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Top 5 Lower Body Exercises

I feel like I need to write this to round it all out. We definitely don’t want to skip leg day.

Here they are:

1.) Goblet/Landmine Squats: I prefer these variations over any sort of back squatting. Since the load is placed anteriorly (in the front of your body), it forces your abdominals to be the primary stabilizers and is ultimately a safer option (in my option) in terms of loading your spine.
Movement: knee dominant lower body (bilateral)
Primary Movers: quads, glutes, core, hamstrings (secondary)
Cues: sit back into your heels like you're sitting in a chair, chest up, go as low as possible while maintaining a proper upright position and keeping tension in your glutes
Modifications: lighter load, sit back onto bench/box
Progressions: add load, pauses, variations

2.) Trap Bar Dead Lift: Since the trap bar is designed in such a way that the weight is evenly distributed around your body, this is a joint friendly way to work on some big time lower body strength/power. It is also slightly more elevated than a conventional barbell.
Movement: hip dominant lower body (bilateral)
Primary Movers: glutes, hamstrings, lats, core, quads (secondary)
Cues: hips back, back flat, shoulder blades down and back, push through the ground, stand up tall and push hips through
Modifications: lighter load, from blocks/elevated, KB dead lift
Progressions: add load, pauses, variations

3.) Bulgarian Squats: These suck, but are also awesome at the same time. Not only are you loading the crap out of your front leg, you’re also getting a monster hip flexor stretch in your back leg…and most of us could use more hip opening.
Movement: knee dominant lower body (unilateral)
Primary Movers: quads, glutes, hamstrings (secondary)
Cues: back foot elevated, slightly forward lean with trunk, drop back knee down and back, front heel down, avoid “shooting” knee forward
Modifications: lighter load, PVC pipe for balance, split squats
Progressions: add load, pauses, variations

4.) Single Legged RDLs. This is a fantastic way to target the hamstrings (an often forgotten muscle group) and work on hip stability.
Movement: hip dominant lower body (unilateral)
Primary Movers: hamstrings, glutes
Cues: soft knee, push hips back, back flat, shoulder packed, weight stays close to body, hips stay square
Modifications: lighter load, wall for balance, back foot as “kickstand”
Progressions: add load, variations

5.) Lateral Lunges: Did you just say lateral lunges? Yup. A hidden gem of an exercise. We spend way too much time in the sagittal plane (front to back) and disregard the importance of moving in the frontal plane (side to side). This is a perfect way to get your dosage of lateral movement.
Movement: knee dominant lower body (unilateral, frontal plane)
Primary Movers: quads, glutes, adductors, abductors
Cues: side step, sink back into your heel (of the foot you step with), opposite leg stays straight, chest up, big push off your bent leg to standing
Modifications: lighter load, static
Progressions: add load, variations

Similar to my most previous upper body post, these exercises aren’t overly complicated (and for good reason). As always, shoot me a message with any questions or comments!

Stephanie Spoto, CSCS

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