Building muscle hypertrophy in the lower-half is something most fitness enthusiasts take seriously–yet many struggle with.
A lot of the struggle comes from having bad form and not targeting the right areas. One slight shift or translation of the hips/knees can completely alter an exercise into something that it wasn’t meant to be. A deadlift can become a squat very easily without a precise idea of what your whole body is supposed to be doing. This is the sole reason I love full-wall mirrors in a studio/gym.
Some may just have no idea what exercise is supposed to target what muscle…which is completely normal for beginner and novice lifters.
I would like to offer up some lower body exercises that I do on my leg days (yes, “DAYS,” not just “day”) that you may have not come across or thought of.
The good morning is primarily a hamstring exercise that also promotes hip mobility. Hip mobility is something that is SO, SO important, yet many fail to have the proper movement we need for the long haul. This exercise is a barbell exercise, but you could also use a body bar–which is just a shorter version of a barbell that is pre-weighted and not meant to have plates stacked on it. Another unique twist is to use a thick power band, looping it under your feet and onto your upper back. The most important points when performing this movement: 1. Have a slight bend in the knees before initiating the first movement. 2. Think of driving your butt back first, rather than bringing the chest down. 3. Keep your back flat, core contracted, and toes on the ground. The Good Morning is highly underrated because of its looks, but never judge a book by its cover–because this exercise can directly improve your deadlift numbers and technique.
Youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iycq-kJann0
There isn’t much to say about this exercise. Its primarily a single-leg, quadricep exercise, with the usual benefits of a squatting motion. I love unilateral exercises due to the indirect core workout you can receive while performing them. The skateboarder is no different. Its essentially a single-leg squat, while adding height and a “pedaling” motion of the opposite leg. The skateboarding motion gives you a sense of rhythm…that’s the best I could come up with.
Elevated Single-Leg Calf Raise
I’ll be the first to admit, I love working my calves. I don’t need high heels to flaunt them, either. With shorts season on the way, jump on the “anti-chicken-leg” bandwagon. This is the best calf exercise I use (besides the seated calf-raise, which calls for an actual machine). The wooden plank in the video is a homemade calf-raise plank, but almost any elevated surface will do just fine. The only necessity is that your heel needs enough drop room to get a full stretch on the down-movement. I add a single heavy dumbbell and hold it on the same side of the working calf. Be sure to “draw” out the exercise and really hike that heel up on each rep. Full extension will get those cows mooing.
FFV link: http://freefitnessvideos.com/exercise_detail.php?exerciseID=532
The Hip Series is a three-part exercise that is targeting the external rotators and glutes. Every single client I have come across has weak hips. I can’t stress this enough: If you don’t train your hips, they WILL NOT hold their own and will definitely not become stronger. All day, every day, we spend our time moving in one plane–the sagittal plane (moving forward in a straight line). Your hips have virtually no impact on moving in the sagittal plane, which is why long distance runners will tend to have the tightest illiotibial (IT) bands known to man, and extremely weak external rotators. Pay close attention to detail in this video provided by freefitnessvideos.com, because one subtle movement can take the focus off of the hips. Also: YES, the hips and butt go hand-in-hand, so focus on these to achieve that Jen Selter commode-kisser.
FFV link: http://freefitnessvideos.com/exercise_detail.php?exerciseID=650
Obviously, my favorite lower body exercise of all time has to be the old-fashioned barbell squat. With fantastic combinations of strength and mobility, there is nothing that trumps it. So, if you are already squatting–squat on–because you’re doing it right.
Move to the beat of your own drum.