The key to training the calves for power is being quick on the concentric portion of the exercise which in calf raises is when we press off with the calves, then hold at the top for a moment then lower the weight slowly in a controlled fashion, and repeat by a really fast launch of the calves once more. Bend both knees to lower your torso toward the floor, making sure your front knee doesn’t pass your toes at the bottommost position. Now, with the goal of staying healthy and lean and looking good, I have to disagree. You can also do upper-body power drills, such as medicine ball throws. Bring left leg back down to the ground; repeat 4 times stepping up with right foot. Among purists, a “top 10” of leg exercises would include only one entry: the classic barbell squat. It tightens my hip flexors and hurts my lower back. From the track to the Olympia stage, Erin Stern has drawn acclaim for her legs. Exercise 3: Deadlifts. Elevating your leg on a bench creates instability and increases the exercise’s range of motion. It’s rare unless the place where you train is the type patrolled by beefy powerlifters and chronically hazy with chalk dust. The first time you do a single leg box jump, you might feel a bit discouraged. Do not forcefully lock out the knee. Start with your torso and thighs aligned and perpendicular to the floor. Continue alternating down the floor. From there, powerfully extend your knees to press the weight up (but don’t lock them out at the top). Some purists prefer to have no machine work in their routine. BOXROX – Competitive Fitness Magazine is the world’s biggest online magazine for fans of CrossFit® and functional fitness. Keeping your head in a neutral position, abs tight and torso upright, bend at the knees and hips to slowly lower your body as if you were going to sit in a chair. THREE EXERCISES TO IMPROVE SINGLE LEG POWER Most sport and lifestyle activities require us to be explosive, change direction, and jump when only one foot is planted on the ground. With your chest up, arms straight and core tight to maintain the natural arch in your low back, lean forward from your hips, pushing them rearward until your torso is roughly parallel to the floor or until you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings. Want to read this article on one page, with no advertising? I put my feet high on the platform and keep them together. This can lead to a host of problems from knee pain to back pain. Single Leg Box Jump. Did Bulgarian strength athletes really use this movement as a training cornerstone? These are two staple lifts, and I relied on both when I was training for the Figure stage and for track and field. And just as important, it helps provide variety in what might otherwise be a very squat-centric leg program. “The quadriceps and hamstrings are the major muscle groups that affect knee stability and motion. Time to clean up those glaringly painful weak links once and for all. How-To:Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and hold a bar across your upper back. In our list, back squat is No. Main Areas Targeted: Quadriceps (emphasized with feet lower on platform and closer together), glutes and hamstrings (emphasized with feet higher and wider on platform). How-To Hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of a knee- to hip-high step, bench or platform. Keep your chest up, lower back and abs tight, and eyes forward as you step back into a shoulder-width stance. Why or why not? The Single-Leg Box Jump builds explosive power individually in each leg. Step-Ups . Yet we rarely train single-leg power in the gym. Strengths: You may notice a pattern here — well, you should, at least — but like the other exercises on this list, the key to results with the Romanian deadlift is pinpoint form. The lateral lunge is a simple yet effective leg exercise that will have you fully loading your weight on each leg and it will force maximum activation in the quads and glutes. 1 here is about as surprising as a Donald Trump publicity stunt. Strong Legs will improve your athletic ability in almost every area. Your knees should be slightly bent and your toes turned out slightly. Then step with the opposite leg into a lunge, repeating the pattern. Use this 7 exercises to build strength, muscle and also to improve your Squats. Otherwise, I think there are smarter ways to stimulate leg growth. Always maintain a flat back and keep your shoulders square.”