*Personal Trainer in Toronto and those associated with www.PTinTO.com are not held liable for any injury sustained during exercise. Please consult a physician before starting any exercise program.
**Please note, In the above video I over-emphasized the back extension when performing the deadlifts. No need to hyper-extend that much. Just return to normal neutral spine position at top. See below for instructions.
Standard deadlifts using overhand grip with lifting hooks. I occasionally use lifting hooks so I do not have to worry about my grip strength much at all. It depends on the fatigue my forearms and grip strength or if I have had an injury (or coming off a training hiatus). Generally, I try to avoid using straps/hooks too often because it is useful building up the grip strength for other lifts. For deadlifts, I usually perform them with legs slightly wider than shoulder-width. Use leg positioning that is comfortable for you. Use slightly bent knees (or go very light if you are performing stiff leg deadlifts or Romanian deadlifts). Keep you spine in a fairly neutral position. Try to keep your shoulders pinned back and your shoulder blades depressed. Do not tilt your head up. Treat deadlifts like a leg press by digging your feet into the floor pressing with the back half of the foot. Taller people with long levers should deadlift from an elevated position. I am fairly tall at 6’1” and I am deadlifting off small plates (about an inch or two off the floor) here but really should be around 6-8 inches from the floor. Inhale and contract abs then lower the weight. Exhale as you are finishing the movement.
The Bulgarian squat is one of my favorite leg and glute exercises. Put your back foot on a bench or box that is not too high, nothing much higher than knee height. Come down until your front knee is 90 degrees. Do not have an excessive forward torso lean. Inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. Try doing uni-lateral movements for balanced strength and muscular development. Uni-lateral movements are also great for core activation. Just a few other good examples of these are; single leg deadlfts, one arm flat press or shoulder press (particularly bottoms up kettlebell presses).
This is a great exercise that’s main focus is glutes, inner thighs and quads. Try not to have an excessive forward lean when doing this exercise. Exhale as you are stepping up, inhale as you step down.
Uni-lateral Sandbag Walking Lunges
Sandbag over the shoulder, off-set, unilateral walking lunges. This exercise is great for the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Since the weight is off-set there is an added demand for core strength of the abs, obliques, and lower back. Try doing uni-lateral movements for balanced strength and muscular development.
Single Leg Deadlifts, Uni-Lateral Deadlifts
Keep the lower back in a fairly neutral position when doing this exercise. Keep chest up and shoulders pinned back and depressed. Keep the neck in a neutral position. Lift from the ground with a slightly bent knee. Taller people (over 6 feet) should do deadlifts from an elevated surface to prevent lower back strain. Keep the abs contracted throughout the movement. Bring the weight to the ground and reset on each lift. Inhale on the way down and exhale when finishing the movement. Try doing uni-lateral movements for balanced strength and muscular development.
Barbell Back Squats with Strength Bands for Added Resistance
Basic barbell back squats with added resistance with strength bands make finishing the squat more challenging. The bands also put more tension during the negative phase. This helps to develop more power and build muscle. Use basic squatting technique; force knees out (don’t let them collapse), come down to parallel or close to it (a depth where you feel comfortable), do not round your lower back, try to simultaneously contract your abs, glutes and quads when you are “in the hole”, inhale on the way down and exhale as you come out of the squat.
Barbell Back Squats with Kettlebells Attached to Strength Bands for Instability
By attaching kettlebells to strength bands it creates instability as the kettlebells move up and down. It makes the negative (lowering phase) more challenging as they is an added pulling down force. There is more tension created in the muscle. The goal with this setup is to improve power, strength, and muscle building. Use basic squatting technique; force knees out (don’t let them collapse), come down to parallel or close to it (a depth where you feel comfortable), do not round your lower back, try to simultaneously contract your abs, glutes and quads when you are “in the hole”, control your movement in the downward phase (go slower that coming up out of the squat), inhale on the way down and exhale as you come out of the squat.
Reverse Barbell Lunges
This exercise is a great variation of the lunge which targets glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Have a barbell resting across your shoulders. Step back and down until your back knee touches the floor or comes about an inch off. You can have a slight forward lean so that the weight is right above the working quad of the front leg. Keep your abs braced. Inhale as you step back and exhale as you come out of the lunge position.
For hip thrusts, press through with your heels. There should be a 90 degree bend in the knees. Finish at the top and “squeeze”/contract glutes hard without using lower back extension. Pause at the top and slowly return to the starting position. Exhale as you press up, inhale while returning down. Start this exercise using bodyweight with one or two legs, then progress to adding weight.
Stability Ball Leg Curls
For stability ball leg curls, lift butt and lower back off the floor. While curling, squeeze your hamstrings and glutes maximally. Keep your feet flat on the ball. If you are doing this properly with full range of motion you should feel your hamstrings about to cramp but not quite. Exhale as you are curling. Inhale on the return.
