Today I did legs. I started off as usual with 30 minutes cardio, this time I ran on the treadmill. Do not be that person that skips leg day and looks like a cloud with legs because you end up being so disproportional with a built upper body and a nonexistent lower body. Having a strong bottom half is important for so many reasons. Exercises like lunges help build stability in your knee and prevent possible injuries. A strong lower body is also important if you’re an athlete (professional or recreational), so much strength and power comes from your legs and building those muscles will make you faster. Having a strong lower body will also protect your back. I read an article that talked about some causes of lower back pain, because that’s something I’ve personally experienced before. When you’re sitting down for a long time, you can experience lower back pain from weak hamstrings and tight hip flexors. It’s important to strengthen your hamstrings and glutes and stretch your hip flexors to prevent or relieve back pain.
Remember when doing weighted exercises, never sacrifice form for weight. If you can’t correctly squat, there’s no point in adding on another 25 lb plate. Leave your ego at the door and focus on working out with correct form then you can add weight gradually as you become more comfortable and stable with the exercise.
1. Barbell Squats: with the barbell on your back, stand with feet hip-width apart and knees relaxed (keep a little tension there and don’t lock your knees.) Breathe in and sit back with your heels flat on the ground, making sure your bent knees never go past your toes. Exhale as you engage your legs (NOT YOUR BACK) to push the weight back up and squeeze your butt on your way up. Repeat for 10-12 more reps for 3 sets. This exercise can also be done holding dumbbells in your hands or without any weight at all. Follow the same guidelines as above.
2. Leg Extensions: sit down on the leg extension machine (this is like a hamstring curl but for your quads.) Breathe in and exhale as you squeeze and engage your quads (upper thighs) to extend your legs straight lifting the weight. Slowly and with control lower your legs. This can exercise can also be done holding a weight in between your feet or stretching a resistance band across your feet and securing them near the ground. Sit straight in a chair with your legs bent naturally at the knee. (Try to find a chair that leaves your feet hanging off the ground a few inches to allow for more motion.) Breathe in and exhale as you contract your quads while you straighten your legs in front of you. Slowly and with control, return to the first position. Repeat for 10-12 reps for 3 sets.
3. Hamstring Dumbbell Curls: lay flat on your stomach on an elevated surface so that your legs (from the knee down) hang off the edge. Hold a weight in between your feet, squeeze your butt and hamstrings (back of thighs) as you bend you knees toward your butt until you reach a 90° angle with your legs. Slowly and with control lower your legs back down until they’re straight. Repeat for 10-12 reps for 3 sets.
4. Calf Raises: can be done while holding weights in your hands with your arms at your sides or holding a barbell across your shoulders with weights on it. Can also be done without any weights at all. Stand up straight, breathe in and exhale as you squeeze your calves to lift yourself up (like you’re standing on your tippy-toes.) Hold for 3 seconds and come back down. Repeat for 10-12 reps for 3 sets. **To gain more mobility in your calves, you can do this exercise standing on a surface where your heels hang off the back. When you come back down, your heels go down lower than the front of your foot.**
5. Weighted Glute Bridges:this exercise can be done with or without a weight laid across your hips. Start back laying on your back and bend your knees with your feet hip-width apart on the floor. Squeeze your butt and tuck it in as you lift from your hips into the air, this engages your butt and hamstrings really well. Relax and slowly come back down. Repeat for 10-12 reps for 3 sets. **If you’re doing this with a barbell across your hips, lay your hands on the barbell to stabilize it during the movement.**
6. Dumbbell Lunges: this can be done with or without holding a dumbbell in each arm to your sides. Start standing up straight (keeping the dumbbells to your sides the whole time if you’re using them.) Step forward with your right leg and bend at the knee making sure your knee never goes past your toes. Push up and back to the standing position. Repeat the same movement with your left leg. Continue to alternate for 10-12 reps each leg for 3 sets.
7. Fire Hydrants: this exercise can be done with or without a dumbbell being held in the crook space behind your knee. Start by going on all fours in a tabletop position, making sure your arms are underneath your shoulders, shoulder-width apart, and your legs are underneath your hips, hip-width apart. Slightly lift your right leg (still bent) off the floor and squeeze your glutes as you wave it up to the side as high as you can comfortably go (with your knee still bent.) You should resemble a dog peeing on a fire hydrant at this point. Bring it back down (never let it touch the floor) and repeat for 10-12 more reps. Repeat the same pattern with your other leg for 3 sets total.
8. Donkey Kicks: this exercise can be done with or without holding a weight in the crook of your knee. Start by going into a tabletop position on all fours. Lift your right leg off the ground slightly (still bent) then kick up with your foot, as comfortably as you can, to the sky/ceiling. Exhale as kick and inhale as you bring it back down to starting position (don’t let it touch the ground.) Repeat for 10-12 reps. Do the same with your left leg and repeat for 3 sets total.
I can already tell I’ll feel this in the morning especially going up the stairs. Hope you guys enjoy this workout because I sure did. Have a good night everyone!