Top 4 Leg Exercises for Strength and Conditioning
Why do we want to work legs?
Well your legs are the biggest muscle groups and are also important for testosterone growth.
Also by strengthen your legs you are strengthening your ligaments and tendons and adding more support to your joints.
Here are a list of leg exercises essential to any training program:
Improves just about all the muscles you have on your legs plus a bit lower back an core. There are variations that will put more emphasis on different muscles but will still work your legs overall ie front squat works more front plane like quads and core.
Start of with perfecting the bodyweight squats first then after building up some strength move on to resistance work on barbells and dumbbells or adding jumps with no resistance . You can then advance to more complex squats like overhead squats, one legged squats.
Here are the main points to a perfect squat:
- Face the bar. Grab and place behind shoulders to back squat orfront of shoulders to front squat
- Move your feet under bar hip width and lift from rack. Take 2 steps back lock your hips and knees
- Take a deep breath and suck in belly button. Squat down staying on your heels with knees coming outward above ankles. Keep back neutral.
- Squat until ass inch or 2 from floor. You should now be past parallel from your knees
Stand up keeping your belly button in(core engaged) and chest out. Breathe out
Lunges are like squats but using mainly 1 leg with other supporting so therefore working twice as hard as squats. A more difficult exercise to master as there is now more of a balance element to it, there are also variations to this using equipment the same as squats.
You can Also Lunge multi-directional making the exercise varied to recruit more muscles.
Start off with bodyweight exercises first to master the technique then after a few weeks move onto to resistance exercises using kettlebells, barbells and dumbbells
Here are the main points to a perfect lunge
- Stand with feet hip-width apart,
- Engage TVA by sucking in your navel(belly button)
- Take a big step forward while maintaining balance (no pelvic shift).
- Engage glutes as you bend front knee to lower body so back knee lightly taps floor while keeping upper body upright.
- Drive front heel into floor to return to starting position
Deadlift is a massive lift and done correctly not only improves your leg strength but also your core and upper body as well.
Not as many variations to this as squats but lifts like stiff leg deadlifts using barbell, dumbbells or kettlebells. More advanced lifts would be 1 legged lifts.
This lift requires someone to spot your technique. There are a host of weaknesses that appear with deadlifts. On toes instead of heels, knees coming in together, back arched either inward or outwards. Possibly the most injury prone exercise if I am honest as I have seen this go horribly wrong.
Start by perfecting your squat so that your lower body is strong in balance as well as strength. I would also look to strengthen you upper body as well as you grip the resistance and lean slightly forward requires strength in your back and core.
Here are tips to a great deadlift
- Stand feet hip width apart with bottom of toes underneath the bar
- Soften knees, grab onto the bar while keeping your back flat. Stay on heels. Stretch out your hamstrings so that there is no downward curve on your lower back
- Flex out your chest and straighten out your back. Suck in your belly button and squeeze the top of your back
- Pull. Breathe out and stand upright with no excessive upwards curve on your lower back. You belly button should still be tucked in. Your joints should be perfectly stacked
Here is a video from Bodybuilding.com on how to Deadlift
Probably most forgotten about exercise apart from in the summer months. Simple effective exercise is essential to strengthen especially if you are gaining muscle in upper legs and body.
The variation in foot positions from toes out to in or vice versa. Also ski position are also good for hitting different muscle groups.
When adding resistance to the exercise use dumbbells or my personal favourite the smith machine. Adding more resistance will add more muscle and the key to bigger stronger calves is in the tempo of the lift and also the squeeze contraction at the top of the lift.
Beware of calf DOMS though especially when you have to drive home or take the stairs
Here are coaching points to calf raises
- Stand hip width apart and drive heels from the floor as high as possible while keeping a natural posture. Push evenly through the width of your foot.
- Squeeze calves at the top while maintaining an even position and slowly lower feet down to start position
Hope this helps. Check here for a post on how to do this awesome bodyweight exercise.