Similar to, how a good foundation is needed to build a strong house; a strong lower body foundation is needed to increase the overall strength in the body.
Doing the lower body exercises, simply involves working out the major muscle groups in the lower half of your body.
In order to increase the lower body strength, your focus must be on doing exercises that target the following muscle group:
- Quadriceps (Front thighs)
- Hamstrings (Lower back thighs)
- Glutes (Comprises of the butt muscles )
- Calves (Rear muscles in your leg)
In general, a weekly exercise routine is divided into two parts, the upper body split and the lower body split. Making sure to perform the splits on alternate days, ensures you improve both upper body and lower body strength.
People hitting the gym to build a muscular body are very often found to work on their upper body strength and muscles exclusively. They do consider having bulky chests, big biceps and triceps and abs (representing core) are enough to have a strong body.
But, you need to understand that as important it is to do upper body exercises to increase upper body strength, it is equally important to do lower body exercises to build lower body strength.
Therefore, keep in mind that not all your strength building exercises should be focused on upper body strength. But, you need to work on your lower body strength as well.
Here we have a few simple exercises that shall work effectively to increase your lower body strength.
Squats area very simple exercise that forms a part of every fitness routine or workout.
As strength training exercise, squat is referred to as a compound exercise that focuses especially on the following muscles: quadriceps ,gluts and hamstrings.
They also strengthen your core muscles that include the abdominal and the muscles that support your spine. It works effectively towards increasing the bone strength, ligaments and tendons present in the lower body.
A perfect Squat– Stand straight, with your knees shoulder-width apart and a straight back, drop your hips till they become parallel with the floor, with your knees over your toes. It’s similar to getting in a position like you are sitting on a chair.
Once you get to this position, hold for a second, push back off the floor maintaining the position of the knees and taking your hips upward back to the standing position.
You can increase the intensity of this workout by adding weights, once you get acquainted with the exercise with your own body weight.
Here are two simple and effective squat workouts that you can add to your routine.
1 (A). Front Squats with a bar
Step 1 – Stand in the squat position, close to the rack. Adjust under the bar without needing to bent down or raise your feet to pick it up.
Step 2 – Pick up a bar gripping it with an overhand grip, slightly wider than the shoulder-width. Elbows should be in an upright position; you can grip the bar with the classic grip, keeping it on your front shoulders.
Step 3 – Sit with your hips back; bend your knees to lower till you get to the general squat position, keeping your back straight.
Step 4 – Push yourself up again, driving through the mid-foot, as if you are pushing the ground away from you. It is important that you feel the pressure on the quadriceps and the gluts.
Step 5 – Drive the push through your glutes to extend your hips to complete a squat.
Note: Front squats target the quadriceps and the upper back, while the squat primarily impacts the glutes.
1 (B). Back Squats with a bar
It is almost similar to how the front squat is performed. Except here the bar is place on the back of your neck on your shoulders.
Step 1 – Stand under the bar and adjust it on the back of your neck and lift it off cleanly from the rack. The grip on the bar should be of shoulder width apart.
Step 2 – Maintain the tension created as you lift the bar from the rack. Move your feet apart at a comfortable distance and get into the position.
Step 3 – Lower down by bending your knees and hip to get into the squat position. Make sure you keep your core tight and back straight. Lower till your thighs become parallel to the ground.
Step 4 – Drive through your mid-foot and straighten your hips and knees to get back to the standing position.
Note: The back squat primary affects the glutes, but it also effectively strengthens the hamstring and calves as well.
Squats have to be followed by deadlift, as it complements the progress you make from squats. Deadlift is a weight training exercise, generally performed with a barbell. You lift a barbell from the ground to the level of the hips and then lower it back to the ground.
Deadlift is a popular compound exercise that is used to strengthen your lower body. It primarily targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes or gluteal muscles, lower back, traps and forearms.
It also enhances the core strength and the muscles in the abdominal region, which is very essential to have a strong lower body and maintain overall health. The exercise also supports various movements and positions too, which makes it a great exercise for all round strength building.
