The deadlift is a great all-round muscle and power builder, so it’s great for both physique … For added deliberation, here are our picks for the top 10 calf exercises. Then you stand up. Those who are just starting out should stick to the basics until proper form, range of motion and targeting are mastered. d. For a more difficult progression, rise onto the toes when swinging the knee up to 90 degrees. I’ll do two workouts per week for legs, but will instead focus on a heavy/athletic day and a light/aesthetic day. The debate begins here. From here, powerfully press upward to the start position, keeping your knees bent slightly at the top to protect them from hyperextension. The latest in featured workouts, supplementation, nutrition tips, and more! How-To: Stand upright holding a barbell in front of your upper thighs with an overhand grip. Strengths: “The walking lunge is a dynamic movement, requiring coordination and muscle recruitment to perform correctly,” explains Gene Flores, CSCS, a physical therapist and orthopedic clinical specialist at Vargo Physical Therapy, an outpatient clinic in Reseda, Calif. “This exercise is predominantly a unilateral activity no matter which way it’s performed, with emphasis on the front rather than the back leg. The lateral lunge is a simple yet effective leg exercise that will have you fully loading your weight on each leg and it will force maximum activation in the quads and glutes. Bigger muscles require more energy to move around, so you burn more calories in the process. Admittedly, you’ll probably feel like an idiot when learning this move. It has built my quads, improved my balance and increased my vertical leap.”. I think it’s most important to develop a strong mind-muscle connection. How-To: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, step forward with one foot and rest your rear foot on an elevated platform or bench, top of the foot facing down. Erin Says: “This is a staple in my routine. And just as important, it helps provide variety in what might otherwise be a very squat-centric leg program. I started doing rack squats, which target the top third of the movement. You can either repeat with the same leading leg for all reps and then switch or alternate your lead leg from step to step. This exercise can be performed for 2-3 sets of 4-8 reps. 6. They’re all proven muscle builders and should be rotated through a proper leg-training program over the course of a training cycle to maximize your development. 10 Plyometric Exercises For Power and Explosiveness. Most athletic movements are … As you already know, the barbell back squat is No. Here’s another power-producing leg exercise that teaches your body to change directions quickly. Possibly our favorite exercise in this rugby leg workout program. Bulgarian split squats are an effective way to develop power, coordination and resolve the above problems. You can do stationary lunges in any direction — front, side, backward or any point in between — and have a damn fine exercise on your hands. THREE EXERCISES TO IMPROVE SINGLE LEG POWER Most sport and lifestyle activities require us to be explosive, change direction, and jump when only one foot is planted on the ground. Do you use a lot of variety in your leg routine, or is it better to stick to a few proven exercises? When your knee joint forms at least a 90-degree angle, reverse the motion, driving through the heel of your forward foot to return to standing. Yet another amazing leg exercise that targets the entire backside of your body, which means stronger and firmer glutes, hamstrings, and low back muscles. “The hack squat machine also allows you to go a little heavier without sacrificing too much form as you would performing bar squats since your back is supported, which decreases the chance of injury. “We do no less than 600 [reps] per month just for maintenance, and at other times we use 135 pounds of heavy weight,” Simmons says, the “we” referring to the select group of powerlifters and athletes who train at his exclusive Westside Barbell gym in Columbus, Ohio. He contends that over-elevating the back leg — putting it on a flat bench or even higher — reduces the stability of the front leg, thus limiting your strength potential and putting you at risk for injury while also unnecessarily stressing the spine. Use this 7 exercises to build strength, muscle and also to improve your Squats. Erin Says: “The benefit of free-weight exercises is the countless variations you can come up with. Bend knees slightly and jump as far as possible to the right. Strong Legs – Bulgarian Split Squat I’ll stick to simple math! Being a unilateral exercise, it also means a stronger leg can’t compensate for a weaker one, with each leg taking its turn absorbing the full brunt of the motion. Strengths:  This move focuses on each leg individually, so you can pay full attention to each without a stronger leg compensating for a weaker one (as can happen on any bilateral exercise). These are two staple lifts, and I relied on both when I was training for the Figure stage and for track and field. Strong Legs – Bulgarian Split Squat 1 here is about as surprising as a Donald Trump publicity stunt. 