Stability Ball Leg Curls with Strength Band and with Booty Band
Leg curls on a stability ball with a strength band for added resistance. This is a challenging isolation exercise for the hamstrings. Wrap a strength band around your heels and anchored it to a door (or have your training partner hold it). A mini band or booty band can also be added around the knee to also target glutes (second video). Keep your butt and lower back off the floor throughout the movement. Toes should be pointing towards shins as you curl. When including the mini band, force out your knees as you are curling for glute activation. Pause at the end of the movement and return slowing to the starting point. Exhale as you curl, inhale on the return.
Front Squats with Strength Bands
For these front squats with leg abductions (forcing the knees out), I am using Fit Simplify bands. Once you are comfortable with these bands, you should progress to using mini strength bands which have more resistance. While coming down into the squat, force your knees out. This stimulates the gluteus medius, the outer glute muscles. Inhale as you are coming down into the squat, pause at the bottom, and exhale as you are coming out of the squat.
Cable Machine Pull-Through
This exercise targets glutes and hamstrings. It is a good warm-up exercise to perform before deadlifts to get the mind-muscle connection stimulated. It can also be done at the end of a leg and glute workout as a “burn-out” exercise. Attach a rope to a cable machine about 2 feet off the ground. Step forward until you feel a bit of starting tension on the cable. Grab the band through your legs with outside shoulder width stance. Use the hip hinge technique and do not round your lower back. Thrust your hips forward and squeeze your glutes together and pause at the end of the movement. Do not use your arms – keep them anchored to the front of your hips. Exhale as you thrust.
Strength Band Pull-Through
This exercise works the lower back and glutes. It is a great exercise to prepare for deadlifts or to include at the end of a leg or back workout. Anchor a strength band about a food off the ground or two. Grab the band through your legs and walk out until there is a bit of tension. Try to keep your lower back fairly straight. Keep your elbows tucked in resting on hips (this helps to prevent the use of the arms to pull the band). Force your hips forward and clench your glutes. Exhale as you pull through and inhale on the return to starting position.
"Butt Blasters" with Strength Band (aka Hip Extensions, Glute Kickbacks)
For resistance band glute kickback/hip extensions, choose a resistance that allows you to do the movement in the full range of motion and not use your lower back to finish the movement. Kick using your heels and not your forefoot. Keep your ankle dorsi-flexed (toes pointed up to your shin). Pause at the end of the movement. Return slowly to the starting position. Exhale as you kickback, inhale on the return.
Booty Band Drill
This drill is a good finisher for leg day/glute day. It targets the gluteus maximus (hip extension) and gluteus medius (hip abduction). Put a booty band around your thighs or lower legs (for more difficulty). In this video, I am using medium resistance. The first movement is a left and right side step/shuffle. You can perform this with slightly bent knees. This hip abduction movement works the outer gluteus medius muscles. The second part of this movement is a left and right step behind. This hip extension works the large middle gluteus maximus muscles. Exhale as you step in each direction. Inhale as you return to the middle.
For three way lunges/clock lunges, pivot around the back foot. Step forward to 12 o’clock, then to 2 or 3 o’clock, then step behind you to 7 or 8 o’clock. Three way lunges target the large gluteus maximus and smaller glute muscles including gluteus minimus and gluteus medius. Press through with your heels with each lunge. Inhale as you get into each lunge position, exhale as you come out of the lunge position.
TRX Bulgarian Squats
TRX Bulgarian squats are even a little better than standard ones on a bench. These work your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. They challenge your abs/core a bit more because of instability. You will also find you use your calves and anterior tibialis more for balance. The second benefit is the stretch. Since the straps move, the back leg can move back and this provides a great stretch of the hip flexor. Since these are more challenging than standard Bulgarian squats start slow. I would begin using only bodyweight, then progress to a weight in one hand so you can use the other arm for balance. Inhale as you are going down into the squat and exhale as you are coming up.
Strength Band Leg Curls
Leg Curls with strength bands work the hamstrings very well. I like to mix it up with stability ball leg curls and machine leg curls. You can hold the contraction (and feel the “squeeze”) doing leg curls using bands. The resistance is felt during the second half of the movement. Dorsiflex your ankles – bringing your toes up toward your shins. Try to bring your heels to your butt and pause. Exhale as you curl and inhale on the return.
Leg Abductions with Ankle Weight
This is a good exercise for the outer, medial glutes. Beginning just use bodyweight. As you become stronger, add more resistance using an ankle weight or resistance band. Lift your leg lying on your side using a range of motion that feels comfortable without much strain. Lower down slowly. Exhale as you lift and inhale on the return.
Leg Abductions with Band
For banded leg abductions, make sure you use a band with a resistance that allows you to perform the exercise with your full range of motion without too much strain. You can start by using "booty bands" which are usually pretty thin with low resistance. Progress to using mini strength bands. Lying on your side, lift your leg and exhale, Return to the starting position while inhaling.