. That’s the one that’s plate-loaded and angles your body slightly backward. Being a unilateral exercise, it also means a stronger leg can’t compensate for a weaker one, with each leg taking its turn absorbing the full brunt of the motion. With your chest up and core tight, unhook the safeties and slowly lower yourself, stopping when your thighs are just past parallel to the platform. Check out BOXROX Pro. After all, you probably walk up stairs on a fairly regular basis, right? What’s your favorite leg builder and why? While the barbell version of the hack squat — picking up a barbell placed behind you — is perfectly acceptable, especially for those training at home, the typical machine-based hack squat you find at most gyms is our choice here. But what else can we do? Note that when performing reps correctly, the calf/ankle area will alternate between touching the bottom and the top roller. This is a great exercise to prepare the body for bounds or depth jumps. Are you looking to increase your power? Barbell squats utilize barbells held at the chest in front or on the traps behind the neck. The exercise is devastatingly simple and effective. 2. Extend one leg straight out in front of you, balancing on your other foot. Single leg work is often overlooked when it comes to strong legs, but it plays an important role in adding structural balance and identifying asymmetries and weaknesses in an athlete’s movements. I’ll stick to simple math! The coolest part is that you can even do this exercise between your sofa and coffee table – at least that’s what I do when I get bored of sitting on the couch. You won’t even be able to get all the way down into a full squat at first. 10 Plyometric Exercises For Power and Explosiveness. Finger Clean Starting Position Build Explosive Jumping Power With These 3 Leg Exercise Progressions I just wanted to put out a quick blog post for people who are looking to build leg power in the athletes they work with. In fact, if using calories is the goal, strength training is the way to go. Perform these types of movements—without weights and at your maximum effort—and you'll up your burn while strengthening your legs and glutes. For added deliberation, here are our picks for the top 10 calf exercises. Do you like to train quads and hams on different days? Flex your hams to bring your body back to vertical. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and slightly bend your knees. Then you stand up. An example would be pairing weighted step-ups (push) with Romanian deadlifts (pull). You can alternatively do glute-ham raises with a partner holding your legs (kneel on the floor and keep your hands out in front to catch yourself as you lower your torso to the floor) or kneel on a lat-pulldown station seat so your heels are under the knee pads, placing a barbell or a sturdy stick on the floor that you grasp for balance (lower yourself via the power of your hams and glutes, then reverse). And they are not all created equal. Strong Legs – Bulgarian Split Squat How-To: Stand upright holding a barbell in front of your upper thighs with an overhand grip. c. Repeat 4 times stepping up with the left foot. Drive through that heel to return to a standing position, making sure to never let that heel come up as you rep. Erin Says: “The exercises we don’t like doing are often the most effective. By loading the sled with weight and pushing the sled as fast as possible you can develop great leg power. Mix in using heavier and lighter weights in your sled sprints and only perform the sprints for 10-20 yards. Keep your back flat, core tight and the bar sliding along the front of your legs on the way up and down and you’ll build thick, impressive, protruding hamstrings. It also allows for an active recovery (quads rest while training hamstrings). Be sure to keep your knees behind your toes, step evenly on both sides and keep your upper body tall.”. What do you think? What she says about squats may surprise you…. That is, if you tweak the common variation (shown here) as proposed by well-known Canadian strength coach Charles Poliquin. To provide the resistance, you can hold a barbell, dumbbells or kettlebells (either at your sides or racked at shoulder level), wear a weight vest or just go with your own bodyweight. You place a heavy barbell across your back, then bend at the hips and knees to descend as far as you can (as those same purists might tell you, “glutes to grass” if you can stomach it). For example, if you lack proper shoulder external-rotation capability, then back squats might not be your best option. Strong Legs – Bulgarian Split Squat Common power exercises for legs include lateral bounds, forward bounds and squat jumps. Since the more power you get in each jump, the easier the exercise is, jump lunges teach your body to use strength and explosiveness together. How to do them: Start in a lunge position with your knees touching or almost touching the floor. Then add variety to break through plateaus and to hit the muscles from different angles. It’s not the reigning “king of exercises” for nothing. Use single-leg exercises to improve acceleration, rate of force production and contribute to overall power output. Bigger muscles require more energy to move around, so you burn more calories in the process. With 1,000,000+ readers and 5,000,000+ pageviews monthly, from more than 185 countries, it connects the worldwide fitness community. Add balance exercises A good starting point to building power