Lethal Legs: Step Up Your Lower Body Workout

lower body workoutWith so many shapes and sizes working out at the gym, we’d expect those who strength train to focus on a variety of goals to be fit. Still—we see a lot of amazing upper bodies. We want to make sure you’re giving your legs the attention they deserve. Symmetry is important, both for strength as well as for appearance, and these lower body workout techniques will help.

A Lower Body Workout for Beginners
  • For Your Quads (front of the thigh): First look for the leg press machine. Performing a set or two on the leg press machine with very light weights can serve as a warm up. And then two to three sets of 10 – 15 reps with more weight is a good place to start.

When you’re ready to progress to a multi-joint exercise, you can replace the leg press machine with squats—which hit far more muscles of the lower body than just the quads.

Leg extensions are a simple choice for beginners working on their quads, too. Again, try starting out with two sets of at least 10 repetitions, progressing to three sets of 15.

  • For Your Hamstrings (back of the thigh): The leg curl machine will work your hamstrings in isolation, making it the right choice to combine with the leg press and extension machines—you want balance. Select the weight that allows you to perform a similar amount of sets and reps as you did with the quad exercises on the other machines.
  • For Your Calves: A calf raise exercise, either seated or standing, is the most direct way to work the back of the lower leg. There are benefits to both positions, but the standing calf raise better targets the larger muscle of the calf because the knee is not bent. You can typically use heavy weights with calf exercises, because of their structure, which is made to work hard for us upright beings.
Next Steps for More Mass
  • Multi-joint Moves: Multi-joint moves work more than one joint at a time, and for lower body workout moves, it means a combination hips, knees and/or ankles. This increases the need for technique, especially for engaging your core and aligning you joints. But it pays off by recruiting more muscle than single joint moves can do alone.

The more weight you work with, the more mass you can build, with these tough but effective exercises – you’ll want to perform shorter sets of fewer reps with heavier weights for these multi-joint exercises, say three to four sets of 4 – 6 reps.

Classic lower body workout favorites are squats, lunges and deadlifts to target just about everything below the waist, including the glutes. They can be performed with dumbbells or barbells. Try full barbell squats, barbell deadlifts and dumbbell front lunges, for starters.

  • Working out the Angles: Your lower body had a lot of muscle expanse, including some of the longest or biggest in the body. The more muscle fibers you recruit, the more effective your workouts will be, so changing up the angle at which you hit your muscles is important for symmetry and balance.

It’s simple enough, but not easy to do—using various positions of the weights or body, switching up your stance and even progressing to single leg exercises are examples of ways to work from different angles. But they’re tough!

Once you’ve mastered the classic versions of multi-joint moves, move on to try barbell front squats, Romanian deadlifts and dumbbell rear lunges. When you’re ready for a maximum challenge, take on the single leg “pistol” squat.

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