Similar to standard leg abductions, fire hydrants work the outer medial glute muscles. Start these only using bodyweight then progress to adding ankle weights. Try to bring your leg out to the side without twisting your spine or tilting. Exhale as you lift, pause at the top of the movement, then lower the leg slowly. Exhale as you lift and inhale on the return.
Standing Calf Raises
Single legged standing calf raises build and strengthen the superficial, outer calf muscle – the gastrocnemius. Perform these on a box or step that allows you to fully stretch your calf at the bottom of the movement. Perform as many reps as you can until your range of motion is not longer complete. Exhale as you are raising your heel and inhale on the return down.
Seated Calf Raises
Seated calf raises build the deeper muscle that is situated below the gastrocnemius. This muscle is activated when the knee is bent. You can use a seated calf machine or you can be creative and do them with a barbell across your thighs. This can be uncomfortable so make sure you have good padding with a towel wrapped around the bar or a bar pad. Have your toes on a box or step high enough to allow a deep stretch. Perform as many reps until your range of motion shortens significantly. Exhale as you raise your heels and inhale as you lower them.
Lying Cable Leg Curls
This exercise targets the hamstrings very well. The resistance is fairly consistent throughout the whole range of movement. . Choose a weight that allows you to bend at least 90 degrees at the knee. Exhale as you curl, inhale on the return.
Leg Curl Bench Hamstring Exercises (Standard, with Band, and BANA)
Here are 3 different ways to target hamstrings using a leg curl bench (I use the Ironmaster bench with leg attachment). I like to perform these exercises at the end of a leg/glute workout. As you curl, keep your toes pointing towards your shins in dorsi flexion. Do not elevate your hips from the bench. Exhale as you curl and inhale on the return. Adding a band makes the exercise more challenging to finish the curl. You can further add difficulty by using the BANA (or bilateral assisted negative accentuated) method which focuses on overloading the muscle during the negative part of the movement. Using BANA for leg flexion, curl up with two legs and control the negative with only one leg.
Leg Extension Bench Quadriceps Exercises (Standard, with Band, and BANA)
Here are 3 different ways to target quadriceps using a leg curl bench (I use the Ironmaster bench with leg attachment). I like to perform these exercises at the end of a leg/glute workout. As you extend, keep your toes pointing towards your shins in dorsi flexion. Sit upright, brace, and pull up on the bench. Exhale as you extend and inhale on the return. Adding a band makes the exercise more challenging to finish the extension. You can further add difficulty by using the BANA (or bilateral assisted negative accentuated) method which focuses on overloading the muscle during the negative part of the movement. Using BANA for leg extension, perform extension with two legs and control the negative with only one leg.
Cable Machine Toe Raises
This exercise works the tibialis anterior which is responsible for lifting up your foot. It is located laterally to the shinbone. This is the muscle that gets sore when you have shin splints from running uphill and on uneven surfaces or not stretching. You can minimize shin splints if you develop muscular balance between the calves and tibialis anterior. For this exercise, strap on an ankle attachment at the top of your foot with the loop on the bottom to connect to the cable machine. This muscle is not very strong and so there is no need to go very heavy – a plate or two will usually suffice (or 10-20lbs). In a semi-seated position with leg straight lift your toes up to your shin. Pause at the end of the movement and lower the weight slowly. Exhale as you lift and inhale on the return.
Resistance Band Toe Raises
Toe raises with a resistance band work the tibialis anterior – the muscle beside the shin bone. This exercise helps to balance the strength of the lower leg. It also helps to prevent shin splints. Toe raises with a resistance band stress the muscle towards the latter half of the movement. In a semi-seated position, loop a band around the top of your foot (use a booty band). Raise your toe and pause at the top. Lower the foot slowly. Exhale as you lift and inhale on the return.
More Leg and Glutes Exercise Videos Coming September 2018!
Reverse Lunges and Reverse Lunge with Goblet Hold
Bulgarian Squat with Sandbag
Deadlift with Sandbag and Squat with Sandbag on Shoulder
Deadlift with Band
Single Leg Deadlift with Cable Machine
Single Leg Kettlebell Deadlift with Opposite Hand
Bear Hug with Sandbag
Bulgarian Goblet Squat
Leg Extension Bench
Leg Flexion Bench
Leg Extension with Added Band
Leg Flexion with Added Band
Leg Extension with Negative Focus
Leg Flexion with Negative Focus
Leg Adduction with Band
Leg Abduction with Band
Leg Press High and Low
Leg Press on Side
Calf Raises on Leg Press
Seated Calf with Band
Bulgarian Squat Jumps
Lunge Jumps and Long Jumps
Box Jumps – Jump Ups, Land and Explode, Single Leg
Alternating Step Ups from knees and Resisted Step Ups
Sandbag Hip Thrust
Front Squat, Hip Thrusts with Bands (Pegs)
Booty Band Hip Extensions
TRX Pistol Squats
For more legs and glutes training exercises I recommend: