While training methodology will always continue to evolve, two “truths” continue to remain apparent. First, properly programmed, high-frequency weight lifting will unquestionably lead to simultaneous and optimized muscle performance, hypertrophy (muscle growth) and fat loss. Of course, one’s nutritional strategies must be consistently dialed in as well if you want to hit each of these goals. And second, you have to train your lower body. No matter what your training goals are—muscular endurance, strength, and/or power—to pack on quality, high-performance muscle mass and accelerate fat loss, higher-frequency lower-body/total-leg training is an absolute must.
Start thinking of compound lower-body exercises—those that move through more than one joint—as the “alphas” of multi-joint exercises. If executed properly, there’s truly nothing remotely “beta” or “omega” about them.
Most, if not all, lower-body movements can stress your body in specific ways, resulting in short-term or acute and long-term or chronic nervous system, metabolic and hormonal changes that directly affect your muscles. For example, when you perform a squat, deadlift or lunge, you can significantly jack up your natural levels of testosterone and growth hormone—two of the most powerfully anabolic hormones in the human body—during your lifts. This, in turn, can force your body to retain muscle mass and build. Remember, any anabolic effect from weightlifting increases your resting metabolism and leads to increased energy expenditure at rest and, ultimately, a head-turning, ripped physique.
CHOICE IS YOURS
It’s commonly stressed in our community that you should individualize your exercise selection to generate the hardest contraction and highest quality “feel” to your workouts. While this notion is generally accurate, the more specific bottom line is that not all exercises are created equally!
Certain basic and foundational exercises are simply downright superior for optimizing hypertrophy, enhanced athletic/functional performance and staying in top condition. Lower-body training, particularly if you incorporate the unique multi-joint exercises described here, will accelerate the metabolic conditions for reaching these goals more rapidly.
Here you’ll find six free weight–based lower-body exercises that simply must find a way into your “leg day” programs. These six exercises can help set and build your foundation for improving your performance and your physique—top to bottom.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
When learning and performing all of these exercises, without exception, you should emphasize quality over quantity. Don’t just count your repetitions. Make your repetitions count!
Focus on moving extremely well, which means that movement technique and form should never be compromised when you attempt to lift heavier loads or pile on more volume in your lifts. If you set your foundation with perfect technique and movement mastery, your intensity and volume of training will naturally improve over time and with experience. With every rep, your goal should be to “feel” the movement and contract hard.