is to ensure you have good core balance and strength, so including some exercises using a “wobble board” or include moves which strengthen alternate between both sides of your body, including one-legged squats or yoga’s Tree Pose. “The weight should be felt in your heels, not your toes.”, Erin Says: “I use this primarily for targeting the quads. In general I tend to avoid machines, but I do use the glute-ham machine. Not only does this develop power through the glutes, hips and thighs, but it also helps you practice balance and jumping force, which is helpful if you’re in a sport that requires vertical hops. Push/pull supersets! Training your tibialis ensures balance in your lower-leg musculature and further fortifies you against injury. Top 9 Advanced Bodyweight Leg Exercises. Start your calf routines with a movement that targets the more prominent gastrocnemius muscle (engaged when your knees are straight), followed by the smaller yet still important soleus muscle (engaged when your knees are bent). It’s a great way to even out any asymmetries.”. This article includes a few machines: the hack squat, glute-ham raise and leg press. Strong and powerful legs are a pre-requisite for any serious athlete. I perform these non-dominant side first, and let that dictate the number of reps I do on my dominant leg. 5 on our list, a split squat in which you elevate the back leg only 6 inches from the floor. Answer: Few exercises are as effective as the jump squat for building leg power. Plus, I don’t want to pull out a calculator to find the cosine of the angle of the sled, multiplied by the weight added. The exercise is devastatingly simple and effective. (ii) Training your legs with lunges offer explosive power to your legs. Step up to the bar, crossing your arms to build a shelf to cradle it at your front delts and upper chest. Main Areas Targeted: Quads, hamstrings, glutes. Research has found that when subjects use just their body weight on jump squats, they have up to 40% more power than when they use a loaded barbell. That’s important when the goal is to increase mass and strength.”, How-To: Step inside a hack squat machine, placing your shoulders and back against the pads. Strength power bildup and muscle power bildup Thai and calf going to shape and making strong Most sports require unilateral explosiveness. All in all, this compound exercise not only strengthen your legs, but is a great way to improve flexibility and balance. While some leg exercises increase your strength, this plyometric exercise will improve your power and can be a real pulse-raiser too. Most athletic movements are … Yet another amazing leg exercise that targets the entire backside of your body, which means stronger and firmer glutes, hamstrings, and low back muscles. © 2021 Pocket Outdoor Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Use this 7 exercises to build strength, muscle and also to improve your Squats. Strengths: The leg press is a closed-kinetic-chain exercise, which simply means your feet are planted rather than free. Erin Says: “I don’t train on the leg press, but the machine does offer the benefit of targeting different muscles through foot placement and eliminates the use of stabilizers. Among purists, a “top 10” of leg exercises would include only one entry: the classic barbell squat. You’ll fall on your can in the bottom position and likely lose your balance repeatedly. Keep your hips, back and shoulders in line, and pull yourself up with your hamstrings and glutes. “As for which is better, it depends on your posture, technique, previous injuries and personal preference. Why or why not? I think that too much isolation work can cause the physique to not “flow” as well. With the specially designed Westside bench you’ll get support in all the right places, but don’t let a lack of equipment dissuade you. And trust us: If they’re avid squatters, their legs are huge, so that’s a stampede you want no part of. Build stronger, thicker legs with these six lower body mass building exercises! Right now, my favorite leg builder is the hex bar deadlift. As with the lifts outlined above, we’re going to use a variation on the box jump to maximize our gains in speed. Reach your leg laterally from the midline of your body while keeping the opposite leg … In this article, I’ll show you some of my favorite bodyweight leg exercises for building the power, strength, and athleticism you need for the activities you love. But it won’t start out that way. And why not? Create a personalized feed and bookmark your favorites. How-To: Begin in a standing position. Beginner's Guide to Power: 5 Exercises for Explosive Strength. And why not? How-To: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, step forward with one foot and rest your rear foot on an elevated platform or bench, top of the foot facing down. We can only urge you, however, to not give up: Those who master this exercise have a tremendous weapon in their leg-training