When it comes to the structure of your body, your legs and lower back are vital. They act as the base of a statue and the anchor behind your daily movements and physical work. Without a strong lower body, you are often unstable, unbalanced, and weaker as a result.
So, it is crucial that you develop them, in many forms, including strength, muscle growth, stability, flexibility and balance. However, many people are unsure how or where to start when it comes to train their lower body. What areas should you train? What exercises are best? How do you perform them correctly? What is the correct intensity?
These are common questions that get asked, so this article will delve deeper into the lower body and offer some simple tips on how you can improve and strengthen it.
The biggest priority when you are looking to tone any part of your body, let alone your legs, is resistance training. Many people make the mistake of trying to do different things around it, such as running with weights and going to exercise classes, and though you may see some toning, it is nowhere near as effective as resistance training sessions.
This does not mean that resistance training should take over your life, far from it, but it needs to be a priority if you want to strengthen your lower. So, two to three sessions per week are going to be ideal for your goal. During your sessions, aim to combine compound movements that work multiple muscle groups with isolation exercises that focus on building one specific area. Aim to focus on perfecting exercise execution first, with the goal of becoming stronger and more stable in the lower body. Once you do that, you can then work on gradually lifting more weight and increasing strength over time.
Focus on Quads, Glutes and Hamstrings
Many people make the mistake of just focusing on the quadriceps when they aim to strengthen and tone their lower body. However, there is so much more to the lower body than just having bigger quads. If you want your posterior chain to be stronger, firmer, more stable and more balanced, you must look to develop your hamstrings and glutes, which are two large muscle groups at the back of your legs also.
They may not be the ‘sexy’ muscle groups that people notice when they see your physique, but they make a huge difference in your ability to be more flexible, more balanced, more stable and stronger in your lower body. If you focus just on quads, you will find that your posterior chain is very imbalanced, which can lead to issues, particularly when you train. So, make sure your lower body sessions feature a good balance of quad, hamstring and glute exercise so that you build a strong, stable and balanced base to your body.
Many people who want to strengthen and tone their lower body have limited experience when it comes to training, and therefore are not stable or strong in this area of their body. Therefore, their ability to perform heavier, more demanding exercises such as the squat, deadlift and Romanian deadlift is limited and you will have to shift your focus on strengthening and building muscle in your lower body first before you move onto compound exercise.
This is where the value of isolation exercises comes in. These are the less demanding movements that isolate one muscle group and focus on building strength and stability. If you train in a gym with plenty of equipment, aim to use machines such as the leg press, hack squat, leg extension, seated hamstring curl, lying leg curl, and hip abduction. This means that you can be locked in place, which removes the need for balance and stability, and allow you to then focus on building strength in your legs through good technique, time under tension and lifting more weight.
Once you are stronger, more balanced, more flexible and more stable in your lower body, you are then in a much better place to move on to the aforementioned compound movements to take your lower body training to the next level. For quads, the barbell squat will be a fantastic option for building more strength and muscle, while Romanian deadlift and barbell glute bridge are excellent for developing your hamstrings and glutes respectively. The standard barbell deadlift will also be your number one exercise for building a stronger lower back.
Compound movements are excellent for a number of reasons. They work your body the hardest, they provide an excellent stimulus for muscle growth, work number of muscle groups at once, burn the most calories and are perfect for building strength even further. However, it is important to recognise that you should only move onto these exercises once you have laid the foundations and built strength, balance and stability in your lower body first. Once you do, compound movements will then take your lower body training up a gear.
Another huge part of developing your lower body will be your diet. This will be vital, not only in achieving your goals, but also fuelling your workouts and remaining full of energy throughout the day. It is vital that you have a diet that features a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, vegetables and, to a lesser extent, fats to support you throughout your journey, both physically and mentally.
Consuming plenty of protein and carbohydrates, in particular, is going to be important because it is going to be your primary source of energy throughout the day. Aim for carbohydrates that release energy slowly, such as oatmeal, rice, potatoes, pasta, and bread, so that you avoid sharp spikes and dips in your blood sugar levels and that your energy levels remain consistent. Fruit is also a good, healthy option if you are looking for a sharper energy hit. Do not neglect carbohydrates from your diet, especially if you want to have high energy to attack your resistance training sessions with maximum effort and intensity, which will be key to developing and strengthening your lower body.
So, your lower body is crucial to your progress if you want to feel stronger, more stable and tone up. To do that, prioritise resistance training, focus on training all areas of your lower body with balance, start with isolation exercises, move to compound movements as you build up strength, and support your training with balanced nutrition. This will help you develop your lower body hugely and set you on your way to a stronger, healthier life.
Photo Credits: Envato Elements