, and Glutes. For a lot of people the words "Leg Day" send shivers down their spines. Why you ask? Because hitting Legs is difficult and it HURTS LIKE HELL! You see a lot of people in the gym, guys especially, with "Chicken Legs". Now this could be due to a lot of reasons, maybe they bust their butt on leg day, but they aren't genetically gifted with big legs. Maybe they aren't eating enough calories in order for their legs to grow. Or maybe even because they are consistently doing the wrong exercises for their. But for some folks, the sad truth is that they skip working out legs altogether, and that is a big No-no in my book.
So if you are guilty of not hitting legs, start hitting them. And if you need some knowledge and/or ideas of the best bang for your buck exercises you should be doing for your legs & lower body, hopefully this article will help you out. The exercises that we will be talking about today will all be compound movements, or in other words multijoint exercises.In addition to recruiting more muscle mass into the movement, multijoint exercises generate greater release of the muscle-building hormones testosterone and growth hormone. The amount of muscle called into play is critical on leg day because there are so many large muscle groups involved: the glutes (three muscles), quads (four muscles), hamstrings (three muscles), and calves (two muscles). And that list doesn't even include stabilizer muscles that are also recruited into many multijoint movements!
So without further ado, here are the top 5 exercises that when put together will hit the entire Lower Body:
#1 Squats: Squats are awesome simply because they're the most challenging leg exercise you can do, especially when loaded appropriately. They work the whole lower-body musculature and core, and have even been shown to spike muscle-building hormone release. They're are so many different variations of squats you can do, including: High Bar & Low Bar Squats, Front Squats, Hack Squats, Box Squats, Zercher Squats, Machine Squats, etc. The point being, do some variation of a squat, it is one of the most fundamental moves, which should always be included in your routine.
How to do the Squat:
Begin with the barbell supported on top of the traps. The chest should be up and the head facing forward. Adopt a hip-width stance with the feet turned out as needed.
Descend by flexing the knees, refraining from moving the hips back as much as possible. This requires that the knees travel forward. Ensure that they stay align with the feet. The goal is to keep the torso as upright as possible.
Continue all the way down, keeping the weight on the front of the heel. At the moment the upper legs contact the lower legs reverse the motion, driving the weight upward.
#2 Romanian Deadlifts: This upper hamstrings/glute exercise is great because you can use some serious weight on it. Most hamstring routines focus on single joint leg-curl movements, which center around the knee joint, but this one works from the hip joint. Remember, multijoint free weight compound movement will always be the best bang for your buck, they utilize more muscle, allow you to lift more weight, and as a result help you burn more calories.
How to do the Romanian Deadlift:
Hold a bar or a pair of dumbbells at hip level with a pronated (palms facing down) grip. Your shoulders should be back, your back arched, and your knees slightly bent. This will be your starting position.
Lower the bar by moving your butt back as far as you can. Keep the bar close to your body, your head looking forward, and your shoulders back. Done correctly, you should reach the maximum range of your hamstring flexibility just below the knee. Any further movement will be compensation and should be avoided for this movement.
At the bottom of your range of motion, return the starting position by driving the hips forward to stand up tall.
#3 Walking Lunges: Like all the movements listed thus far, multijoint lunges require hip and knee extension, which gives you the stimulus for the thighs and glutes. They can be done standing in place, or stepping forward or backward. You can also choose between a barbell, dumbbells, or just your own bodyweight.
How to do Walking Lunges:
Begin standing with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands on your hips.
Step forward with one leg, flexing the knees to drop your hips. Descend until your rear knee nearly touches the ground. Your posture should remain upright, and your front knee should stay above the front foot.
Drive through the heel of your lead foot and extend both knees to raise yourself back up.
Step forward with your rear foot, repeating the lunge on the opposite leg.
#4 Leg Press: Like hack squats, the leg press allows for a variety of foot positions, effectively enabling you to target weaknesses such as the teardrops or outer thighs. The leg press also allows you to really stack on the weight, since it's a machine and you aren't utilizing as many stabilizing muscles as you would in a free weight movement. Be careful not to lower the sled too far, though; doing so will lift your glutes up off the butt pad and cause your lower spine to curl. A rounded back puts you at risk for an injury. However, leg presses can never replace squats. Leg press recruits less muscle mass than squats, it simply doesn't generate the same degree of testosterone release.
How to do the Leg Press:
Using a leg press machine, sit down on the machine and place your legs on the platform directly in front of you at a medium (shoulder width) foot stance. (Note: For the purposes of this discussion we will use the medium stance described above which targets overall development; however you can choose any of the three stances described in the foot positioning section).
Lower the safety bars holding the weighted platform in place and press the platform all the way up until your legs are fully extended in front of you. Tip:Make sure that you do not lock your knees. Your torso and the legs should make a perfect 90-degree angle. This will be your starting position.
As you inhale, slowly lower the platform until your upper and lower legs make a 90-degree angle.
Pushing mainly with the heels of your feet and using the quadriceps go back to the starting position as you exhale.
Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions and ensure to lock the safety pins properly once you are done. You do not want that platform falling on you fully loaded.
Caution: Always check to make sure that when you re-rack the weight the platform is securely locked.
Variations: All foot stance variations described in the foot stance section.
#5 Barbell Glute Bridge: The Barbell Glute Bridge is a great compound movement that works out primarily your Glutes, as the title indicates, but also brings in your Hamstrings and Calves as well. Your glutes are gonna get hit anyway when you are doing Squats and Deadlifts, but this movement really isolates and hits them hard.
How to do the Barbell Glute Bridge:
Begin seated on the ground with a loaded barbell over your legs. Using a fat bar or having a pad on the bar can greatly reduce the discomfort caused by this exercise. Roll the bar so that it is directly above your hips, and lay down flat on the floor.
Begin the movement by driving through with your heels, extending your hips vertically through the bar. Your weight should be supported by your upper back and the heels of your feet.
Extend as far as possible, then reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
So give this a shot, and remember, DON'T SKIP LEG DAY!!!