This blog post consists of a description of exercises that engage the leg muscles. This post will include the main and secondary muscles groups engaged by a given exercise, and details on how to correctly perform the exercise.
The barbell squat is a very effective lower-body exercise to master. It is a compound exercise where force is used to raise your body up from a squatting position. It predominantly works the quadriceps muscles, but also the glutes (butt), hamstrings, and lower back muscles.
Place a barbell on a squat rack, just below shoulder height. Step under the barbell and place it across your shoulders. Place your hands a little wider than shoulder width. Grip the bar properly by curling your thumb around the bar, palms facing forward.
Lift the bar by straightening your legs, and then straightening your torso. Take a step or two backwards away from the squat rack and place your legs in a medium stance where your feet are shoulder width apart, and your toes are slightly pointing outwards.
While inhaling, bend your knees to lower the barbell. Continue downwards until your thighs are just parallel to the floor. While exhaling, raise the barbell by straightening your legs. Imagine pushing the floor with the help of your feet as your legs are straightening. This complete one repetition. Continue until the required number of reps have been completed, and place the barbell back on the squat rack.
Always keep your head facing forward, and your back straight when squatting. Try to maintain equal weight distribution between your forefront and your heels.
If you have never performed a squat before, start easy. Use just the bar, or just your bodyweight.
The deadlift is an excellent exercise if you can master it because it pretty much involves the entire body. It is a compound exercise that uses force to pull a barbell from the ground, to your upper thighs. It predominantly targets the lower back muscles, but also the glutes, hamstrings, calves, latissimus dorsi, and trapezius muscles.
Until you are able to perform this exercise correctly, don't be tempted to go too heavy as this can't result in injuries and back problems. It is a good idea to use the barbell without added weights, until you have mastered the technique.
With the barbell and weight on the ground, grasp with an overhand grip. This is challenging for some people. If this is the case for you, try the mixed grip (one palm facing forward, one hand facing backwards). Your hands should be about shoulder width apart, and your feet should be inside that width.
While exhaling, push with your legs and get your torso to the upright position. At the top, stick your chest out at pull your shoulders back - this doesn’t mean bending or swaying backwards. You just want your body to be in a straight line.
While inhaling, return to the starting position by bending your knees and leaning the torso forward at the waist. This completes one repetition. Continue until the required number or reps have been completed, and place the barbell back on the ground.
Keep your back straight throughout. Arching of the lower back, and rounding of the shoulders puts you at risk of injury. Don't look up during a deadlift as this creates tension on the neck.