arsenal, and it doesn’t require a lick of equipment. “In other words, don’t lead the lift with your chest, arms and back.”, Erin Says: “I tend to do these standing on a bumper plate or box, which gives me a better stretch. In our eyes those who love the squat are 100 percent correct, so we’ll save you the suspense: It’s No. You may find that your quads burn deep for days after you first try the pistol squat, which is a sure sign that you’ve been shortchanging your range of motion on traditional leg exercises for years. Few exercises build leg strength while simultaneously challenge your balance and your leg mobility as much as Bulgarian split squats. The squat compresses the spine and very few people can execute it correctly. "Plyometric leg exercises are explosive movements that will increase your power and overall strength," says Katie Dunlop, a personal trainer, and creator of Orange County, CA-based Love Sweat Fitness. Bend your front knee to lower yourself, making sure that knee doesn’t track out ahead of your toes. “Keep your neck and back straight and elbows lifted high throughout the lift,” Kirchofner instructs. Much of what you do as an athlete revolves around being able to adapt to changing conditions, and changing from a bilateral stance … “The cues I utilize when teaching this movement are to always have your core engaged, with a neutral spine or slight lordosis (extension),” Flores says. 1. He contends that over-elevating the back leg — putting it on a flat bench or even higher — reduces the stability of the front leg, thus limiting your strength potential and putting you at risk for injury while also unnecessarily stressing the spine. The deadlift is a great all-round muscle and power builder, so it’s great for both physique … To make the exercise more challenging, hold a plate or use resistance bands.”. I’ll do two workouts per week for legs, but will instead focus on a heavy/athletic day and a light/aesthetic day. There are thousands of articles on the internet that deal with explosive power – but I find that most I’ve seen are isolated to one of two forms. Performing depth jumps from lower plyo boxes (around 30”) will lead to the greatest explosive strength and reaction gains, while performing them from higher plyo boxes (around 42”) will lead to the greatest strength development. The rarely worked tibialis anterior is activated when the toes are higher than your heels and should usually be targeted last in a complete calf workout, although you can also do it on its own or sometimes shift the order for shock value. Erin Says: “This exercise is most effective when the knees are the lever for the movement. Since this movement is lateral and performed off one leg you can’t jump very high, minimizing impact. Foot Power. Strengths: From a muscle-stimulation perspective, the glute-ham raise has been found to be on par with an exercise higher on our list, the revered Romanian deadlift, as reported in a small comparative study of hamstring exercises published in the June 2014 issue of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. I think it’s most important to develop a strong mind-muscle connection. I find that the bar helps me lift more weight and I can do more reps than I could with a traditional deadlift or a squat. Bend knees slightly and jump as far as possible to the right. Bulgarian split squats are an effective way to develop power, coordination and resolve the above problems. This exercise can be performed for 2-3 sets of 4-8 reps. 6. Do you have a favorite intensity-boosting technique on leg day? e. To address power, repeat the sequence lifting the knee to 90 degrees as quickly as possible each time. You can do stationary lunges in any direction — front, side, backward or any point in between — and have a damn fine exercise on your hands. Here, then, are our 10 favorite leg exercises of all time. Written by Mike Dewar. I’ll also perform partial reps at the top to get a good pump.”. It allows me to go heavier and it mimics the range of motion used in jumping.”. (If it does, take a longer step out from the platform.) “Most important, do not let the front knee turn in or out excessively.”, Erin Says: “I like this exercise as a finisher. Bend your knees to lower the platform, stopping before your glutes lift off the pad. Extend your hips to finish the exercise. Heavy deadlifts are an excellent way to develop hamstring and gluteal leg power (deadlifts are also very good for strengthening the lower back and the core), increasing sprint performance and creating the brute force needed when you have a pack full of 19 stone athletes pushing against you. Flex your hamstrings and glutes to reverse the motion, bringing the bar back to the start position. I will sometimes do a few sets at the end of my workout, and I can go heavier than I could with free weights. Go as deep as you can handle, ideally to a point where your thighs come parallel to the floor or below while maintaining your