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8 Exercises to Improve Lower-Body Strength

August 18, 2013 | Steven Trolio

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Strong legs can make you an asset on the playing field. If you want to be fast, agile and resilient in your sport, your best option is to strengthen the major muscle groups of your thighs and hips. And the best way to do this is to perform compound lower-body movements that target your quads, hamstrings and glutes.

Below are two lower-body training routines that will enhance your ability to jump higher, run faster and cut quicker. These workouts will improve your anterior and posterior chain strength, which will increase your athleticism and reduce your risk for injury. Before you attempt these exercises, prepare your body with some foam rolling and a dynamic warm-up.

Lower-Body Workout A

Snatch Grip Deficit Deadlifts

Work up to 3 sets of 3-5 repetitions with 85-95% of your  one-rep maximum (1RM).

  • Keep your spine neutral and avoid rounding your lower back
  • Drive the weight up forcefully through your heels and flex your glutes at the top to lock out each rep
  • If you lack adequate mobility to perform Snatch Grip Deadlifts safely while standing on a 1-to-3-inch elevated surface, remove the deficit

Anterior Loaded Reverse Lunges

Work up to three sets of 6-8 reps per leg.

  • "Anterior loaded" simply means you hold the bar in front of your body, like you would set up for a front squat
  • Choose a load that challenges you to perform 6-8 reps but leaves you a rep or two in the tank

90-Degree Back Extension

Perform three sets of 10-12 reps.

  • Think of this exercise as more of a hip extension than a back extension
  • Focus on hinging at the hip and keeping your back completely flat throughout each rep
  • At the top of each rep, squeeze your glutes hard and thrust your pelvis into the pads
  • If your body weight isn't enough to challenge you for 10-12 reps, add weight by holding a dumbbell or plate against your chest

Trap Bar Loaded Carries

  • Load a trap bar with your body weight, hold it at arm's length and walk for as long as you can
  • If you lack access to a trap bar, a standard barbell will work fine
  • If this isn't enough load to challenge you for a distance of 50 yards or so, increase the weight on the bar

Lower-Body Workout B

Front Squats

Work up to three sets of 3-5 reps with 85-95% of your 1RM.

  • Focus on achieving good depth on each squat
  • Lower yourself under control, but not slowly
  • Explode out of the bottom and accelerate the bar quickly

Split-Stance Romanian Deadlifts

Work up to three sets of 6-8 reps per leg.

  • Set up for a standard RDL but move one leg about 6 inches back; this minor change places the majority of the load on your front leg, while the back leg helps with stability
  • Choose a load that will make it tough to hit 6-8 reps but avoid complete muscular failure

Glute-Ham Raises 

Perform three sets of 10-12 reps.

  • For an added challenge, place a band around the back of your neck for resistance

Isometric Lunges

  • Perform 1-3 holds on each leg for as long as you can, using only your body weight
  • Hold a deep lunge position with your back knee about an inch off the ground

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Topics: LOWER BODY
- Steven Trolio is a personal trainer certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is currently a student at Cleveland State University.
- Steven Trolio is a personal trainer certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is currently a student at Cleveland State University.
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