Today I will start part one of a series I call “My top 5 exercises”, where I will go through every body part I train and list my favorite exercises for each. These will probably change throughout the year as I train, but it’s referring to exercises I feel work for me right now, gets me results and I may or may not enjoy doing them!! 🙂
Today I did legs at the gym. Usually I train legs twice a week; the first day I will go heavy, with less reps/sets, and the second day I may do some super setting, circuits, and go lighter and do more reps/sets, to get a cardiovascular workout from it too. I need to lose some weight off my body right now, so I really need to focus on weight loss first, but I’m doing it REALLY slow because I don’t want to lose all the muscle mass I’ve gained this past year! Regardless of which day it is, here are five things you should always do, at one point or another, for gorgeous legs and glutes! Here’s a photo for inspiration – I’ll get there one day!
1. Sumo Squat. While I love all kinds of squats, I particularly like the sumo squat, where you have a wide stance, with toes pointing out. This version really works the glutes, more so than if you did a regular, narrower stance with toes straight ahead, which will work the quads more. I also find the sumo squat gentler on my knees – as I’ve had several knee injuries in the past and I can still have pain from doing certain movements.You can do sumo squats holding dumbbells, or with a barbell on your back or without weights at all. Today I did the “28-method” and I only had the 45 lb bar/no weights, as your legs will BURN after these!
2. Deadlifts. Here you also have many different versions, like traditional deadlift, sumo, quadriceps, Romanian, stiff-legged and single legged. The latter really also works on your balance, and I enjoy it more than the other versions, although you can’t go very heavy here. You need to look hard to find another exercise that works as many parts of your body at once as this one does. Strengthening all the major muscle groups in both the lower and upper body, including hamstrings, glutes, core, arms and back, itt has often been called the “King of mass gaining”. It is also the one exercise I see most people perform incorrectly.
3. Walking lunges. You can do these with or without weights, either one will be effective! Right now, I do 5 sets of 50 lunges without weights – partly because I am just trying to shape, not add too much muscle, but also because my knees are not feeling it if I put too much weight on. I continue to do the lunges even though it hurts like hell – that’s when it counts!! Walking lunges is the true key to that ‘glute-ham’ tie in that is so envied by many. True, some of it is genetic – I certainly don’t have that round, heart shaped butt I see many other lucky ladies have, I was “blessed” with a flat, Norwegian ass. Frustrating yes, but I have managed to build it by doing walking lunges and the above mentioned exercises. A good diet also helps tremendously!
4. Step-ups. Using a bench, chair or a stool that is about knee height, you do x amount of reps (12-15 for example) on one leg, then switch to the other. Here I often put on weight, like 20-25 lbs (not too heavy, again because of my knees), either in the form of a barbell or dumbbells in each hand. You can add a kick back at the top and squeeze your glutes for extra work. These really grip your glutes, but also your quads and is also a really good cardiovascular exercise. Since it is a unilateral exercise, it can improve symmetry in your legs, as you are able to focus on one leg at a time. I also feel they help overall strength in my legs, which can aid when trying to go heavier during squats and deadlifts. Another benefit is they can really be done anywhere, no gym necessary.
5. Glute ham raises. Where most people (women and men) seem to focus more on getting that “teardrop” in their quads, the true sign of a really fit individual is the shape of their butt and hamstrings. In my humble opinion. I have pretty strong hamstrings, but I still have to work hard on my butt. So I tend to focus a lot on these parts during all my leg exercises. This exercises also prevents knee and back injuries (hence beneficial to all people who work out) and works both the knee and hip extensions of the hamstrings. The glute ham raise is not seen that often in gyms, maybe perhaps because not a lot of facilities have the machine. I also like this as it has proven to improve speed and strength, which is great as I have plans to incorporate sprints on the track this spring (when the snow melts!) for HIIT workouts on cardio days. I could go on and on about this exercise, but google it and read more about it!
So now you know my five, current favorite exercises for legs (hams and glutes) – try them out the next time you are training lower body and let me know how you like them!
My glutes at my last show.. getting there: