If you want to hit the quads, glutes and hamstrings thoroughly, try this variation of the split squat that has an interesting twist—on each rep you switch legs, not at the top but at the bottom of each rep.
You start by doing a reverse lunge. Then at the bottom of that rep you rest your knee on the floor, bring your front leg down so you’re kneeling on both knees at the bottom. From that kneeling position you bring your other leg forward and step back up.
It’s deceptively simple, but it presents a great challenge to your body in a number of ways. First, when you switch legs at the bottom, you have to maintain balance while holding the dumbbells. That means plenty of core involvement. As you swing the legs around, you’re also involving the gluteus medius and minimus more than in a regular lunge.
Second, once you’ve switched legs and brought your other leg forward, you will be starting from the bottom, which gives you absolutely zero elastic tension in the muscles. It’s going to be all you coming up from that position. That helps build power out of the bottom of the lunge/squat exercise, which will translate to your regular lifts.
Third, it’s actually kind of fun because it requires a bit of skill to do—but you’re still working very hard.
The first time you do this one, start with light dumbbells. Regardless of how much weight you can squat or lunge, you need to learn the mechanics of the exercise before you move up in weight.
Start in the standing position.
Set your right foot back a few feet, and then come down into a reverse lunge. Come all the way down until your weight is resting fully on that bottom knee.
One thing to note here is that you don’t want to come crashing down into the bottom position; lower yourself under control until you’re kneeling on the ground. You aren’t doing a knee drop here!
This is where your core comes into play. Bring your left leg back so that you’re kneeling on both knees.
Next, bring your right leg forward so you’re in the bottom of the split-squat position again.
When you’re about to start the push back up to the top, here are a few things to think about.
1) As the weight gets a heavier, you’ll need to lean your torso forward a bit to get the weight over the center of power of the exercise, which is your front leg. This puts a great load on the hamstrings and the glutes.
2) Your back foot is important here; don’t just be resting on the tip of your shoe. When you’re about to push up, you should try and have the balls of your feet in contact with the ground so you can exert force with the back leg. Without that back leg tensed, you won’t be able to get heavier weights up.
Once you’re ready to go, with a powerful explosion of strength, come back up to the fully standing position. Be careful with your balance on this phase of the movement.
Once you’ve returned to the top, you have two choices—you can repeat the movement in the same sequence (set the right leg back and down, switch at the bottom, and come back up with the right leg forward), or you can switch legs (set the left leg back, and then come back up on the left).
That’s the exercise. Once you try it, you’ll see how simple it is—just a simple switch of legs at the bottom instead of the top. —Nick Nilsson
Editor’s note: To get a copy of Nick’s Muscle Explosion—28 Days to Maximum Mass, visit his Web site, www.28DayMuscleExplosion.com.