Personal Trainer Ernesto Ortino is back! This time he's talking about how you can get your legs in shape! Ok own up, how many of you don’t bother training your legs? As a trainer I spend a lot of time in gyms and it never ceases to amaze me how many people focus their workouts on upper body exercises only.
Your legs are the biggest, and should be the strongest, muscles in your body. The musculature in the lower body does more than simply allowing us to walk, sit and stand. It helps to support our backs and some of the body’s largest bones and joints. The importance of leg strengthening for sporting performance and general health is significant, particularly with age.
A good leg workout ramps up your testosterone levels leading to significant strength gains which will be applied to your upper body workouts. Plus, they raise your metabolism significantly making you a fat burning machine. I’ve put together a fantastic leg workout which also focuses on the core to provide greater strength in your important stabilising muscles.
Start with a thorough warm up which includes walking uphill, running on a treadmill or skipping, followed by a period of lower body mobilisation.
2 sets x 15 reps (rest 45 seconds between sets)
It's a great way to isolate and strengthen the gluteus muscles and hamstrings as well as the muscles of lower back and hip.
• Lie on your back with your hands by your sides, your knees bent and heels close to your bottom. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and flat on the floor.
• Raise your hips up to create a straight line from knees to shoulders. As you come up, tighten your abdominals and glutes and try to pull your belly button back toward your spine.
• The goal is to maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your knees and hold for 10 seconds.
• If your hips drop, rest and then complete the rep.
Body weight squats
3 sets x 15 reps (45 seconds rest between sets)
Squats are the mainstay of any lower body workout as it challenges the quads, glutes and hamstrings. There’s no doubt that weighted squats are awesome but bodyweight squats are too, especially if you are a beginner. Obviously if you have great squatting technique and lots of experience then make sure you add some weights to this movement.
To be able to squat properly, you need basic hip, ankle and torso control. Working on your squats will increase the mobility and flexibility in each of these joints, and make you less prone to injury.
• Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Your toes should be pointed slightly outward and not straight ahead.
• Look straight ahead and pick a spot on the wall in front of you. Try to focus on this spot the entire time you squat, without looking up or down.
• Maintain the natural arch of your back and keep your abs engaged throughout.
• Now squat down as if sitting in a low chair, reaching your arms straight out in front of you for balance.
• Push the weight through your heels and make sure that your knees don’t go over your toes.
• Squat down until your hip joint is lower than your knees (what we call parallel).
• Straighten your legs and squeeze your butt to come back up, lowering your arms back to your side.
Bulgarian split squat
4 sets x 12 reps (60 seconds rest between sets)
This is undobtedly one of my favourite lower body exercise! Nothing challenges so many areas as this one – it works your core, hamstrings, quads and really targets the glutes. What’s more it also helps to increase your range of motion. This exercise comes with a warning though – it is guaranteed to hurt the next day....in a good day way, obviously! As this is a single-leg exercise, keeping your balance poses an additional challenge. Beginners should avoid the use of weights until they are comfortable with this movement.
• Holding dumbbells, adopt a split squat position with your back foot resting upon a bench.
• Squat down until your front thigh is parallel to the floor, keeping your torso upright and core tight.
• Your knees should be in line with your toes and no further forward.
• Pause at the bottom for a second and then return in a controlled movement, applying force through the front leg.
• Switch legs and repeat the movement.
As with all of my workouts, take it steady at first but once comfortable, you should be choosing a weight that causes you to feel tired with a couple of reps left in set 1 and then a couple of reps earlier by set 2 and so on.
Work hard and you’ll feel and see the benefits.
Enjoy leg day!
To read more training tips and advice from Ernesto visit his Facebook page.