A perfect Deadlift– While performing a deadlift, you need to choose a weight that you are comfortable with, placed on the ground. Stand close to it, with your shin touching the bar, bent down and grip the bar at a distance little wider than your shoulder-width and just outside your legs, equally on both the sides.
Grab the bar and as you lift, drive through your legs while going up, ensuring that you maintain a straight back and chest out position. Raise your hips and shoulders simultaneously, while keeping your core tight and stand up straight. Lower the bar by following the same process but in reverse direction to get back to the starting position.
Being a heavy weight training exercise the intensity can be increased by adding weights. There are different forms of deadlifts that you can add to your routine.
2 (A). Romanian deadlifts or stiff legged deadlifts
Step 1- First you have to grab a barbell of comfortable weight, pick it up as we do while performing a deadlift, to the level of your hips. Remember Romanian deadlifts are to be performed with pronated grip (palms facing towards your body).
Step 2 – Once you have the barbell at the level of your hips. Keep your shoulders back, lower back arched a bit and your knees slightly bent and maintain the tension.
Step 3 – Lower the bar by pushing your hip back, making sure that the bar is close to your body with your head straight looking forward, shoulders back and legs straight. This shall enable you to feel the stretch in your hamstrings if done correctly.
Step 4 – Return back to your original position by performing the same process in a reverse way by driving through the hips, pushing forward and getting back to the standing position.
Note: The Romanian deadlifts focuses more on the hamstrings, while it also activates the gluteal muscles.
2 (B). Sumo deadlift
This is another effective deadlift method, which is performed with your feet at a wider distance, similar to getting to a sumo squat position. You can use a pronated grip for better grip on the barbell.
Step1 – Stand close to the barbell, with a wider leg stance. Hands should be inside your feet, with a grip of shoulder-width on the bar. Pick up the bar
Note: The sumo deadlift is found to lay more emphasis on the quadriceps, but as it can be performed with wide range of motions, it can also be used to lay more emphasis on hips and hamstrings as well.
Lunges are a simple but the most effective exercises to gain leg strength. It works more towards improving the stability and provides more functional strength to continue with your daily life.
Lunges work by activating your calves and gluts that further help you to have better balance, increase strength and become more agile. It suits best to strengthen your core and also increase your lower body strength. It also helps you to enhance your lower body endurance and is less likely to cause any muscle imbalances.
Though lunges are preferably a muscle-balance training exercise, the intensity can be increased by adding dumbbells or kettle bells. Here are two effective variations of lunges:
3 (A). Forward Lunge
Step 1 – Stand in a stationary position, with a comfortable distance between your feet.
Step 2 – Step forward with one leg, ensuring that the other leg stays in its position and lower your body.
Step 3 – Keep your front knee bent, over your ankle and behind your toes. Bend, till the quads get parallel with the floor.
Step 4 – Rise up slowly by driving through the feet and get back to the starting position and then repeat.
Note: The forward lunges give more emphasis on the quadriceps of the front leg and followed by the hamstrings of the back leg.
3 (B). Backward Lunge
The backward lunge is similar to the forward lunge, but here you push your leg backward instead of going forward.
Step 1 – Stand straight up on the floor with a comfortable distance between your feet.
Step 2 – Push your right leg back, till your left knee bends and the quadriceps become parallel to the floor.
Step 3 – Lower until you feel the stretch on your right hamstring, ensuring your left foot is flat on the floor.
Step 4 – Push back again by driving through your feet and bring your leg back to the original position and repeat.
Note:- The backward lunge gives more emphasis on the hamstring of your back leg, which is followed by the quadriceps of the front leg. It also activates the gluteal muscles making it stronger.
Form or proper posture
While you exercise or workout, you are going to pick up weights and get into various positions to increase the intensity or the effectiveness of the training. Maintaining the right form here is very crucial, as it prevents any kind of muscle imbalances, which might further lead to muscle injury.
Make sure you ask your gym trainer to assist you with the proper form of a particular exercise. It is especially essential, while you are working with weights or doing heavy weight exercises.
Proper form shall ensure targeted muscles are activated while performing particular exercises. You get assured of desired results without getting injured in the process.