Your legs are made up of four main muscle groups:
1. Quadriceps; front upper leg muscles
2. Hamstrings; back upper leg muscles
3. Adductors; upper leg muscles towards towards middle of body
4. Calves; lower back muscles
First, you should stand hip width apart. Toes slightly turned. Spine neutral. Shoulders back and down. Chest open. Send your hips back. Bend your knees to lower down as far as possible, as if you’re sitting on a very small invisible chair. Hold. Press through your heels to stand back up.
Keep your heels glued to the floor throughout the entire movement. If not using weight, you can clasp your hands or fully extend your arms out in front of you for balance.
Muscle Focus: Quads
As the name suggests, use a barbell which will be placed on your upper back/neck area. The bar should start in the squat rack, level with the middle of your chest. Step in and under the bar that it sits comfortably on your shoulders. Take a deep breath, tensing your stomach and with your chest up and your elbows up, unrack the bar and stand up straight.
From there, follow the instructions above, lowering down and exploding back up fully under control with your heels almost digging into the floor (with no pause at the bottom).
Do: Start with a light weight and slowly build up whilst you master the technique of this amazing exercise (which is often seen as the best weighted gym exercise).
Muscle focus: Quads and glutes.
Start with the bar in the squat rack, level with the middle of your chest. Step into a quarter squat so the bar is touching the top of your chest. Bring elbows forwards and up as high as you can. Drive up and take the bar out of the rack, then squat, keeping your knees wide apart.
Do: Start by warming your wrists up, they may not be used to being bent this way.
Don’t: Drop your elbows, weight will push you forward and bring you off balance.
Muscle focus: Inner thighs & abductors.
To start, take one large step with one foot so your stance is 3-4 feet apart. Angle your toes at a 45 degree angle away from you, then slowly squat as low as you can.
Do: Make sure your knees and toes are still aligned.
Don’t: Overextend your knees.
Equipment: Bodyweight & bench (for beginners)
Muscles targeted: Calves, lower back & glutes.
This is an advanced movement. You need to have strong mobility, stability and strength to do it right. Start by holding your arms straight out in front of you. Raise one leg off the floor and hold. Push your hips back, lower your body as far as you can, then plant your heels down and push back up. The challenge is to keep your leg stretched out in front of you throughout the full movement.
Do: For practice, start with a low bench for stability.
Don’t: Push yourself on this exercise if you don’t have the strength. Can be bad for your knees if done incorrectly.
Equipment: Bodyweight & weight plate.
Muscles targeted: Quads & hips.
Start by planting your heels down on a weight plate, shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forwards, hands on your hips. Bend at the knees and lean your body backwards, building the tension to the front of your thighs. Lower your back as far as you can, lifting your heels. Pause, then slowly push yourself back up to standing position.
Do: Keep a neutral spine throughout, and aim to form a straight line from your knees to your head.
Don’t: Push yourself on this exercise if you don’t have the strength. Can be bad for your knees and ankles if done incorrectly.
Equipment: 2x dumbbells & bench.
Muscles targeted: Quads, adductors & glutes.
Start with your back turned against your bench, with a dumbbell in each hand, one long step away from you. Reach back and place one foot on the bench. Look forward and squat down with control, until your knee is almost touching the floor. Pause, then push back up. Repeat for your dedicated amount of reps, then repeat on the other side.
Do: Face forwards and hold a strong focus on something in front of you to help with stability.
Don’t: Push through your back leg, push only with the grounded foot.
First, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your feet planted on the floor. Take a big deep breath in and tense your stomach. Lift your chosen weight (usually a barbell), by driving your hips forwards, keeping a flat back, head and neck straight and looking forwards, hold without locking your knees. Lower your bar with control, bending your knees, almost into a squat position. Maintain a strong spine throughout. Repeat!
Don’t get ahead of yourself, it is a slow movement. Your focus should be on a strong form, and building up your weight.
Muscles targeted: Back, glutes & hamstrings
Start with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, your toes pointing out at a 45 degree angle. Bend at the knees, lower your hips and grab the barbell in front of you. The grip is up to you. Overhand, underhand or a mix of both is welcome.
Equipment: Trap bar
Muscles targeted: Quads
The main difference in this move is the equipment used. A trap bar is a hexagonal shaped barbell. Stand in the middle of the hexagon, grasp onto the handle bars. Bend your knees, shoulder back, chest high, lean forward and lift.
Do: Treat the movement more like a squat, put your hips back as much as you can to stay within the shape.
Start with your feet hip-width apart, engage your core and take a large step backwards. Bend your front knee to lower your body until your back knee lightly taps the floor. Keep your upper body upright and activate your glutes. Hold. To return to starting position, drive through your front heel and lift. Repeat on the other side.
Muscles targeted: Glutes, quads & hamstrings.
Add a little more tension. Carefully lift a barbell and place it across your back. Take a large step forward with one foot and sink into a lunge, hold once your back knee almost touches the floor. Drive yourself back up.
Muscles targeted: Back, shoulders, & glutes.
Start by standing shoulder-width apart, hold a kettlebell in front of your chest with one hand. Lunge forward with the opposite legs and extend the arm overhead with your weight.