The legs are our “means of transport” and the main pillar on which we stand, and therefore it is important to have a good muscle tone. Surely at some point we have all heard someone from our family circle say “my legs hurt a lot”, and very possibly in more than one case the discomfort may have its origin in the lack of muscle tone.
In addition, a good muscle tone in our legs , especially in the hamstring muscles, can prevent discomfort and injuries in another key point, our back (in many cases of lumbar discomfort, these are related to a shortening or muscular atrophy of the hamstrings) . Today we present the nine best exercises for lower train that you can perform in the gym (and even many of them in your home with hardly any material).
Squats are undoubtedly the star exercise when we talk about working the lower train and one of the so-called “basic or multi-joint exercises”. Because of the volume of work that can be done, its mechanics and its benefits in terms of increasing the strength and power of the muscles of our quadriceps, squats are an indispensable exercise in our routine unless we have any injury or limitation that prevents us from performing them. . In addition, another of the benefits of squats is the involvement of the core to stabilize all the abdominal and back muscles.
Within the squats category there are different variants that will allow us to work our lower train (and mainly our quadriceps). Thus, some variants that we can include when performing leg work are:
- Squat with bar
- Front squat with bar : unlike the classic version in which the bar falls to our back on the shoulders, in this variant we will place the bar on our shoulders but in front of our head.
- Sumo squat
In this variant of the classic squat, the main modification will be the placement of our feet and knees : as we can see in the image, the legs are slightly more open than the width of our shoulders and knees, at the same time of flexing them, they “look” towards the outside. The arms, we can use them to balance or maintain the posture and alignment of our back (as in the image) or, if we want to add intensity, use them to hold a dumbbell or kettlebell as added weight.
In addition to working on the quadriceps, this squat variant will also allow us to do a very good gluteal job , provided that we perform the exercise technique correctly .
The strides are another of the classic exercises to work the muscles of our quadriceps. Its main advantage, like that of squats, is that we can perform them without any extra weight , so they are ideal to perform in addition to the gym in the living room of our house if we do not want to go to the gym.
The main variants that this exercise presents are the strides with bar behind the neck, the strides with dumbbell and the strides with kettlebell . In addition, we can perform the exercise carrying the weight or dumbbell in one of the hands, which will increase the component of instability and force us to perform a greater work stabilizing the core . And if we want to add even more instability and intensity to the work, we can try to perform the exercise with the help of a TRX and holding a dumbbell.
Some include it between the exercises for the back and others in the exercises for the femoral muscles , but here we want to approach it from the point of view of the work of the femoral musculature since the deadlift is one of the best exercises to develop the back of our lower train . Because it is an exercise that will involve the work of our back at the lumbar level, we must pay special attention to the technique used , as this will reduce the risk of injury (and not wanting to carry more weight than we can handle) .
Like the previous exercises, the deadlift can present some variants so that it is not boring to always work the same version of the exercise. Thus, we can find:
- Deadlift with dumbbell / kettlebell to one leg : increases instability and therefore the work of our core to maintain posture.
- Sumo style deadlift : in which we grab the bar as if we were performing a high style bar squat, that is, with legs that are more open than normal and arms that are shoulder width or a little more closed.
- Dead weight with hexagonal bar : when counting on the hexagonal bar, the weight that we load will be distributed more regularly, which will partly relieve the load and the tension generated.
- Deadlift with dumbbells : it is done in the same way and with the same technique as the classic barbell deadlift, only this time we will work with dumbbells.
In case we want to increase the intensity of any of these variants, we can incorporate the work with elastic bands to add more tension to the exercise.
The quadriceps extensions are an exercise that can have two main purposes: on the one hand, the gain of previous strength for a person who has never done sport and is starting to be able to work later with squats with a bar and, for On the other hand, they are an exercise that is often used a lot as a rehabilitative method in certain injuries so as not to subject the knees to the load that the squats pose.
Being an exercise in machine, the movement to be performed is totally guided, so we eliminate the component of instability that is the work with free weights and protect a little more our joints. In addition, the weight to select is more adjustable than in squats.
As the leg extensions were an exercise that protected our knees and helped us if we were recovering from an injury, the femoral curl fulfills more or less the same function but for the femoral muscles. In the first place, it is a great exercise if we lack strength in the hamstring muscle and it serves us as a previous step to the dead weight, so in unrestrained people it should be the first option before working with free weights.
In addition, it is another exercise to be performed on the machine (again a guided movement), so we eliminate the instability component. On the contrary, it is an exercise in which if we select too much weight or do not have an adequate technique and we do not know how to position ourselves on the machine, we can overload the lumbar area, increasing the risk of injury at the lumbar and hamstring level.
In the same way that the squats had variants to execute them with bar, dumbbell or kettlebell, to work the ischiosural we have a variant of the curl femoral called Nordic curl : it is an exercise that, although hardly usually seen in most gyms, has a great work of force for our ischiosurales, although unlike the rest of exercises, in this one we are going to realize the eccentric phase , that is to say, the descent.
To be able to perform this exercise, we must ensure that our ankles are well restrained , whether with a partner to help us, a trellis, a bench or a bar with discs that stabilizes us, otherwise it will be practically impossible for us to do it. In addition, we must take care of the position of our back during the movement, in such a way that we avoid excessive bowing or muscular compensation of it.
Finally, we will make the movement controlling the descent or fall with the hamstring muscles, going as far as we can if we can not go down to the bottom and, if we can, touching the ground. To get to the starting position we have two options: get up in the normal way with the arms or doing a half explosive flex (with which we would add a work of chest and arms and perform a more complete exercise).
Bridge of buttocks
This exercise is very common to see in gyms among the female audience mainly, although more and more kids are incorporating it into their routine. Although it implies the musculature of the gluteal region , with it we will be able to work also the ischiosural musculature.
To do this, we will lie on our back with our legs bent and the soles of our feet resting on the ground, and then we will perform a hip lift as much as possible, making a contraction of the buttocks at the highest point. Also, if we want to add intensity and variety we can do it in two different ways:
- With a mini elastic band between our knees so that we have to maintain enough tension so that the band does not fall off.
- Or by placing the feet on a slightly elevated surface . The higher the lift, the greater the work and strength we have to do with the hamstring muscles.
It is the classic exercise that consists of “getting on tiptoe” . Classically, it was placed on a curb resting on the toe of our feet and rising as if we were on tiptoe , but for some years now practically all gyms have machines to reproduce this movement with the particularity of being able to regulate the load with the what to work
Within the group of plyometric exercises , we must point out that one of its main benefits is the improvement of the explosiveness of the muscles of our lower body, besides being an excellent job to improve our coordination and our cardiovascular resistance. As we can see in the video, one of the most used elements to perform this type of exercise is the box or ” jump box “, although we can use a bench or step or, if we train at home, a chair, stool or stool.
Exercises with agility ladder
While the use of an agility ladder does not respond to a purely strength job, the benefits we can give to our lower train if we add this element to our leg routine are more than interesting:
- In the first place, the use of an agility ladder will allow us to win precisely that, agility in our lower train and coordination (basic for an efficient work of our legs and not to trip or fall).
- It will allow us to gain resistance in our legs due to the high intensity with which we can get to work using this element and only with our own weight.
- The use of agility stairs implies almost an infinite variety of exercises that we can devise, which ensures a dynamic training and not at all boring.
- And if you are going to work at home , this element hardly takes up space and you can perform a wide variety of circuits and exercises without moving from the living room at home (and they have a very affordable price).