So yesterday Candy and I did a leg workout. The last two leg workouts we have done have absolutely murdered our leg muscles.
Here are the 10 best (most tortuous) leg exercises (in no particular order because all can be equally dreadful):
1. Heavy Back Squat (Candy’s least favorite)- There is something about putting a heavy barbell on your back and having to squat down and stand back up that is just fear inducing. I’m always afraid I won’t be able to stand back up…which has happened before.
The Back Squat is a full leg workout, primarily targeting your glutes, quads and hamstrings as well as your adductors, abductors and calf muscles. Your erect0r spinae as well as your transverse abdominus are also engaged so you are working your entire core too! A great first exercise to do! Yesterday we did 5 sets of 5, increasing weight with each set.
2. Cocktail Lunges – Cocktail lunges are a front and back lunge combined. You lunge forward and then backwards, trying to not tap your foot down in the middle. A forward and backwards lunge is one rep. The front lunge and back lunge do both work your entire leg and the stabilizer muscles in your hips, torso and spine. However, your quad is the primary mover in both so you really burn out the quad by combining the two lunges into one rep!
For an extra burn, complete all reps on one side before switching to the other leg. Candy and I did 10 reps on each side before switching (one rep is one forward and one rear lunge). We added some weights to make it even more of a challenge!
3. Slider Side Lunges – Let the adductor machine gather dust and pick up a slider instead! Place one foot on the slider and one on the ground parallel to your foot on the slider. Slide the slider away keeping that leg straight as you bend the standing leg and squat down. When you stand, drag the slider back in keeping the leg straight. As Brian says, “It feels like my groin is ripping!!!”
4. Step Ups – I don’t know why…but I absolutely hate these. Like cocktail lunges, they always make me out of breath. They are simple. Pick a tall box (a challenging height) and step up. If the box is higher, it will also isolate the hamstrings more (but don’t make the box too high…you want it to be about knee height). And if you start farther away from the box, you will work your glutes more. When you step up, tap the other foot on top and climb back down. Isolate one leg first. Add some weight and increase the challenge!!
5. One leg squats (to bench or with TRX) – So the goal here is a pistol squat…no bench…no TRX…just a one leg squat as low as you can go. Candy and I both need a little assistance especially since this isn’t usually the first exercise we do. This is a great full leg workout. It makes you work extra hard too because you have to maintain your balance. AND by isolating one leg, you can make sure that each leg is doing the full amount of work instead of one leg dominating!
6. Kettlebell Swing – KB swings are supposed to be the absolute BEST exercise for your back side. After doing one round yesterday, I wanted to take the kettlebell and let it fly out a window. I usually like KB Swings, but yesterday they were brutal and today my butt is very very sore. So if you want a nice butt…do kettlebell swings.
7. TRX Hamstring Curls – We love to hate these. They destroy your hamstrings and you just want to be done with them. Ten times better than the leg curl machine for you!
8. Split Squat Jumps – We did these today. You start in a lunge position then jump up and land in a lunge on the other side. If you do them quickly and get low, split squat jumps are cardiovascular and really burn your legs.
Want some lean legs? Then definitely do these plyos.
9. Preacher Squats (aka Pitcher Squats, Bulgarian split squats or Balance Lunges) – Brian always wants to skip these. He has weak quads and preacher squats really really work the quads. Enough said.
10. Jump Squats -Squating and jumping. A plyometric exercise that will help you develop lean and powerful legs. What could be better?!?
Runners Up: Wall sit, Box Jumps, Air Squats, Front Squats, Plie Squat (Sumo Squat) and box shuffle.
Deadlift didn’t make the list because it is so much more than just a leg exercise. It is the Man Bicep Move!!! You can torture your glutes, hamstrings, traps, back and core with the deadlift!!!