A strong and capable lower body can help improve posture and prevent injury, as well as make daily tasks like walking, running, jumping, and lunging much easier. Whether you love leg day, or it’s not your cup of tea - you should learn to love it - as strength training for your lower body has loads of benefits you don’t want to pass up on.
Having a well-developed lower body will increase your resting metabolism so your body burns more calories at rest. This is great if you’re someone who’s looking to lose a little weight, as you’ll burn more calories even when you aren’t working out! Building strong, lean muscle will also help reduce body fat so you can achieve a leaner physique in your calves, thighs, hamstrings, and glutes!
Even better, many lower body exercises require a great deal of stability to complete and will call for help from your back and core for control and stability through each movement. Because lower body exercises demand work from many of the largest muscles in your body, they burn more calories, as they require more energy for your body to complete them!
Starting a Lower Body Strength Training Program
While it’s possible to train your lower body without any equipment using only your body weight, investing in dumbbells or kettlebells will help add variety to your workouts and continue to challenge your body. As you get stronger, it can be helpful to advance to barbell training - as grip strength can often limit the weight one can load onto exercises with dumbbells or kettlebells. Barbells make it easier to load additional weight onto the body.
While making investments in a squat rack, barbells or plates might seem out of reach, it’s important to remember the concept of progressive overload. The basic concept is, as your body gets stronger, you’ll need to continue to challenge your muscles with more difficult exercises, or a heavier load (weight) to continue to see progress. So, while you may be able to begin your program with just your bodyweight, overtime adding in a range of equipment can be helpful in continuing to advance your strength, fitness, and physical progress. I suggest starting where you feel comfortable with equipment. As you get further into your fitness journey, you’ll know when it’s time to take that next step in your home gym setup.
Step One: Lower Body Warmup
After you decide what type of equipment you want to use, you’ll need to establish a solid workout routine. The first step should be completing a proper warmup before you begin your lower body workout. The goal of your warmup should not be to increase overall blood flow and body temperature, it’s important to perform lower body specific exercises to prepare your muscles for what’s ahead. Check out the exercises below to ensure a proper lower body warmup.
5-Minute Lower Body Warmup Routine:
Cardio Series (30 seconds each)
Designed to increase core body temperature and increase blood flow prior to prime the body before specific lower body activation and mobility exercises.
Alternating Back Lunges
Activation Series (10 reps on each side)
Designed to “turn on” the core and glutes, which are both so important to engage during lower body exercises and perform best with mindful activation.
Single Leg Glute Bridge
Mobility Series (10 reps on each side)
Designed to increase mobility of your lower body and back through an active range of motion.
Adductor Rock back with Thoracic Rotation
Wide Stance Squat with Overhead Reach
Alternating High Lunge
Step Two: Selecting a Lower Body Workout
While you may have a specific area of your legs you’d like to target, a well-rounded routine that works your entire lower body is best to reduce the risk of muscular imbalances and consequent injury. For this reason, I’d suggest performing a variety of exercises that work the full range of muscles in your lower body.
For beginners, I’d recommend starting with 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions of each exercise. For those who are more advanced, and working with a heavier load, 3-5 sets of 5-10 repetitions will be beneficial. No matter what range of repetitions and sets you’re working with, it’s important that you’re using a weight that’s challenging for you. The last few repetitions of each set, should be difficult but not impossible to complete.
Always take at least 48 hours of rest between lower body sessions, and if soreness or fatigue lingers, take additional rest days until your body is feeling fresh. While feeling sore often makes us feel as though we’ve accomplished something, you don’t need to feel sore after a session to have a successful workout.
We have a variety of workouts on our YouTube channel to help you reach your goals. Here are a few of my favorites designed to target your lower body.
Step Three: Creating a Successful Long-Term Lower Body Fitness Plan
- Always warm up before completing a resistance training workout.
- Aim to complete 2-3 lower body resistance training sessions each week.
- Practice good form. Slow and controlled reps should be the priority in every weight training session, especially if you’re practicing a new exercise you’ve never completed before. If you need to decrease the weight you’re lifting to complete a movement properly, always do so.
- Maintain good posture. While you may not think your upper body has anything to do with the strength of your lower body, your posture is incredibly important to ensure each workout is safe and effective. As you perform lower body exercises, maintain an engaged and stable core throughout the full range of motion.
- If you feel any pain, stop the exercise immediately. While the burn and fatigue of your muscles during exercise is common, pain itself is never a good sign. If you have any concerns with what your body is feeling during any exercise, please consult with a medical professional.