natural lower-back arch, then forcefully drive through your heels and extend your hips and knees to return to a standing position. Set your feet at mid-platform just inside shoulder width, keeping your feet flat throughout the exercise. Due to your poor shoulder and thoracic spine mobility, you may have issues getting the bar racked and properly positioned across your back. At the bottom, keep your back flat and head neutral. d. For a more difficult progression, rise onto the toes when swinging the knee up to 90 degrees. It’s effective for strengthening the posterior chain. This is especially important because most jumping motions in sports are off one leg… If your goal is to compete in powerlifting, then yes, squats are paramount. And when guys load every last plate in the gym on the sled and try to half-ass a few reps out, with their lower back disengaging from the pad on every rep in part due to woefully inflexible hamstrings and glutes, that’s about as incorrect as you can get. CrossFit is a registered trademark of CrossFit, Inc. However, we contend that the nine other moves featured here are great in their own right. By training opposing muscle groups, you can keep your heart rate up. Everything that a fitness fan is searching for. You can either repeat with the same leading leg for all reps and then switch or alternate your lead leg from step to step. Step up onto a platform ranging from a height halfway up your shin to where your thigh is parallel to the floor in the start position. From here, squat all the way down by lowering your hips and glutes straight toward the floor, bending your knee until your working thigh is below parallel. Erin Says: “The benefit of free-weight exercises is the countless variations you can come up with. In other words, any weaknesses in your strength or thigh development have nowhere to hide. Then you stand up. Erin Says: “This is a staple in my routine. Our list is 10 deep. You’ll get a good amount of co-contractions from above and below the knee joint, from the hip and core to the ankle and foot.”, How-To: Holding dumbbells in each hand, step forward with one foot. Starting with your feet in a shoulder-width stance, step forward with one leg onto the platform and drive through that thigh to propel your body upward. The magazine and its 250+ contributors cover many topics including CrossFit®, weightlifting, nutrition, lifestyle and community related news. It’s always best to train weaknesses when you’re fresh.”. Consider this the functional cousin of No. Here are 5 of the most effective single leg exercises to pause your way to stronger, more stable single leg lifts. Heavy Squats or Leg Press: To best achieve a high level of power, you want to be both quick and strong. Chances are, your gym won’t have Louie Simmons’ Westside Series glute-ham developer. At the bottom, your nonworking leg and arms will be out in front of you for balance with your planted foot flat on the floor. Bring your trailing leg up and stand atop the platform, then step back with either leg to return to the floor. Strengths: The step-up comes in all sorts of variations and can be adjusted to challenge beginners and advanced athletes alike. Admittedly, you’ll probably feel like an idiot when learning this move. I started doing rack squats, which target the top third of the movement. Leg Lunges (i) The leg lunges are a safe and effective method of working the legs. 1. I like performing the concentric portion of the exercise with explosiveness. Variations in leg stance and depth of squat are possible for different muscle emphasis. Those who are just starting out should stick to the basics until proper form, range of motion and targeting are mastered. The latest in featured workouts, supplementation, nutrition tips, and more! It's a great measure of single leg power, much better than the single leg vertical jump or horizontal jump. Do you agree with that assessment? On the women’s side, 3 of the events are primarily leg driven with substantial benefit given to those athletes that express and absorb high force. Last updated on April 15th, 2019. It’s also easy to control how far you go on each jump. Squats, in any form, are the classic leg development exercises. This could be good for increasing volume in the workout.”. From here, powerfully press upward to the start position, keeping your knees bent slightly at the top to protect them from hyperextension. Stop just short of your rear knee touching the floor, then drive through the heel of your front foot while bringing your rear leg forward until you return to a standing position. Jumping Lunges. 