Build leg muscle, boost metabolism
Fact: The more muscle you have on your frame, the more calories you burn in a day. Your largest muscle groups are the best calorie burners. Performing strength training exercises that tear and repair your legs, butt, and back will substantially boost the amount of fuel your body burns in a day.
Let’s be clear here that building “strong” legs does not mean building “big” legs. This is an important thing to get your head around. For anything on the body to be large – muscles OR fat, abundant calories and carbohydrates must be consumed.
Here are the top exercises for building power in your legs and butt.
Squats are by far one of the best exercises you can do for overall leg, core, and back strength.
1. Set up the squat rack so that the barbell is at your shoulder height. The bar itself weighs 45lbs. Load on the correct amount of weight, making sure it is balanced evenly on both sides.
2. Step under the bar, and align yourself with the centre of the barbell so it is resting on the top of your shoulders and is secure.
3. Stand tall with your chest out, shoulders back, and feet about shoulder distance apart. Inhale as you sit the bum BACK and down, leaning the chest forward slightly, shoulders back and lower back slightly arched and strong.
4. Exhale and contract the abdomen as you stand up to straight, keeping torso erect and tall throughout the extension.
Lunges, when done correctly, are a great way to work the gluts. Most exercises for the legs allow the quads to dominate, but a well-executed lunge can isolate and strengthen the gluts.
1. Set the squat rack up the same way as for the squats. Be careful not to load more weight on than you can do, as one leg is primarily taking all the weight.
2. Keeping the torso tall and the chest out, inhale as you step back and down into a lunge position, allowing the front leg to SIT, and the back knee to bend close to- but not hitting- the ground.
3. Exhale as you step forward again, bringing the back leg back in line with the front supporting leg. Keep most of your weight on the supporting leg, letting the other leg act mainly as a balance.
Though this exercise can take time to learn, it is very worthwhile one to master as it is the ideal exercise for strengthening the hamstrings, as well as the gluts and lower back.
1. Set up the squat rack so the bar is between knee and hip height. Load an even amount of weight onto both sides.
2. Keeping the core contracted, grab the bar with an overhand grip so that hands are just outside thigh width. Step back away from the squat rack and out of the way of any obstacles.
3. Look ahead as you bend from the hip and you inhale and pivot forward, maintaining a straight back, allowing the knees to slightly bend as you push the gluts UP. Maintain a slit arch in the low back, keeping it actively working, as you allow the weight of the barbell to pull your torso downwards, until it is parallel with the ground.
4. Exhale as you contract the gluts, hamstrings, and core, coming back to an upright position. Keep the chest out and shoulders back, with the abdomen and gluts engaged, throughout the exercise.
A proper step-up is done by using the leg ON the step to LIFT your body, rather than the leg on the ground pushing off. While both ways will use the legs, the slow, controlled step up will isolate and strengthen the quads around the knee and the gluts of the leg being worked.
1. Set the step to a challenging height – from slightly below knee height to slightly above knee height- depending on your leg strength and experience with the exercise. If you are using a bench, ensure it is stable on the floor surface so it won’t tip over.
2. Stand as close to the step as possible, placing one foot fully onto the step, leaning the torso forward, chest out and over the front knee, so that most of your weight is on the working leg.
3. Exhale as you push your weight into the leg on the step, lifting your back foot SLOWLY off the ground. Keep lifting up, until the working leg is almost but not fully straight. Keep the gluts pushing back and firing and the knee overtop the toes with the heel firmly planted on the step.
4. Inhale as you SLOWLY lower your hanging leg back to the floor, keeping the foot on the step FIRMLY planted. Do NOT allow the heel to lift off the step as you lower the other leg back to the ground. This allows the full leg to work and prevents pressure on the knees.
This squat is excellent for working the medial and lateral quad muscles around the knees, and the entire quadriceps, gluts, and lower back, in general.
1. Start by sitting on the edge of a low bench, feet shoulder width apart and parallel, holding dumbells in each hand, arms straight, shoulders back. The chest is out while the lower back is arched and the whole torso is angled slightly forward.
2. Exhale as you stand up, lifting the gluts off the bench, while maintaining the same upright, slightly angled forward posture. Keep the knees in line with the toes, making sure not to knock them towards each other as you slowly stand up. Keep the abdomen and lower back engaged so as not to stress the lower back. Keep the gluts tensed as you stand and don’t lock the knees.
3. Inhale as your lower back onto the bench again, sitting BACK and DOWN so the heels stay grounded and pressure is not being put on the knees. Don’t knock the knees as you lower and keep the gluts tensed.