I have been exercising for a majority of my life and throughout my time in gym I have been partial to a few exercises. When I see those exercises on my program I get excited like a young teenage girl about to see Hunger games. So in the Post I want to show My 5 favorite Lower body exercise I recommend given them a try if you haven’t already.
5. Back Squat/Front Squats
I truly believe that this exercise will withstand the test of time. This is the basic exercise to build strength in your lower limbs. I usually only go to 90 degrees( upper thigh parallel to floor) but I have at one period of time squat ATG(Ass to Grass). There is a big myth that squats are bad for your knees but I haven’t had any problem with knees. Having a strong lower body will greatly improve the quality of your life. I was first introduced to back squats in the 8th grade. I had a very good strength coach who taught me great technique and it was easy for me to do. If you don’t squat you should think about incorporating them into your program.
4. Trap Bar Deadlift
The Trap Bar Deadlift is a variation of the traditional dead lift which is a great exercise to develop the Posterior chain of the body( Hamstring, Glutes Back extensors). The hex bar is move of a manly hula hoop that you can add weight to. The trap bar dead lift is supposed to be more back friend rather than traditional dead lifts. Because the back level is shorter than traditional deadlift. Professionals are now starting to consider the Trap Bar Dead lift and hybrid exercise due to the amount of knee flexion compared to traditional deadlifts. Great exercise I completely recommend it.
3. Walking Lunges
I have always hated walking Lunges because I would almost without fail be very sore the next day. It is a very dynamic exercise That requires power, stability, strength. If you want a great lower body exercise walking lunges. Sometimes I still have flash back from the first time I perform walking lunges properly. I couldn’t sit right for a week.
2. Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats
RFESS also known as the Bulgarian(Romanian whatever country) split squats. I used to perform this exercise as a supplement exercise for my legs. Up until early 2011 I was learned that you can also perform this exercise pretty heavy not to mention there is a huge stability component of this exercise. I found that you can work you legs just as hard if not harder than the back squats without putting too much weight on your back. The limiting factor in the back squat is not your legs. It is your back you’re only able to squat as much weight as your back will allow. But by going to single leg you can load up more weight on your body one leg at a time. When I first started performing RFESS I was working with 135 lbs on my back and honestly it was kicking my butt. Now I can do 205 lbs comfortably and I noticed that my legs feel stronger than they have in years.
1. Pistol Squats
I take pride in my leg strength it was something that I was naturally good at and I worked hard at trying to improve. In college I was able to squat 565lbs. I was a beast but when we got a new strength coach he felt my squat was strong enough in the bilateral since but he wanted see how strong we were unilaterally. So he started incorporating pistol squats and Single leg Dead lifts The first day I tried to do a pistol squat I could not go anywhere near parallel. It was unbelievable. How can a person with a 500 lbs squat barely perform an average pistol squat. It made me angry but at the same time open up my eyes as to how strength is relative to your goals. I see power lifters throwing up huge numbers. I see body weight people able to perform muscles ups and Full ATG Pistol squats it is truly amazing to how the body can adapt to stimulus.
Single leg Straight leg Deadlifts
Stability ball Leg Curls
Traditional Dead lifts.
Tips for training
1. Write down your goals
If you don’t right down your goal they are still dreams and wishes. Put it on paper and develop a plan to reach that goal. If you don’t have any direction then you don’t have a plan
2. Make sure your goals are specific and obtainable.
Goals like taking over the world or get down to 1% body fat are not obtainable goals( well maybe taking over the world). A good example is lose 20lbs in 10 weeks. Is a good goal. It gives your a specific goal and a timeline to accomplish the goal.
4. One Goal at a time
I have a lot of clients that have list of goals and they try to achieve all of them at once and end up failing. Order your goals by priority and then go down the list. If your goal is fat loss go for Fat loss. If you want to build strength then build strength. Remember a jack of all trades is a master of none.
3. Schedule in assessments
Put in reassessments into your program. This will be crucial to make sure that the program is putting you on pace to reach your goal. Reevaluating your program can help you find flaws that could potentially keep your from getting to where you want to be.
4. Have fun
Give your program some flexibility( not a lot though) because life will get in the way. Which you can’t plan for so stick to your plan but be able to make adjustments when “life” come at you.
Now this is a little issue that has been on my mind for about the last week or so. The forward lunge vs the Reverse lunge. Two exercises that look very similar on the surface but target different muscles in the legs. Now if you were to tell someone they will look at you like you’re crazy. IT is the same motion just one stepping forward the other stepping backwards. But lets look at in-depth
The Forward lunge from a standing position you want to step forward which will cause center of gravity to go forward as well when your front foot hits the ground your glutes, Hamstring, and quadriceps will contract eccentrically to slow your momentum hip stabilizers will fire to keep the knee in line. As you descend down you will get more glutes and hamstring activation especially if you are pushing through your arch to heel on your front foot. Towards the bottom end of the movement you will get more glutes and hamstring activation. On the concentric portion of the movement most of the work is through quadriceps. The last bit of the movement is knee extension. Think about when you’re doing dynamic lunges(alternating lunges) you have to kick a little with your front leg to get you back to the standing position. What major muscles are responsible for knee extension? The answer is quadriceps. Many people usually don’t go the full range of motion in the Lunge and that is why they really feel the burn in the quads because they stay in the range were quad activation in greater. Even in the picture I believe the woman can go even further down and have her back knee touch the ground. Front Lunges will target your quads better than Reverse lunges.
