Leg workouts are a tough day for anyone. They’re hard, they’re exhausting, they hurt in good ways and sometimes in bad ways. Knees, hips and back hurt occasionally. Most of the time, the pain part is short term. Oftentimes, it’s a lingering ache that we just ignore and keep pushing through. Muscle and joint pain are usually signs of dysfunction somewhere in the kinetic chain. Short and long term overuse, weakness, muscle imbalances, tightness, poor posture, among other issues are reasons behind lingering pain. When “leg day” pops up during the week, many of us experience pain stemming from these dysfunctions.
Not every leg workout is the same, but it should have the same components. Below are exercises and movements that should be incorporated in your leg workout to keep the muscles strong from all directions. Not all need to be incorporated into one workout but maybe spread out over two workouts during the week.
Sit down and stand up. We do this all day long. It’s a basic functional movement and also an athletic move. You don’t need to lift hundreds of pounds (how often will you be lifting hundreds of pounds from a sitting position?) but you should be able to lower yourself and stand up again.
The single-leg squat is a great exercise to complement the double leg squat and it’s a simple movement to do. It helps correct muscular imbalances, improves balance, coordination and requires focus. Single leg movements should be used in every leg workout to help strengthen stabilizers and, oftentimes, neglected muscles.
- Place one foot about 2-3 feet in front of a bench.
- Put the other toe on the bench behind you.
- Bend both knees and shift the hips back so the gluteal muscles absorb most of the body weight.
- Once both knees are 90 degrees, push through the heel and come back up. Repeat 10-15 repetitions.
Lateral lunge or Band shuffles
Both of these movements are great because we live in a world where everything we do is in front of us. Being able to move powerfully and quickly in a lateral direction in sports not only reduces the chances of injuries but also makes one’s game more efficient and stronger.
- Step to the side about three feet
- Extend your arms out in front of you and squat down, putting your hips back.
- Push off the heel and squeeze your gluteal muscles.
- Place band around ankles
- Put your hips back and take steps about a foot apart to one side. Be sure not to take too big or small of a step. I usually tell people to lead with their knees, not foot, so you’re not walking in the “knock knees” position. Knees stay over the feet.
- You should feel this in your gluteal muscles
Single-Leg Hip Hinge
How often do you pick something up off the ground? Have you ever picked up something and felt a tweak in your back? The kinetic chain wasn’t firing correctly and the gluteal muscles did not do the work they were supposed to do. This exercise helps strengthen them and correct the imbalance and misfirings.
- Make sure your back is straight when lowering to the ground
- Using your gluteal muscles from the foot on the floor, squeeze to bring yourself back to standing position.
- Start with no weight and gradually increase as you see fit.
Just about every sport has some sort of rotation in it. Swinging a bat, a club, a racquet, kicking, throwing, etc. are some movements we need to be strong in if we want to excel in a sport. Unlike squats which are up and down and lateral lunges which are left to right, the transverse lunge is a movement with a rotational element to it. It stabilizes the core and teaches the body to move in a controlled direction, focusing on balance, stabilization, power, and flexibility, among others.
This is a staple in just about every leg workout. Why do we need strong hamstrings?
- When they’re weak, they’re usually easier to pull and injure yourself
- The quadriceps, thigh muscles, become dominant and tight. This often leads to patellar tendonitis
- If they can’t help support the knee, more severe injuries are likely to happen such as ACL tears.
- There are many ways to do this. It can be done on the machines, a ball, or TRX.
- As you bend your knee, pause and straighten again. You should feel the “burn” behind the legs in the hamstrings.
The key to any workout is balance. You need to workout opposing muscles in different planes of motion to prevent potential injuries. So keep mixing up your program, incorporate the above exercises, and reduce your risk of injuries so you can continue doing the activities you love. If you have any questions, please ask a trainer because we love helping!