Lower Body Workout Variations
Last week we asked if you were a frequent gym-goer or someone who is newer to the gym to see if you could benefit from upper body variations. This week we would like to share with you all some simple lower body strengthening exercises. We picked a few that we see people perform consistently at the gym. Especially for a beginner, we think it is essential to know some of the big muscle groups that are targeted before performing an exercise and the difference in modifications of each exercise. Use this as a general guideline when tweaking your exercise routine and regardless of your experience working out, always emphasize proper form.
The squat is everyone’s favorite low extremity strengthening exercise. By adjusting the placement of the bar you can easily target different muscle groups. Keep in mind there will be overlap in muscles you strengthen with each variation and the muscles listed below are not the only muscles being used.
- Back squat
- High glute involvement
- Ideally you want your trunk and tibia in line with each other. Try to not let your knees progress over your toes throughout the movement.
- Front squat
- More quad involvement
- Placing the bar on the front of your shoulders, rather than behind your head, moves the center of gravity of the weight you are lifting forward. This is why your quads now become the chief mover rather than your glutes.
The lunge is one of the most versatile lower extremity strengthening exercises that we use consistently in physical therapy. It is an extremely useful exercise to build frontal plane strength, which may of us lack. In addition, the exercise will strengthen some of the large muscle groups people focus on at the gym, including quads and glutes.
- Forward lunge
- More quad involvement
- It’s ok to progress your front knee over your foot slightly with this exercise, but slowly control the motion and do not let you knee dive inwards
- Backward lunge
- More glute maximus involvement
- Try to keep the front knee behind your toes and actively drive the motion through your hips
- Lateral lunge
- More glute medius involvement
- This is a muscle that stabilizes your hips in the frontal plane and often times a muscle that is weak in the general population
- When initially performing this exercise, do not use weight and keep your hands in front of you to counterbalance your hips going backwards
The deadlift can be an extremely beneficial lower extremity strengthening exercise. It is easy, however, to perform the exercise with incorrect form and place high levels of stress on the low back. With all variations, think about keeping the shoulders and back engaged and core activated. The bar should always be as close to your body as possible.
- Traditional deadlift
- More glute activation here
- Knees start bent and finished extended
- Romanian deadlift
- More hamstring activation here
- Knees stay relatively extended throughout the movement
- This is typically a more difficulty variation to perform, thus start with lighter weight and focus on proper form