It’s really unfortunate that many people who are new to the gym focus primarily on their upper body and develop a love-hate relationship with leg days, especially given that most guys and gals would kill to have the strong, jacked legs of their fitness icons. Here’s one of the most important not-so-secret secrets of bodybuilding: if you don’t train your legs enough, that is going to slow down your overall progress. Why?
First of all, because training your lower body, which is where your largest muscles are, helps you secrete maximum anabolic hormones and build lean muscle mass all over the body. Secondly, lower body development will increase bone strength, balance, stamina and explosive power, creating a solid and stable foundation for all physical movements.
However, leg training isn’t only about heavy barbell squats and leg presses. Sure, that’s one great way to train your legs, but there’s another way to sculpt your lower body that doesn’t even require a trip to the gym: bodyweight exercises. We’ve selected the following five moves because they target multiple muscle groups at once and allow you to burn fat while building muscle – which is the optimal combination for getting the most bang for your buck. You’ve probably never heard of some of these bodyweight-only bad boys, but don’t let that stop you from using them to train your lower body in a unique, powerful way!
#1. Reverse Lunge Shrimp Squat
Stand with your feet together and your arms forcefully reaching forward at shoulder height. Take a step back with one foot and lunge down, hinging at the hips and bringing the back knee down to touch the ground. Lift your back foot off the ground and bring your heel toward your glutes, then drive through the heel of the standing leg and fully extend the hips and knee to stand up, using only your front leg.
#2. Spider Squat Jump
Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms by sides. Squat down and touch the ground between your feet with one hand while reaching back behind you with the other. As you explode up out of the squat, jump and turn 180 degrees. Land as gently as possible and immediately squat down again, touching the ground between your feet with the opposite hand. Continue as quickly as possible, alternating sides.
#3. Sweep-the-Floor Crossover Lunge
Stand with your feet together and keep your arms in front of you. Extend one leg in front of you and sweep it around in a large circle from front to back, keeping it just above the floor. Keeping your hips square, bring the leg all the way behind, then across on the diagonal before placing your foot down and bending both knees in a curtsy lunge. Stand up and sweep the leg back around to the front and across on the forward diagonal. Lunge again. Complete all reps, then switch sides.
#4. Kneeling Jump Squat
Begin kneeling on the floor with your knees under your hips, arms by sides. Sit back with your hips, keeping your head and chest up. Swing your arms back, then quickly swing them forward and explode up with your hips. Land into a deep squat with your feet flat on the floor. Drive through your heels and extend your knees to stand up, then repeat.
#5. Adductor Bench Plank
Lie on your side on the ground with fully extend legs, perpendicular to a flat bench or a table and place one elbow on a mat underneath your shoulder. Place your top foot on the bench while the other one and your hips stay on the ground. Brace your core and lift the hips so that your body forms a straight line from head to toe, while simultaneously lifting the lower leg that’s underneath the bench and pushing it against it (if possible). Hold for 10-30 seconds, without letting the pelvis swing. Lower back down and repeat. After completing all reps, switch sides.
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After thoroughly warming up your muscles with a series of light cardio exercises and dynamic stretches, perform the exercises immediately one after another. If that’s not possible, at least make sure that the rest pauses don’t last more than 30 seconds.
- Reverse lunge shrimp squat: 3 x 10-12 for each leg
- Spider squat jump: 3 x 5 in each direction
- Sweep-the-floor crossover lunge: 3 x 10 for each leg
- Kneeling jump squat: 3 x 10-12
- Adductor bench plank: 3 x 10-second holds on each side