Strengthening and shaping your lower body is more complex than just doing a several squats. You need to train all lower body muscles, including your glutes, quads and hamstrings, along with the smaller muscles that help move and stabilize your legs.
To work all muscles, you need several exercises in your training program.
Below are my top five lower-body strength exercises and we integrate them all in our program at Chicago Fit Performance.
Check out the videos below for a demonstration of each exercise.
The Deadlift is my favorite bilateral (i.e., two-legged) exercise. I like it even more than the squat because it incorporates more muscles than probably any other lift known to man and is also the most functional/applicable to real life strength. In general a barbell deadlift (shown above) is considered to be more advanced variation than a kettlebell deadlift or a trap bar deadlift. The barbell deadlift is an awesome exercise to strengthen the muscles of the posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings) and hips, the muscles of the lower, mid and upper back, scapula stabilizers, upper arms, forearms, and anterior core. Basically, the deadlift covers the entire body.
The double kettlebell rack squat (shown in this video) is a my second favorite bilateral lower body exercise. This variation is a progression of the goblet kettlebell squat. When you find that your upper body can no longer hold the weight for a goblet squat that your lower body can handle then you can progress to a double kettlebell rack squat. It’s quite easier to hold two kettlebells then it is to hold one kettlebell with both hands. For example, I have a 40 lbs kettlebells in each hand and this is easier than holding on to a 80 lb kettlebell. This particular squat variation is also a great alternative to the barbell back squat for someone with lower back pain since it puts less shear pressure on the spine. It also forces to keep the torso upright since you are loaded on the front. A great benefit of this lift is more core recruitment compare to some other squat variations particularly the anterior core.
3. REAR FOOT ELEVATED SPLIT SQUAT
The rear foot elevated split squat is a tricky exercise, but when done properly, in my opinion, it's one of the best exercises which gives you the most bang for your buck.Adding an unilateral exercises is needed in every program, in my opinion. Builds functionality, better balance and core stability, improves movement, etc. It's an awesome way to build muscle, burn fat, learn better uni-lateral stability, and get a lot accomplished without over loading the spine. If you've never done them, do them consistently and you'll build more muscle and strength after a few weeks.
4. HIP THRUST
The hip thrust is one of the best exercises for improving the strength and development of the glutes, and the overall function and health of the body. The hip thrust doesn't only target the glutes, it also activates the hamstrings, quads, and adductors very thoroughly as well. Throughout the movement, the glutes stay under constant tension, and back strength is not a limiting factor, which cannot be said of other popular glute exercises. This allows for maximal loading of the glutes. Strong glutes matter!!
One of my rules of hip thrusting: don't make direct eye contact while performing the exercise or things can get awkward rather quickly. ;)
5. SINGLE LEG DEADLIFT
The single leg deadlift complements the rear foot elevated split squat and the traditional deadlift. Although it can't be performed with as much weight as the traditional deadlifts it provides many other benefits - improves balance, foot strength, ankle mobility, knee stability, hamstring flexibility, hip hinge ability, posture, shoulder stability, grip strength, as well as strength in the hamstrings and quadriceps. And, of course, glute strength and definition.
As you can see it's about a whole lot more than building a strong, tight booty (although I don’t mind that side effect). It’s about improving your overall body function, strength, and performance.
WHAT MAKES THESE EXERCISES GREAT AT BURNING FAT?
In case you’re wondering why these lower body exercises are effective at burning fat, it’s because they involve your body’s biggest muscles. Also and they are all multi-joint movements and recruit many muscle groups to perform. And the more muscle you recruit in, the more oxygen those muscles require and the more calories they burn
Plug these exercises into your training and stick with them and you’ll see improvements in your legs, booty, core and performance.
P.S. As with anything in life, knowledge is not useful if it is not applied (it’s only “potential”).
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