Having a solid resistance (weight) training routine is critical for weight loss, long-term weight management, and optimal health. Regularly performing a combination of both upper and lower body exercises is also crucial, the latter of which I’m focusing on here. A strong, well-developed lower body is necessary for maintaining good posture, balance, agility, coordination, and gait (the manner in which you walk).
The lower body is primarily made up of three parts: the gluteals, thighs, and legs. The gluteals are comprised of several muscles that attach to the hip joint: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. The gluteus maximus is the largest and is generally referred to as the ‘butt’. The thighs are comprised of multiple muscles that attach to both the hip and knee joints.
The muscles on the front of the thighs are collectively called the quadriceps while the muscles on the back are called the hamstrings.
Finally, the muscles of the legs, which are most commonly targeted during weight training, include the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. The gastrocnemius muscle attaches to both the knee and ankle joints while the soleus only attaches to the ankle joint. These muscles, which are located on the back of the legs, are collectively referred to as the ‘calves’.
From a vanity standpoint, a lean, well-sculpted lower body is crucial for sexy legs and a fabulous butt. But, to completely train your lower body you must perform weight training exercises that develop all its parts. Obviously, with so many different muscles comprising the lower half, this workout should be one of the most extensive during weight training.
Still, when it comes to training the lower body, many people find it very difficult to choose the most effective exercises and equipment.
When training the lower body, it’s best to maximize your workout time by first focusing on compound exercises that work the lower body at all joints (hip, knee, and ankle) so that you’re adequately taxing ALL the muscles simultaneously. Such exercises include squats, lunges, and step-ups.
You can then focus on specific exercises that target the butt (standing hip extensions and standing hip abductions), thighs (leg extensions and curls), and legs (standing and seated calf raises) separately. It’s all about maximizing your precious time.
In order to fully develop your lower body efficiently and effectively, here are eight exercises I generally recommend performing at least once a week.
- Dumbbell or barbell lunges
- Dumbbell or barbell squats
- Dumbbell or barbell step-ups
- Dumbbell or barbell stiff-legged deadlifts
- Single leg extensions
- Lying or seated leg curls
- Leg press or hack squat
- Standing dumbbell or barbell calf raises
For each of these exercises, I recommend performing at least 2-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions using either a light-to-heavy or heavy-to-light progression. In other words, you can either increase or decrease the amount of weight you lift for each consecutive set. These exercises can be performed back-to-back and even in combination with upper body exercises with minimal rest between the sets. The heavier you lift, the longer your rest periods can be.
Now, if you’re unfamiliar with the exercises I’ve described, you can find them on Bodybuilding.com. This is a valuable online resource that offers free demos for over 300 exercises and I highly recommend using it. If you prefer a book instead, Strength Training Anatomy is another good resource with over 600 full-color illustrations.
So, hopefully I’ve provided you with some good information and valuable strategies for building a sculpted lower body. If you’re unfamiliar with some of the fundamentals I’ve highlighted here like repetitions and sets, be sure to check out “Weight Training 101: What You Need To Know Before You Lift” and learn everything you need to know about this type of training.