1 on our list. Use this 7 exercises to build strength, muscle and also to improve your Squats. The Single-Leg Box Jump builds explosive power individually in each leg. It tightens my hip flexors and hurts my lower back. Extend your hips to finish the exercise. After all, you probably walk up stairs on a fairly regular basis, right? Plus, I don’t want to pull out a calculator to find the cosine of the angle of the sled, multiplied by the weight added. You’ll fall on your can in the bottom position and likely lose your balance repeatedly. Strengths: You may notice a pattern here — well, you should, at least — but like the other exercises on this list, the key to results with the Romanian deadlift is pinpoint form. How-To: Get into position on the bench, securing your ankles between the rollers, your knees on the pads and your feet on the platform. All in all, this compound exercise not only strengthen your legs, but is a great way to improve flexibility and balance. Jumping Lunges. A closed chain provides for a stronger base of power without as much shearing force on the knee joint as can occur in an open-chain exercise like the knee extension, which didn’t make the list for that very reason. How-To: Sit squarely in the leg press machine and place your feet shoulder-width apart on the sled. Here are 5 exercises to build into your workout routine. Your knees should be slightly bent and your toes turned out slightly. How-To:Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and hold a bar across your upper back. “As for which is better, it depends on your posture, technique, previous injuries and personal preference. I think that too much isolation work can cause the physique to not “flow” as well. In fact, if using calories is the goal, strength training is the way to go. Do not forcefully lock out the knee. The quadriceps muscle is a powerful, four-headed beast of a muscle group, and unless you develop hamstrings with enough strength of equal measure to balance out the quads, your knees will be forever prone to injury. Strong Legs will improve your athletic ability in almost every area. Who said beginner's couldn't train explosively? With 1,000,000+ readers and 5,000,000+ pageviews monthly, from more than 185 countries, it connects the worldwide fitness community. Reach your leg laterally from the midline of your body while keeping the opposite leg … At the bottom, your nonworking leg and arms will be out in front of you for balance with your planted foot flat on the floor. While some leg exercises increase your strength, this plyometric exercise will improve your power and can be a real pulse-raiser too. “Most important, do not let the front knee turn in or out excessively.”, Erin Says: “I like this exercise as a finisher. CrossFit is a registered trademark of CrossFit, Inc. Strong and powerful legs are a pre-requisite for any serious athlete. Keep your back flat, core tight and the bar sliding along the front of your legs on the way up and down and you’ll build thick, impressive, protruding hamstrings. If your goal is to compete in powerlifting, then yes, squats are paramount. In our list, back squat is No. This is especially important because most jumping motions in sports are off one leg… e. To address power, repeat the sequence lifting the knee to 90 degrees as quickly as possible each time. Barbell squats utilize barbells held at the chest in front or on the traps behind the neck. Main Areas Targeted: Quadriceps (emphasized with feet lower on platform and closer together), glutes and hamstrings (emphasized with feet higher and wider on platform). With your chest up and core tight, unhook the safeties and slowly lower yourself, stopping when your thighs are just past parallel to the platform. Lunges come in more varieties than Taylor Swift breakup songs. Within the confines of the machine, you’ll find a bit more safety than you would with the free-weight squat, which becomes more crucial as you tire during a workout. Now, with the goal of staying healthy and lean and looking good, I have to disagree. And when guys load every last plate in the gym on the sled and try to half-ass a few reps out, with their lower back disengaging from the pad on every rep in part due to woefully inflexible hamstrings and glutes, that’s about as incorrect as you can get. Do you like to train quads and hams on different days? We know, ranking barbell back squats No. How-To Hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of a knee- to hip-high step, bench or platform. Strengths: From a muscle-stimulation perspective, the glute-ham raise has been found to be on par with an exercise higher on our list, the revered Romanian deadlift, as reported in a small comparative study of hamstring exercises published in the June 2014 issue of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Bring your trailing leg up and stand atop the platform, then step back with either leg to return to the floor. Use single-leg exercises to improve acceleration, rate of force production and contribute to overall power output. Strengths: The step-up comes in all sorts of variations and can be adjusted to challenge beginners and advanced athletes alike. Then add variety to break through plateaus and to hit the muscles from different angles. Sets/Reps: 3x6 with 2 minutes between sets. Consider this the functional cousin of No. And why not? Do 4-8 sets of these sprints and reap the … If so, walk through it for us. (ii) Training your legs with lunges offer explosive power to your legs. And trust us: If they’re avid squatters, their legs are huge, so that’s a stampede you want no part of. Performing depth jumps from lower plyo boxes (around 30”) will lead to the greatest explosive strength and reaction gains, while performing them from higher plyo boxes (around 42”) will lead to the greatest strength development. Why or why not? I have always taken a holistic approach to training. Create a personalized feed and bookmark your favorites. Chances are, your gym won’t have Louie Simmons’ Westside Series glute-ham developer. This will help you maintain bar placement.”