Your lower body is the most important part of your body to train. Not only does it carry your upper body around, but the link between lower body and core is the part most susceptible to injuries. Your hamstrings, glutes, and hips are underused during a day spent sitting down in an office chair, so it’s vital that you spend more time training them along with your thighs. Here are a few of the best leg workouts to do at the gym:
This is a killer movement that combines explosive force with anaerobic exercise. You have to explode off the ground to jump, but your thigh muscles do a lot of the work of catching you when you land and go into the squat. You’ll feel the burn in your legs in no time!
Think of these as the Lunge version of Squat Jumps. You start in a lunge position, jump up, and switch your feet to land in a lunge position with the opposite foot forward. You still feel the burn in your thighs, hips, and glutes, but the effort is increased thanks to the fact that you’re jumping and landing. It’s one of the best exercises for developing lower body mobility and strength.
Nothing beats the classics! For raw power, you can’t beat Squats. Squats hit your thighs more effectively than any other exercise and take a lot of the strain off your knees. It can be a bit tough on your lower back (especially Back Squats), but it’s highly effective for building strong quads. Every leg day should involve at least a few sets of squats!
If you want to focus more on your glutes and the quad muscles nearer your knee, you’ll want to mix in Lunges. The fact that you’re extending your legs means your secondary muscles have to kick in to keep your balance. Lunges work your glutes and hamstrings very effectively along with your quads. It also helps to increase hip mobility and balance.
Both stiff-legged and regular Deadlifts focus on your lower back. The only difference is HOW low. Regular deadlifts engage your glutes and hamstrings, but the emphasis is on your spinal erector muscles. When you keep your knees locked and your legs stiff, the emphasis is shifted downward. Your lower back still does a lot of the work, but your glutes and hamstrings share the load more evenly. The result is some serious power in the rear leg muscles.
Elevated Split Squat
If you want to get complicated and advanced, this exercise is the way to go. It’s like a Lunge (or a Split Squat), but with your rear foot elevated on a bench or step. This places a lot more emphasis on the forward leg, hitting those quads hard. The rear leg muscles don’t engage as much, but there is enough work there to feel the burn at the end of every set. Even if you can’t do single-leg or pistol squats, these Split Squats are a great way to focus on one leg at a time.
Reverse Lunges, Around the World Lunges, Side Lunges, and Skater Lunges all hit the hamstring, hip, glutes, and quadriceps muscles from different angles. The result is greater strength and mobility overall. You’re not locked into that one forward plane of motion, but the lateral movement helps to improve flexibility and joint mobility. The result is much more efficient movement through all types of activity, not just when lifting weights.