Having strong legs will positively impact your overall health:
Better balance….reducing your risk for falls.
Navigate stairs better.
Get up off the floor without struggling.
Bone density will improve reducing your risk for developing osteoporosis.
Joints will be better supported lowering your risk for injury.
Also, strong legs look great!
For all these reasons, never to miss leg day!
The best program for strengthening and sculpting any area is to incorporate a variety of exercises that challenge the muscles in different actions, planes, and angles. In addition, regularly advance and modify these exercises every 4-8 weeks to ensure regular progress.
For the lower body, you should incorporate staple exercises like lunges, squats, step ups, bridging etc. These movements are really great choices because they challenge all the major muscle groups in the lower body so they are efficient and effective. If you aren’t able to perform deep lunges or squats, start with small bends at the knees or ‘mini-squats’ or ‘mini-lunges’ and progress as you get stronger.
There are a ton of variations within each of these exercises, so the key is to mix it up!
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Here are the technique tips for 4 of my favorite lower body exercises:
Complete 1 set of 8-12 reps with a 1-minute rest or core conditioning exercise in between each leg exercise.
Complete two times per week on non-consecutive days and build to 2-3 sets of each exercise.
Split Squat / Stationary Lunge
Start with one leg positioned in front of the other leg.
Keep the front knee over top of the ankle or forefoot.
Keep the back knee underneath or slightly behind your hips.
Slowly lower the back knee towards the ground keeping the front knee over top the ankle/foot the entire time.
Only lower as low as you feel comfortable.
Keep your body weight positioned over the front leg – this is your working leg.
Maintain proper posture, an elongated spine and keep your core active and strong.
Complete 8-12 reps to fatigue for each leg.
Hold hand weights and/or add forward, backward and/or lateral lunging movements to advance this exercise.
Keep your kneecaps facing forward and your feet about shoulder width apart.
Slowly squat down and back to a comfortable depth and then slowly return to the starting position.
You will notice your upper body will come forward to compensate for your hips sinking backwards – just be sure to maintain an elongated spine.
Perform 8-12 repetitions.
You can hold heavy hand-weights or a barbell or add a jump squat or box squat jump to intensify this exercise.
Position yourself in front of a bench with one foot on the bench.
Choose a height that challenges you without straining to complete.
Ideally, you can advance to where the bench height is positioned so that your knee is at about 90 degrees.
Keep your kneecap facing forward and your weight distributed on all four corners of your foot.
Now slowly step up extending the supporting knee into a fully upright, balanced position. Now slowly lower yourself down to the starting position.
Perform one set of 8-12 reps to fatigue for each leg.
Keep the height shorter if this bothers your knees at all. Hold hand weights to advance this exercise.
Lay on your back with your legs bent and your feet positioned on the floor.
With your arms at your side, slowly press your feet into the ground as you lift your hips and buttocks up towards the ceiling feeling your glutes (buttocks) and hamstrings (back of thigh) contract.
Lift until your body weight is resting comfortably on your shoulder blades.
Throughout the entire exercise, be sure to keep your hips square to the ceiling and your core strong and active.
Slowly lift up and down 8-12x.
As you develop strength in your legs, you can do this exercise on just one leg – just be sure not to tilt to one side while doing these 1-leg lifts or try with your legs on a stability ball.
Yours in health & fitness,