You’re heading to the gym and it’s a leg day.. Our Wheyhey fitness coach James, is here to let you in on the top leg exercises you should be doing.
You might struggle to walk the next day, but the results will make it worth it. It’s a good pain anyway! Here’s part 1 of 2, of our best leg exercises.
This is an Olympic lifters bread and butter. The front squat requires a lot of spine, shoulder and hip mobility as well as strong legs and a strong back. The front squat puts more stress on the Quadriceps compared to the more commonly practiced back squat, which focuses more on the Glutes. It also shifts the load in front of you rather than behind you and so presents a different challenge for your core stability and squat mechanics.
To perform a front squat:
1. Hold the bar across the front of your shoulders, either with an Olympic front rack position (as shown in fig. 1) or if flexibility doesn’t allow just cross the arms over the top of the bar to form a shelf (as shown in fig. 2)
2. Set the feet about shoulder width (where exactly depends on the flexibility of the performer and personal preference) with the toes pointed slightly out
3. Hold your breath and lower yourself down so that your hip drops just below parallel at the bottom
4. Keeping the elbows and chest up drive up explosively back to a standing position.
This exercise is one of the best hamstring exercises around. It involves eccentrically loading the hamstrings, meaning tension and force is applied whilst the muscle is lengthening. This has been shown to result in significantly more muscle growth and strength compared to traditional concentric (or muscle shortening) exercises.
To perform a Nordic curl:
1. Kneel on your knees and wedge your ankles under a stable surface that is able to support your Bodyweight.
2. Stick your hips back and lock the spine flat
3. Begin to slowly fall towards the floor contracting your hamstrings and Glutes as hard as you can throughout
4. The goal is to fall as slowly as possible using your hamstrings to resist
5. Have your hands out in front of you and when you get close to the floor push yourself back to the start position and repeat
This exercise specifically targets the posterior chain muscles (hamstrings, glutes and lower back). Some gyms have a specific reverse-hyper machine but unfortunately it is a very under utilised exercise and so most do not. If this is the case you can replicate the movement by laying on your front on a high box. If needed you can hold a DB between your feet to add resistance to the move.
How to do a reverse-hyper:
1. Lay on your front on a specific reverse hyper machine or on a high box (at least hip height)
2. Begin with your feet together legs hanging down
3. Contracting the glutes and the hamstrings raise your legs behind you until they are positioned just above your hip height
4. Pause for a second at the top and lower back to the start slowly and under control
If you still think you can handle more, look out for part two of our killer exercises!