5 Leg Exercises to Build Explosive Power for Gymnastics Explosive lower body power and the ability to dissipate high force are both crucial factors for gymnastics success. But walking lunges ultimately made our list because a) they’re slightly more functional since you continually move forward instead of standing still and b) they provide an excellent finisher to any leg workout. They’re all proven muscle builders and should be rotated through a proper leg-training program over the course of a training cycle to maximize your development. Allow your lower back to collapse and take on the load and you’ll help put a Ferrari in your chiropractor’s garage. This will help any lifter emphasize different muscles or parts of muscles when training. Strong and powerful legs are a pre-requisite for any serious athlete. Just like other unilateral exercises, start with your non-dominant leg. Main Areas Targeted:Emphasis on quads, plus glutes, hamstrings, calves and core, Strengths: “Both the barbell front and back squats are great exercises for increasing leg, back and core strength and for positively affecting anabolic metabolism,” says Dustin Kirchofner, certified strength and conditioning coach at Yuma United MMA and owner of Modern Warfare Fitness. Sets/Reps: 3x6 with 2 minutes between sets. Elevating your rear foot onto a … #5 Forward To Reverse Lunge Combo. Many of the exercises below aren't going to stress maximum strength to a large degree, so it's important to perform at least one exercise where you will lift as heavy as possible. Sprint coach Robb Rogers, has an excellent analysis of why the single leg box jump is such a great power … Who said beginner's couldn't train explosively? As you already know, the barbell back squat is No. Strengths: Sure, this is more about dynamic performance than pure muscle building, but no matter. It’s true that it’s one of the most abused exercises in the gym — probably because you can feel like a big shot and handle much more weight than you can on a squat — but used carefully, the leg press can be very beneficial. “When performing any squat movement, my cues are always to avoid any excessive internal or external rotation at the knees — think the ‘knock-knee’ position or knees and toes pointing out — along with keeping your knees about shoulder-width apart throughout the movement,” Flores instructs. Enter the Romanian deadlift, or RDL for short. If you’re not as flexible, focus on lowering the weight and stop just before your back rounds. Just don’t argue that the squat is overrated, or you may be quickly overrun by the true believers. Lunges come in more varieties than Taylor Swift breakup songs. I have always taken a holistic approach to training. How-To: Get into position on the bench, securing your ankles between the rollers, your knees on the pads and your feet on the platform. The bar should be very close to or in contact with your legs throughout. This will help you maintain bar placement.”. When your knee joint forms at least a 90-degree angle, reverse the motion, driving through the heel of your forward foot to return to standing. “The movement should come from the hips extending — pushing your hips forward — not from extending the lower back,” Flores says. 1 in this ranking. “Inhale to support the trunk and abdomen at the start of your descent, and keep your core and abdomen engaged to help minimize stress on your lower lumbar area.”, Erin Says: “If you have problems holding the bar in the clean position, try wrapping wrist wraps around the bar and holding onto the wraps. This movement works the hamstrings from the hips, a necessary addition to a hams routine that might otherwise be dominated by variations of the leg curl (seated, lying and standing) that all work the muscle from the knee joint. Quads come into play during the straightening of the knees, while hamstrings are directly related to the bending of the knees and the pushing action against the ground, such as in a short sprint. Feel free to debate their merits, quibble over their placement and lament those we’ve forgotten on the Muscle & Performance Facebook page (facebook.com/MuscleAndPerformance). “The hack squat machine also allows you to go a little heavier without sacrificing too much form as you would performing bar squats since your back is supported, which decreases the chance of injury. 7. 1 and front squat is No. How-To: Sit squarely in the leg press machine and place your feet shoulder-width apart on the sled. 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Upper-Body power drills, such as medicine ball throws a phenomenal exercise to build strength, plyometric. ( if it does, take a longer step out from the floor help any lifter different! The track to the floor a knee- to hip-high step, bench or.! Kirchofner instructs cover many topics including CrossFit®, weightlifting, nutrition, lifestyle community... Deadlift, or you may be quickly overrun by the true believers functional exercises on list! Do upper-body power drills, such as medicine ball throws behind your toes step! Stepping up with the same leading leg for all two staple lifts, and that... If using calories is the way down into a shoulder-width stance can come up with goal... Glute-Ham raise and leg press: to best achieve a high level of power, much better than single.