Training the lower body is the ultimate foundation for improving overall strength, muscle endurance, and athletic performance. Big, compound, multi-joint movements like squats and deadlifts are absolutely essential for any fitness pursuit, whether your goal is to crush a new strength PR or to lose the last 10 pounds of body fat you've been struggling with.
This lower body workout, designed by Marc Megna, C.S.C.S., co-owner and chief body architect at Anatomy at 1220 in Miami, can be completed in under 25 minutes but provides plenty of variety—these moves will target areas that you may have been neglecting by doing the same, tired routine at your gym. According to Megna, "The best leg workouts will focus on a variety of training adaptations. Low load, high velocity exercises to improve speed; moderate load, high velocity exercises for power; big muscle, multi-joint bilateral movements for strength and unilateral movements for function." That's exactly what you'll get with the routine, below.
Move through the following five exercises resting as noted.
1. Lateral Bench Jump-Overs
Sets: 2 Reps: 6 Rest: 2 min.
When designing training days, I like to program the highest velocity exercises first. To break up the abundance of sagittal plane exercises in lower body training, this frontal plane low load, high velocity exercise is a great choice.
How to: Stand beside a bench, jump over it bringing the knees up toward the chest as opposed to the heels up toward the butt, stick the landing, and repeat. As your ability improves, decrease the amount of time spent on the ground. Perform a hip or ankle mobility drill during the rest time.
2. Hex Bar Squat Jumps
Sets: 2 Reps: 5 Rest: 2 min.
I prefer using the hex bar (or dumbbells) to load squat jumps as they don’t crush the spine on each landing. Your starting point with the hips back should look exactly like the landing position. As with the Lateral Bench Jump-Overs the volume is low, not so that it can be loaded heavily, but to keep the quality and velocity high.
How to: Load with 50 to 60% of bodyweight and perform a squat jump. Do a hip or ankle mobility drill during the rest time.
3. Snatch-grip Deadlift
Sets: 5: Reps: 8, 6, 6, 6, 4 Rest: 2 min.
When choosing between the large muscle group, multi-joint lower body exercises it always comes down to squat or deadlift. Most often, if I have to pick one, I lean towards the deadlift because it is a posterior chain exercise and our daily lives tend to emphasize the anterior. In addition, in this workout, the moderate load, high velocity exercise is a squat pattern. I like the snatch grip variation because it accentuates keeping the spine straight and stresses the back muscles. Some lower rep, higher intensity sets included to increase strength included with this exercise.
How to: Check out the move here.
4. Sliding Leg Curl
Sets: 3 Reps: 6 Rest: 1 min.
This exercise is preferable to a machine leg curl because it involves both the glutes and hamstrings contracting together to flex the knee, which is how this movement occurs when walking or running.
How to: This is performed by placing the feet on a surface that will allow easy sliding such as a towel on a hardwood floor or plastic sliders on carpet. Lay on your back with feet flat on the ground, sliders or towels under each foot, and knees in the air. Press the hips into the air through the heels and keep the body straight from the knees to shoulder, allowing the knees to straighten. Push down into the heels to pull them toward the butt, again keeping the body straight from knees to shoulders.
5. Offset Racked Reverse Lunge
Sets: 3 Reps: 8 per leg Rest: 1 min.
This is a great exercise that is mostly posterior chain (though not entirely) and the off-set rack position challenges the stability of the core musculature.
How to: Place a dumbbell or kettlebell (preferable) in the rack position. With the other leg, take a big step back into a reverse lunge and pull back through the lead heel to return to the starting position. Be sure at the bottom position that the front shin is vertical, or even slightly angled back toward the body.