Your lower body is a powerhouse in its own right. We use it for everything — even sitting. Yes, even in an idle position, at least some part of your lower body is still hard at work. Thus, it probably goes without saying that dedicating time in the gym to improve its strength will pay dividends. Here are some of the best lower-body exercises you can include in your regular training.
7 Lower-Body Exercises for Better Strength, Stability, and Explosiveness
1. When in Doubt, Squat it Out
Squats are, hands down, one of the best exercises you can do period. They’re a killer compound movement, they work literally your entire body, and there are endless squat variations. No matter what your preference is, no matter what level of training you’re at, you can squat.
Here are just a few ideas to play around with:
- Front squats
- Back squats
- Overhead squats
- Zombie squats
- Banded or chained squats
- Sissy squats
- Jefferson squats
And this is barely scratching the surface.
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This is a special one. Let us explain why.When you step up onto a box, you’re essentially starting from a deficit. In other words, you’re moving from a lower position to a higher position, forcing you to literally get yourself out of a hole.Training from a deficit requires a different type of strength. As an added bonus, box step-ups are a unilateral movement, since you’re technically working one side at a time. This helps you pinpoint any weaknesses or imbalances and correct them accordingly. Similar to squats, there are all sorts of variations for box step-ups, depending on what level you’re at. To make it easier, do bodyweight step-ups to a lower height. Increasing the height increases the difficult. To increase it further, add weight. You can hold dumbbells or kettlebells at your sides, in front of you, or on your shoulders. You can even do these with a barbell in the front rack or back rack position.
3. Bulgarian Split Squats
Yes, we know, we already covered squats. But these are different. Bulgarian split squats have you propping up one foot up behind you, usually on a bench, so that you’re left squatting on one leg — kind of like pistols. (More on those in a minute.) What makes Bulgarian split squats unique is that even if you don’t have the best mobility, you still get so deep into that one-legged squat that getting out of it is incredibly challenging. And similar to box step-ups, this is a unilateral movement that helps you address a weakness that you might have only on one side.Start easy at bodyweight. Increase the difficulty with dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell.
Yes. Yes. Another squat. Stay with us.For the average athlete, pistol squats are so challenging that you can’t simply bust out reps like you would a traditional squat; so, that’s why they get their own shout-out on our list of killer lower-body exercises. Plus, pistols aren’t your average squat. You collapse on your standing leg so much that it demands a whole new type of strength to get out of it. And! There’s an extra bonus, here. Pistols will seriously challenge your mobility, which in turn is great for your strength and recovery. It’s a win-win, all the way around. If you can’t yet execute a standard pistol, have no fear. First, rehearse only the negative — the “squatting down” part of the movement. When you get to the bottom, simply release the leg that’s up in the air, and stand up again. If your mobility won’t allow for this quite yet, that’s okay. Stand on a box so that your free leg has room to hang down in front of you.
Ah, yes, another compound movement we love. So simple, yet so challenging. See that heavy thing over there? Go pick it up. There’s your deadlift. This is one of the ultimate lower-body exercises. It’s one of the simplest exercises you can do, and yet it offers endless benefits for your entire body. You can’t go wrong with a solid deadlift training program. No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, it’ll help, and that’s why we’ve included it on this list.
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6. Sled Pushes
Bet you didn’t see this one coming! Sled pushes are a unique kind of lower-body exercise. Consider the previous movements on this list. Squats: You sit down, stand up, you’re done. Box step-ups: You step up, step down, you’re done. There’s a clear beginning and end. With sled pushes, that’s not the case, because they’re a continuous movement — resistance that you must keep fighting against if you want to move the sled. Sled push exercises will help you build that lower-body strength in a totally new way, and you’ll never run out of ways to use this piece of equipment.
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7. Glute Bridges
Don’t let glute bridges fool you. They’re a more intense lower-body exercise than you might suspect. We love glute bridges because they really let you concentrate on that backside. And make no mistake about it: Your caboose needs that kind of attention, because they have such a big job to do. There are countless ways to switch these up. You can do glute bridges on the floor or propped up on a bench, on one leg or both. Using only your own weight might be enough, or if you want to kick up the intensity, add weight in the form of a dumbbell, kettlebell, or barbell across your hips. For extra spiciness, slow down the down-phase. If you’re looking specifically for glute exercises to help boost your lower-body strength, this is a great place to start. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of this, pause, pick just one movement, and start there. You’ll notice improved lower-body strength in no time. Which of these lower-body exercises will you add into your regular training first? Let us know in the comments section below!