Your Total Lower Body Workout

Your Total Lower Body Workout

So, it’s Leg Day.

How does your workout play out? Squats and then a few rounds on the leg press machine?

How about your calves or hip adductors? Not bloody likely.

Your lower body, including lower core, is the foundation of your power.  Your biggest muscle groups are your glutes, quads and hamstrings. Your stability and flexibility comes from your hips. Your lift comes from your calves.

Yet, these are some of the most overlooked muscle groups in fitness.

Leaving some muscle groups unused while strengthening others leaves you vulnerable to injury. It’s time to work those forgotten muscles and build your lower body from top to bottom.

Top To Bottom

Top to Bottom isn’t just a fitting phrase - it’s the order you should be working all your muscle groups for lower or upper body.

Think of your lower half like an upside down triangle. All the biggest muscles are at the top, starting with your glutes and quads, down to your smaller muscles in your calves.

Your upper body works the same way - your back and chest muscles, then lats, then down your arms - biceps, triceps, forearms.

Your biggest muscle groups need more energy to work, so using them first means you won’t tap out before you get to them. Always plan your exercises by large to smallest muscle groups.

Total Lower Body Workout

We’ve laid out a total body workout, from Top to Bottom that will work every muscle in your lower half. You’ll need a few days rest after this workout!

Aim to include at least 1 full Lower Body workout per week.

Glutes

2 people in gym preforming Dumbbell walking lunge

Glute Bridge

Do 2-3 sets of 16 reps

  1. Lay flat on the floor on your back. Bend your knees at a right angle, keeping your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Keep your arms at your side, palms down.
  3. Lift your hips up off the floor while squeezing your glutes tightly
  4. Hold the bridge position and count to 5, then slowly lower yourself back to starting position.

Dumbbell Walking Lunge

Do 3 sets of 8-15 reps

  1. Stand up with your feet shoulder width apart, engaging your core.
  2. Hold two weights in your hands and rest them at your side.
  3. Step forward with one leg and begin to lunge while lowering your hips.
  4. Keep lowering until your back knee nearly touches the ground, keeping your extended knee in line with your extended foot.
  5. Hold the position, with your core upright.
  6. Push against the heel of your front foot to raise yourself back into the starting position.
  7. Switch legs and repeat.

Hip Adductors

Man preforming jump plank in gym

Plank Jacks

Do 2-3 sets for 1 minute

  1. Start with a basic plank position
  2. Move your feet away from each other as far as possible - extending your legs out behind you like a snow angel, while keeping your toes on the floor, supporting your body weight.
  3. Hop your feet back towards the starting position in a straight line - as if you are are completing the snow angel motion, while staying in the plank form
  4. Repeat for 1 minute

Lateral Lunges

Do 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps per leg

  1. Stand up with your feet shoulder width apart, engaging your core.
  2. Step out towards one side, keeping your back straight
  3. Keeping your weight on your heels, slowly lower your your weight onto your extended leg.
  4. Feel the stretch in your groin, and stop lowering when you feel a good stretch - you should not feel strain or pain.
  5. Step back into your starting position
  6. Switch legs and repeat

Thighs

woman preforming deadlift in the gym

Squats

Do 3-4 sets of 20 reps

  1. Stand with your feet slightly more than shoulder width apart, with toes turned outwards at a slight angle (keeping your feet parallel can create knee injuries).
  2. Roll your shoulders behind and down keeping your spine straight but not hunched
  3. Extend your arms in front with palms facing downwards
  4. Inhale and bend the knees moving your hips backwards (knees are behind the toes)
  5. During this movement keep your chest and shoulders upright and back straight by looking forwards
  6. Engage core and with weight centred over your heels explode upwards to standing position

Variations

  1. Advanced users can use a weight (dumbbell/medicine ball/kettlebell) and hold it in front of their sternum when dropping into the squat.
  2. You can vary the effort by squatting lower than the knees - advanced users can squat on a step box to squat very low.

Deadlift  

Do 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps

  1. With the bar on the ground in front of you, place your heels slightly wider than hip width. Toes pointed forward, or slightly outward.
  2. Grip the bar just outside the legs, palms facing in. Position your shoulder blades directly over the bar, with the bar directly above the middle of your foot.
  3. As you lift, keep your chest high, hips out, back erect with a slight arch. Lift the bar, rolling up your shins and keeping in line with your legs throughout the movement.
  4. As you start to reach mid, start to push the hips forward.
  5. At the top position, hold for 2 seconds and begin to lower the bar back down, pushing the hips back out while slightly bending the knees until you return the bar to the floor.

Calves

Man preforming calve press on legs press machine

Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise

Do 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps

  1. Stand feet hip-width apart on a raised surface such as a stable wooden block (about 2-3 inches tall). The balls of your feet should be on the block while your heels extend off, touching the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand for added resistance.
  2. Begin to exhale as you raise your heels as high as you can. Your calves should be fully contracted. Hold this position at the top for a few seconds.
  3. Remember to keep your knees straight throughout the exercise, possibly bending only slightly during stretch.
  4. As you inhale, go back to the starting position by slowly lowering the heels.
  5. Repeat for the required number of reps.

Variation:

  1. If you want an alternative to holding heavy dumbbells, try a single leg calf raise. This is the same movement on a step or wooden block, but place a hand on the side for added support instead of holding dumbbells. This makes this variation a great exercise to do from home with no equipment!

Calf Press On The Leg Press Machine

Do 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps

  1. Lay on the machine with feet flat on the platform, knees shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lower the safety bar to release the platform, allowing you to push it all the way up, straightening your legs without fully locking out your knees. (You may be able to leave the safety bar on with some machines. If you can, for added safety, it is better to leave it on.) You should now be in an L-shaped position.
  3. Carefully move the balls of your feet to the lower part of the platform so that your heels are extended off. (Be very careful when moving your feet down the platform - if the safety bar is not on, the platform could slip, causing serious injury.)
  4. Breathe out and slowly push the platform away by extending your ankle. There should be no movement at the knees with just your feet and ankles moving. Once fully extended, hold for a few seconds before carefully lowering the heels and stretching your calf muscles.

Dumbbell Seated One-leg Calf Raise

Do 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps per leg

  1. A seated calf raise can be a great way to make all the focus on those calf muscles, and remove the emphasis away from other muscle groups. Again, this exercise can be tailored to your needs by choosing the weight that best suits you.
  2. Place a wooden block or a weight plate about 12 inches from the flat bench.
  3. Sit on the bench and position the ball of your right foot on the wooden block or weight plate. The heel of your foot should extend off, touching the floor. Your left foot will be flat on the floor.
  4. Place the dumbbell on your right leg, a few inches above the knee and hold steady.
  5. Gradually bring your heel up, contracting the calf muscle and hold this for a few seconds at the top.
  6. Bring the heel back down as far as possible, feeling a stretch in the calf.
  7. Repeat for the required number of reps and on both legs.
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