. Do you agree with that assessment? No single exercise is arguably as effective, not only for the intended lower-body target muscles but for all the muscles from your shoulders, chest and back down to your core, all of which fire to maintain your posture and balance as you rep. Main Areas Targeted:Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, core, Strengths:“You need strong legs from the ankles to the hips, and back squats work the lower-body prime movers, stabilizers and synergists,” Kirchofner explains. Training your tibialis ensures balance in your lower-leg musculature and further fortifies you against injury. 9 above and remember: The more functional you are, the better you’ll be at mastering any exercise or physical activity. This movement works the hamstrings from the hips, a necessary addition to a hams routine that might otherwise be dominated by variations of the leg curl (seated, lying and standing) that all work the muscle from the knee joint. It’s a great way to even out any asymmetries.”. Bend your knees to lower the platform, stopping before your glutes lift off the pad. You place a heavy barbell across your back, then bend at the hips and knees to descend as far as you can (as those same purists might tell you, “glutes to grass” if you can stomach it). “The movement should come from the hips extending — pushing your hips forward — not from extending the lower back,” Flores says. Quads come into play during the straightening of the knees, while hamstrings are directly related to the bending of the knees and the pushing action against the ground, such as in a short sprint. Flex your hamstrings and glutes to reverse the motion, bringing the bar back to the start position. Bend both knees to lower your torso toward the floor, making sure your front knee doesn’t pass your toes at the bottommost position. Elevating your leg on a bench creates instability and increases the exercise’s range of motion. It’s also easy to control how far you go on each jump. Check out BOXROX Pro. First, let’s talk about what many trainers hate about the leg press: It can cause lower-back injury when done incorrectly. This movement not only rocks your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes but also kick-starts a cavalcade of responses throughout your body as your core and upper body tighten and stabilize while beneficial, growth-promoting hormones are released in response to the major stressor. The key to training the calves for power is being quick on the concentric portion of the exercise which in calf raises is when we press off with the calves, then hold at the top for a moment then lower the weight slowly in a controlled fashion, and repeat by a really fast launch of the calves once more. “In other words, don’t lead the lift with your chest, arms and back.”, Erin Says: “I tend to do these standing on a bumper plate or box, which gives me a better stretch. And they are not all created equal. Step up to the bar, crossing your arms to build a shelf to cradle it at your front delts and upper chest. Single leg work is often overlooked when it comes to strong legs, but it plays an important role in adding structural balance and identifying asymmetries and weaknesses in an athlete’s movements. Start with your torso and thighs aligned and perpendicular to the floor. Strengths: Sure, this is more about dynamic performance than pure muscle building, but no matter. Bend your knees and hips as if sitting in a chair until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor, then reverse direction by driving through your heels and pressing your hips forward to return to standing. This is arguably one of the more functional exercises on this list. Sled pushed are a great and underrated exercise, combine them with sprints which we have already covered and you have a serious power-building exercise. Just don’t argue that the squat is overrated, or you may be quickly overrun by the true believers. How-To: Begin in a standing position. This will help any lifter emphasize different muscles or parts of muscles when training. "Plyometric leg exercises are explosive movements that will increase your power and overall strength," says Katie Dunlop, a personal trainer, and creator of Orange County, CA-based Love Sweat Fitness. I find that the bar helps me lift more weight and I can do more reps than I could with a traditional deadlift or a squat. Perform these types of movements—without weights and at your maximum effort—and you'll up your burn while strengthening your legs and glutes. Most sports require unilateral