When it comes to training we all have a different approach, whether its Bodybuilding, CrossFit, or Powerlifting. There is one thing that people who use these styles of training, they have ridiculous legs!
When you see anyone who takes either of these types of training styles seriously you can tell that they have strong powerful legs. Even on social media you see it, with the “Don’t skip leg day” caption with someone flexing their legs that you can see every muscle separation in the quadricep muscle group.
Below we have listed some KEY lower body exercises you should be adding to your routine.
This one seems like a no brainer however, there are a lot of people that as they get older try to avoid squatting..
Whether it’s an excuse of “back pain” or “knee pain” more times than not that’s not an indicator that you should not be doing squats, or they say it hurts their back. The squat is the foundation of lower body exercise that recruits a ton of muscle fibres and stimulates the entire body in ways most other exercises don’t.
This in turn can stimulate a lot of hormone release such as growth hormone to aid in muscle growth and some fat loss (who doesn’t like that).
The big question in terms of depth and width of the stance for a squat is strictly a person to person basis. Play around with the stance that works best for you. Normally standing with feet shoulder width is a great place to start and then work your feet out and find the foot position that works for you to get to 90-degrees of knee flexion (bent knee) with your knees not going past your toes.
This can also help with back pain or knee pain as this would allow you to squat in the pattern that works for your body. If you have issues figuring out how to squat it always helps to seek help from someone who has been lifting for a while to help teach you.
There are a few variations of the squat that you can do such as front squat, back squat, goblet squat, and split squat.
In terms of which one you should be doing in your program it should contain a variety of these squats.
Typically starting with a back squat as a main lift and doing goblet squats and spit squats as accessory lifts is common, however if you cannot do a back squat without back pain or you find yourself falling forward in the squat start with a goblet squat and advance towards the back squat when your movement pattern improves.
This may be a new one for some people. The GHR is a great accessory exercise that should be a staple in any program. This really taxes the hamstring and the glutes, a muscle usually that is under-active in most.
This exercise is very important to help with glute activation and hamstring development by forcing the glutes to activate and prevent lumbar flexion of the spine during the concentric phase of the movement.
It is strongly suggested to start with slow eccentrics of four to six seconds (downward phase). Focus on squeezing the glutes and the hamstrings on the way down keeping your upper body as straight as possible.
If you do not have a GHR machine you can do this with a partner kneeling on the ground and have them stand on the soles of your shoes or holding you at your ankles as you perform the lift.
This is also the way to start the progression of this exercise then move to the machine once you develop the confidence and strength to be able to control both movements.
While the spit squat was mentioned as an alternative squat variation its best to give this exercise its own spot.
The reason being as individuals we tend to be one side dominant, whether it right or left is dependent on the person, this can be a big downside later with imbalance issue. The split squat is a great exercise to help combat the difference in leg strength.
This exercise can be performance using a barbell, dumbbells, or just using your body weight. The key for the split squat is to be able to get the same 90-degrees knee flexion without letting your knee go past your toes at the end of the movement.
Adding in these few exercises can help take your leg training to the next level in terms of performance and injury risk management. It is very important to make sure you always focus on form over the weight on all lifting exercises and start with what you feel comfortable doing.
Speed lifts (e.g., box squats, speed deads & speed bench) are essential to increasing strength, acceleration and power.
One of the main reasons we go to the gym is to build muscle mass. The first year we start training we make insane progress, then all of a sudden we hit a brick wall and all progress begins to plateau.