Upgrade Your Leg Workout with These 5 Moves
Ready to hit legs?! This workout is honestly one of my faves. I recommend doing these moves with 8-12 reps each to focus on building muscle. If your weight is challenging enough for you, this rep range should feel HARD! So make sure you're lifting heavy enough.
How to Pick Your Weight Sizes
I teach my clients the 2 rep rule: You should end a set feeling like you have about 2 reps left in the tank. If you finish a set and feel like you could perform another 10 reps, you're going way too light. If you barely make it to the last rep or fail before the last rep, you probably need to take some weight off. Our focus is always to lift heavy but not so heavy that we compromise proper form!
New to Lifting Weights?
If you're fairly new to lifting, try the first 3 moves with one of the smaller fixed barbells - the ones that you can't take the plates off. They're just set at a certain weight. The bar I am using here is 45 lb + the plate weights. As a beginner, start lighter and focus first on nailing the form down! Then you can increase weight until you feel comfy with the 45 lb bar.
How to Engage Your Core and Why You Need To
Be sure to engage your core! In order to do this, pretend someone is about to punch you in the stomach. You wouldn't suck the abs in or stay relaxed, right? You'd probably try to make them tighter so you'd feel less pain. This is how you get the abs involved and protect your spine throughout the movement. This is super important! Practice, practice, practice!
The Workout (8-12 reps each)
1. Conventional Deadlift
- Stand with your feet under a barbell, hip width apart.
- Bend over and grip the bar just outside of your legs, about shoulder width apart. Knees should be bent.
- Engage your core as described above. Somebody's punching you in the stomach, remember?
- With a neutral spine (that means no arch or rounding of the back), pick up the barbell and press down into the floor with your legs.
- When the barbell comes up past your knees, bring the hips forward until you're back in a standing position.
If you're a beginner, I recommend using one of the smaller preloaded barbells to try this your first time. Most gyms have 20 and 25 lb preloaded barbells. It's okay to start small! It will help you nail the form down.
2. Romanian Deadlift
- Stand up straight holding a barbell with an overhand grip. Feet should be hip width apart.
- Pretend there is an imaginary rope around your waist and someone is pulling it from behind you. With that in mind, move your hips backward. As you do this, the bar will slowly lower towards the ground.
- When you feel a stretch in the back of your legs (your hamstrings), bring your hips forward to come back to the starting position.
3. Bulgarian Split Squat
- Make sure the knee stays in line with the toes throughout this movement. Don't let your knee wobble to either side.
- With your feet hip-width apart, place the top of your left foot on a bench. Your feet should be approximately three feet apart.
- Slowly lower your hips toward the floor so that your rear knee comes close to the floor.
- Pause and drive through your right heel to return to the starting position.
- Repeat for the other side.
4. Machine Leg Extension
- Adjust the machine so that the foot pad is resting right above the ankle.
- Adjust the back of the machine (forward or backward) so that when you're seated, your knees are bent at a 90 degree angle.
- Hold onto the handles on either side of the seat as you use your quads (the muscle on the front of your thighs) to lift the foot pad until your legs are fully extended. Do not lock out the knees.
- Slowly lower your feet back to the starting position.
5. Machine Lying Leg Curl
- Adjust the foot pad on the machine so that it rests just above your ankles.
- Lie down so that the bench you're laying on ends before your knees. In other words, you don't want your knees resting on the bench.
- Keep your upper body glued against the bench as you bend your knees and bring your feet up as far as you can.
- Slowly lower your legs until they are back at the starting position. Do not let the weights clink at the bottom and do not lock out your knees.
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