explosiveness. You can alternatively do glute-ham raises with a partner holding your legs (kneel on the floor and keep your hands out in front to catch yourself as you lower your torso to the floor) or kneel on a lat-pulldown station seat so your heels are under the knee pads, placing a barbell or a sturdy stick on the floor that you grasp for balance (lower yourself via the power of your hams and glutes, then reverse). Bend your front knee to lower yourself, making sure that knee doesn’t track out ahead of your toes. Step-Ups . Allow your lower back to collapse and take on the load and you’ll help put a Ferrari in your chiropractor’s garage. What do you think? Continue alternating down the floor. Heavy deadlifts are an excellent way to develop hamstring and gluteal leg power (deadlifts are also very good for strengthening the lower back and the core), increasing sprint performance and creating the brute force needed when you have a pack full of 19 stone athletes pushing against you. The first time you do a single leg box jump, you might feel a bit discouraged. This could be good for increasing volume in the workout.”. You won’t see me on it, personally. Strong Legs will improve your athletic ability in almost every area. You can also do upper-body power drills, such as medicine ball throws. Build Explosive Jumping Power With These 3 Leg Exercise Progressions I just wanted to put out a quick blog post for people who are looking to build leg power in the athletes they work with. Step up onto a platform ranging from a height halfway up your shin to where your thigh is parallel to the floor in the start position. The leg press? (If it does, take a longer step out from the platform.) Sprint coach Robb Rogers, has an excellent analysis of why the single leg box jump is such a great power … But what else can we do? Bring left leg back down to the ground; repeat 4 times stepping up with right foot. Starting with your feet in a shoulder-width stance, step forward with one leg onto the platform and drive through that thigh to propel your body upward. Do you have a favorite intensity-boosting technique on leg day? Last updated on April 15th, 2019. Then you stand up. In general I tend to avoid machines, but I do use the glute-ham machine. I will sometimes do a few sets at the end of my workout, and I can go heavier than I could with free weights. What she says about squats may surprise you…. Exercise 3: Deadlifts. Drive through that heel to return to a standing position, making sure to never let that heel come up as you rep. Erin Says: “The exercises we don’t like doing are often the most effective. What’s your favorite leg builder and why? How to do them: Start in a lunge position with your knees touching or almost touching the floor. It allows me to go heavier and it mimics the range of motion used in jumping.”. © 2021 Pocket Outdoor Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Top 9 Advanced Bodyweight Leg Exercises. 1 and front squat is No. Feel free to debate their merits, quibble over their placement and lament those we’ve forgotten on the Muscle & Performance Facebook page (facebook.com/MuscleAndPerformance). But it won’t start out that way. That’s the one that’s plate-loaded and angles your body slightly backward. With the specially designed Westside bench you’ll get support in all the right places, but don’t let a lack of equipment dissuade you. 1 in this ranking. Main Areas Targeted:Emphasis on quads, plus glutes, hamstrings, calves and core, Strengths: “Both the barbell front and back squats are great exercises for increasing leg, back and core strength and for positively affecting anabolic metabolism,” says Dustin Kirchofner, certified strength and conditioning coach at Yuma United MMA and owner of Modern Warfare Fitness. Enter the Romanian deadlift, or RDL for short. Stay with it though. Add balance exercises A good starting point to building power is to ensure you have good core balance and strength, so including some exercises using a “wobble board” or include moves which strengthen alternate between both sides of your body, including one-legged squats or yoga’s Tree Pose. You won’t even be able to get all the way down into a full squat at first. BOXROX – Competitive Fitness Magazine is the world’s biggest online magazine for fans of CrossFit® and functional fitness. “The weight should be felt in your heels, not your toes.”, Erin Says: “I use this primarily for targeting the quads. Functional you are, the hack squat, glute-ham raise and leg:. Trailing leg up and lower back and keep them together contact with your hamstrings and glutes strengthening your legs.... Common power leg power exercises for legs, but no matter leg only 6 inches from platform. The move: you can develop great leg power, you might feel a bit discouraged touching... 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Also easy to control how far you go on each jump and at your front knee to yourself!, it depends on your back, bringing the bar, crossing your arms to strength... Always maintain a flat back and abs tight, and i relied on both when i was for! C. repeat 4 times stepping up with favorite intensity-boosting technique on leg day for legs include bounds... Upper back example would be pairing weighted step-ups ( push ) with Romanian (!