So I want to keep this thing going so here’s coming atcha with the second instalment of fitness related questions for ya’ll
In true Chelsea fashion it seems, this post is comin’ in a day late…
I didn’t get any suggestions for last week, so I’m going to post about something random. Since it’s spring-ish weather as of lately and that means that people go nuts and pull out their summer clothing because they get too excited..
Lets do one about legs shall we?
So here we go.
What are some of the best legs exercises for strength OTHER THEN squats?
Oh the mighty squat. It gets all the love and attention when it comes to the leg and booty gainz, and for good reason. It utilizes a huge number of lower body muscle groups including the quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, and the gluteus maximus (Gullett, 2009). Additionally, it also uses muscles around the ankle joints, your core and the many muscles of your lower back as well. Overall, it is quite the king for sure.
Despite it’s overall practically and supreme benefits, there are some other important lifts when it comes to a strong lower body that deserve some loving too. With regards to muscle activation, there are a number of alternatives that ring very close, and if not, at par with squats.
We all hate them. Admit it…
See too many people doing heavy weighted lunges? Nope. Shall I dare even go into how many guys I have seen do lunges at all…Maybe my hands worth.
Because they hurt. Many people would actually rather suffer through gruelling squats then to do a lunge. Unfortunately, by avoiding the suffering, you are also avoiding all dem gainz. Here’s some research:
Keogh (1999). This study talked about the performance benefits of adding lunges into your lower body training as they help to work on single leg movements (which can help detect imbalances, improve ankle, hip and knee flexibility and improve overall balance) in addition to having the added benefit of being able to work in more then just one single field. Different lunge variations enable you to work in the lateral and horizontal planes, where as squats are simply lateral movements.
Farrokhi et al (2008). Similar to squats, different variations of the lunge may help to activate slightly different areas. Therefore, you can use variety to your advantage to infiltrate different areas as you need them.
Statsny (2015). There is even research to suggest that the way you hold the dumbbell in your hand during various lunge variations can affect muscle activation. Specifically they looked at the effects of ipsilateral (holding a dumbbell on the other side of the lunging leg) and contralateral (holding the dumbbell on the same side as the lunging leg) on muscle activation during both walking lunges and split squats.
So looking to try some out? Here are some variations to check out.
Front-loaded Lunges (hits the quads more)
Another big man on campus is the…
Known for it’s utility in strengthening you’re entire backside, this lift is a strong contender for anyones training routine.
Fischer (2012). This provides a great overview of the lift, variations, muscle activation and why it should be incorporated in everyones training regime.
Robbins (2011). This study found did not find any significant differences in muscle activation between the deadlift and the back squat, showing how comparable they are with respect to which muscle groups you’re stimulating. I’m assuming this was the conventional deadlift, as it was not specifically mentioned the particular variation.
Conventional Deadlift (bar touches the ground following each rep)
Romanian Deadlift (bar never touches the ground, more glute/ham focus)
Sumo Deadlift (glute focus).
Note that the sumo DL is the new cool kid on the block. This was a adopted by powerlifters but now it seems that everyone is trying this version out. There are some thoughts that this is easier on the hips and feels better for many people.
Heres a great article showing some of the variations.
One exercise that is often overlooked (maybe because of how it is done..) but deserves more attention is the:
These guys are known for building that booty up.
Contreras (2011). Brett summaries many aspects of the barbell hip thrust for you in a very easy way. Some of the benefits of the hip thrust include full gluteal activation and they also help to prevent hamstring injuries by building up those glue muscles to help the hamstrings out during hip extension movements. This exercise builds up the strength in the glutes due to having a greater range of motion at the hip then things like squats.
Eckert (2014). Evidence to support the utility in gluteal strengthening exercises such as these for athletes requiring the use of hip extension including sprinters, basketball, powerlifting, etc
If you have weak glutes this exercise is great for you. In addition, it does help to work your lower back as well so even unloaded bridge exercises (mimic the basic movement) can help be therapeutic for those with back pain.
So there are the three big compound (multi-joint) movements that I think everyone should include in their routines to help build those leggies. Of course, I’m not saying to ignore squats, as you definitely should do them as well because they are talked about the most for good reason, but I just wanted to note those other big lifts that some may shy away from or not be aware of to the same extent.
Also, just because something isn’t a compound lift per say, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have it’s place. Accessory work (often those exercises that recruit less muscle groups, but may hit one or two more directly and help with other lifts) can help not only build up those larger lifts and make you progress faster, but they are also something to include for balance, aesthetics and overall development.
Some of my favourite accessory movements include:
Leg press (different foot positions) –> I consider this an assistance lift, many may use this instead of squats if they have issues squatting.
Glute Kickbacks–> Don’t limit yourself to just straight behind you. Also try kicking back at 45 degrees.
Single-leg Leg Extension –> Great for burning out the quads (do drop sets!)
…and my newest favourite…
Vertical or Inverted Leg Press w/ a Pulse using the Smith Machine.
So good! It not only acts as a wide stance leg press but the vertical position really activates the glutes and hamstrings because you can get your legs really close to the chest (it forces a better range of motion). The additional pulse is like adding a hip thrust component for even more glute action. PLUS you feel this in the lower abdominal region because of the upward thrust.
So there ya go. Strong legs means you have to put in the work. Suffer a lil bit with these tough (physically and mentally) lifts and gain all of the benefits.
Hope this was helpful!