Lets take a look at the Reverse Lunge it start the same way as the Front long instead of stepping forward you take a step backwards. First thing you notice is that you body starts to move in reverse. Second thing you notice is that it is a slightly slower movement. Let think about it for a second with the forward lunge you are shifting the weight from the back leg to the front. In the reverse lunge the weight doesn’t shift in the beginning instead the support leg( the leg that did not step back) has to control your body weight and lower you through the motion. As you lower yourself though the motion your glutes and hamstrings are engage immediately to help lower yourself down. You lower until your knee touches the ground then you stand back up. The up motion is completely different from the front lunge The front lunge ended up being a pushing motion. The reverse lunge on the way back up is a pulling motion through the hip. You are pulling yourself forward, it basically the same motion when your running and walk. Hip extension is controlled by the glutes and Hamstrings. Some people will argue that you push-off the back the back leg to get forward. Yes there is some help with a push to help get your momentum forward but I will argue that your hips are more involved in a reverse lunge than the front lunge. Why do you think women who want to tone they hips and buttocks do reverse lunges over front lunges. IF you still don’t believe me grab some dumbbells and do a couple of sets of reverse lunges and tell me what hurts 2 days later. I bet it will be your glutes.
If you’re trying to make a decision between forward and reverse lunges it will depend on what muscles(movements) you’re trying to target. If you’re going for a knee dominate quadriceps movement go with the Forward lunge. If you are looking more Posterior chain movement then I suggest the Reverse lunge it will hit your hamstring and glutes more.
Random thoughts this is what I’ve been thinking about in the last week or so.
My girlfriend has posed a question last week that got me thinking. She asked why there isn’t any uniform or standard that all fitness and health professionals agree upon. For example a doctor will tell a person they need to go for a walk occasionally. While a fitness professional will say that walking will do little to nothing to improve your health. Why is that? Couldn’t all the professionals come together and agree upon a standard that all people follow. I was thinking that would be way too difficult because the definition for fitness or being healthy is subjective. There are many people who believe that being able to run 10+ plus miles as being in shape. Others believe that being able lift double your body weight in different exercises is a sign of being in shape. I personally consider being in shape doing being able to perform in my sport without problem. With so many definitions of Fitness it is hard to develop a standard without conflicts with another group. If I had a choice between cardiovascular exercises and resistance exercises. I would choose resistance exercises. Others would choose cardiovascular exercise. Is there anything wrong with either choose? I don’t think so people will argue. I think if you are in good health if you’re able to perform daily activities without problem.
Another problem is that there are several different certifications that you can find throughout the world each certifications have different recommendations, and standards of practice. The major Personal trainer certifications are ACE, NASM, ACSM, NSCA, NCSF, NFPT, NESTA, and IFPA. 8 different certifications that are recognized in the United States alone what about the international companies. Each of the companies have different standard and practices. Not to mention there are several other major certifications that do not fall into those 8 groups as well. Not to mention people go to universities to study Exercise science, and Kinesiology. It is honestly pretty ridiculous because for all these groups to come together to come up with a standard is most likely not happening.
In the last couple of weeks I have been very busy with my job and research that I am doing to help improve myself. I also have switched gears from a long distance endurance athlete to power and strength. I have currently been doing Wendler’s 5/3/1 lifting program. I have been on the program for about three weeks. and It’s just like Wendler says it is the simplest and most effective program for strength gain. This is my thought on the program so far. I think it is a great program but you must have some experience in the weight room first before you begin the program. The reason why I say that is that there is little to know program for assistance work. For example I am doing the 5/3/1 for the Big lifts(Bench Press, Squat, Dead lift, Military Press). Each day is a lift in which the program followed by assistance work depending on what your goals. I chose to stay as athletic as possible. So the assistance work for the program would say on Bench day 75 x BW( Body weight) chin ups & 75 x BW push ups. There is no specific set rep scheme for the chin ups or push-ups. People who don’t have any idea on how to program will be able to develop a plan to to make sure they are achieving the assistance work. Other than that the main lifts will take a lot of effort and give you plenty of room to push yourself on open sets. Once you get done with the main lift you feel very accomplish. Now the program runs in 4 week cycles and you will have to max out at the end of each cycle( 1 week is a deload week which will allow you to recover.) If you are an advance lifter and you are looking for strength gains I completely recommend the Wendler’s 5/3/1 for strength gains. If your not sure in how to program assistance exercises in the program then you can find someone to help you
As you go through your workouts day after day you start to lose some motivation. Now there can be a number of reasons why this happens it could be your diet, boredom( or tired of doing the same exercises) or it could be that things are happening in your life. Eventually you find your yourself constantly trying to amp yourself up before a work. Constantly trying to get your juices going before your work out. Now this constant amping yourself has made you good at preparing yourself for the workout but what about after the workout? Can you also teach yourself how to relax? Teaching your self how to relax is a very underrated skill. The constant abuse that we put our body through on a daily basis can cause the body to break down. Muscle tissue, ligaments, tendons, nervous system, bones, and the rest of your body is put under stress from all the physical activity. There are times in which we have to give our selves time to recover, heal, and rebuild. If you constantly in a hyped ready to tackle the day mood. You’re putting your body under stress. Chronic stress will do a lot of damage to your body with time. That is why I tell my clients that they need to practice how to relax. Some of my friends who are great basketball players and athletes can tell their mind and body to relax at the drop of a hat. It is a skill that has kept their bodies healthy. Being able to turn you body off will help decrease Cortisol levels and allow the body to go into repair mode. It is very important to schedule time for relaxation and rest. It is just as important as working out and without rest how do you expect your body to rebuild to make improvements.