3 Highly Effective Leg Exercises You Need to Try

Highly Effective Leg Exercises

Your lower body is home to the biggest and most powerful muscles in your entire body. Your legs play a huge factor in your performance and can ultimately make or break your physique. Unfortunately, most people do not know how to properly train their lower body and an abundance of misconceptions exist.

Understand Your Goals

The program periodization, frequency, intensity (load), volume (sets x reps) and exercise selection will vary greatly depending on whether you want to build strength, increase muscle mass or lose weight, maximize endurance or train for a sport.

  • Strength: High intensity/Low volume/Minimal exercise selection
  • Muscle Building/Weight Loss: Moderate Intensity/Moderate-High Volume/Varied exercise selection
  • Muscular Endurance: Low intensity/ High Volume/Varied exercise selection

Move More Joints

Most individuals who are new to strength training focus on using machines. Unfortunately, machines are typically isolated movements that do not provide a CNS stimulus nor do they elicit engagement of the core or stabilizing muscles.  Multi-joint exercises reign supreme to any machine in nearly all cases. Multi-joint exercises recruit more muscle mass into the movement, and generate greater release of the muscle-building hormones testosterone and growth hormone. Multi-joint exercises will give you the most bang for your buck and will provide far superior results regardless of what your goals might be.

So what are the best leg exercises? Here are the top three leg exercises that will provide the most benefit regardless of your goals.

1. Squats (All variations)

You guessed it, the squat is the king of all leg exercises. The squat is simply the most challenging leg exercise and reads higher for overall muscle activation of the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes over all other exercises. Furthermore, the squat illicits a great deal or growth hormone that is desired for any weight loss or muscle building goals. The type of squat you choose to perform will change what specific muscles are activated to a certain degree. High bar squats generally train the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings evenly, low-bar squats focus more on the glutes and hamstrings and front squats focus more on the quads. In all variations, the depth of squat will be determined by your ability to maintain a neutral spine, as there should be no rounding in the lumbar or thoracic spine. This will be determined by the flexibility in your hip flexors, quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves. If you round your back before reaching 90 degrees in your hips, stop at that point and reverse direction.

2. Deadlift

The deadlift is a full body multi-joint movement that primarily activates the entire posterior chain; which consists of the calves, hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae and upper back. The deadlift allows you to move a significant amount of weight which produces muscle activation throughout the entire posterior chain and also promotes a significant hormonal response.  There are several variations of the deadlift that include traditional, sumo stance, Romanian deadlift and single leg deadlift. Each variation has its own emphasis on a specific muscle group and performing the differing variations will depend on flexibility and motor learning.

3. Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat is a unilateral exercise that places a significant emphasis on the front leg while also incorporating balance and a variety of stabilizing musculature, making it one of the most difficult and beneficial lower body exercises. When performed correctly the Bulgarian split squat produces EMG activation comparable to a back squat and is also more functional for athletic performance due to the single leg nature of the exercise

About the Author

, Celebrity Personal Trainer and Fitness & Nutrition Expert headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ. He specializes in helping men and women achieve weight loss, muscle building, toning and other customized fitness & nutrition programs to create a Healthy Lifestyle. James offers private luxury personal training, 12-week custom workout plans, and personalized nutrition meal plans. Follow on Google+.

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