You’ve been exercising your right to bare arms, well on your way to getting an awesome upper body, when suddenly you realize you’ve forgotten something: your lower body.
With so much attention paid to big biceps, chiseled shoulders, and rock hard pecs, it’s easy to forget your legs. Everything above your waist is immediately eye-catching, but how about what’s in your pants? Quads, glutes, and hamstrings are all crying out for love and attention too.
Women get it. To us, it’s ALL ABOUT the lower body. We spend hours squatting and lunging, fat blasting and Barre burning, all for a nice butt and well-toned legs. And who can blame us? We’re in dresses, short skirts, and high heels all day long – we NEED to look good down there.
Men, on the other hand, should be devoting way more time to their legs and don’t. Instead, they pump tons of iron to get massive upper bodies, but leave their bottom halves feeling neglected and looking spindly.
I say it’s time to stand up for legs! Especially if you’re a Progressive. How do you expect to march, demonstrate, picket, and occupy for hours on end if you don’t have a firm leg to stand on?
The following three exercises will give your legs the love they deserve. They’re easy, functional, and they hit all the major muscles of the lower body. Done twice a week is all you need.
Plus, if you’re an ass man (or woman), you’ll appreciate this: the benefits of lower body workouts go way beyond just aesthetics. They strengthen knee, hip, and ankle joints (which helps reduce the chance of injuries) while improving balance and core stability.
All you need is a set of dumbbells and a stability ball, which most gyms carry. Another good option is an arc trainer workout machine.
You can find a good primer for leg exercises here.
Bulgarian Split Squats
Men’s Fitness named the Bulgarian Split Squat one of the 30 best leg exercises of all time and here’s why: it works the thighs while engaging the glutes, calves, and abs too. In other words, you get a lot of bang for your buck with this one.
Stand lunge-length in front of a bench. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest the top of your left foot on the bench about 2-3ft behind you. Lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep your shoulders back and chest up. Stay upright and don’t collapse at the waist. To stay balanced, brace your core and focus your eyes on an object a few feet away.
Do three sets of 15 repetitions on each leg.
Stability Ball Squat
When it comes to squats, there are tons to choose from. Some are harder than others, but only the Stability Ball Squat comes with added lower back support, which allows for better isolation of the muscle, and less pain everywhere else.
Place the ball against a wall and stand with your back against it, holding it in place. Place your feet shoulder width and turn your toes out about 15 degrees. Hold a heavy dumbbell vertically between your legs, keeping a loose grip with your fingers. Squat down as low as you can, rolling the ball down the wall as you descend. Keep your shoulders back, chest up, back straight, and dumbbell aimed to the floor. Wiggle your toes at the bottom of the squat to make sure your weight is on your heels. Press through your heels and “push the floor away” as you rise up.
Do three sets of 15 reps.
Hamstring Ball Curls
Some traditional standing hamstring exercises – like the Deadlift - can cause too much stress on the low back, and for that reason, I’ve had to give them up. After suffering too many back injuries as an athlete, I’m now using my head and heading down to the floor for a safe and effective hamstring alternative, the Hamstring Ball Curl.
Lie on your back on a mat on the floor and place your heels on the front of a stability ball. Your low back will lift up, while your mid-back and shoulders stay on the floor.
In a slow and controlled fashion, pull your heels toward your body, so the ball rolls underneath your legs. Move your heels and ball about 6-12 inches, then return your legs to the fully extended starting position.
Do three sets of 15 reps.
Whether you’re trying to build muscle or strengthen what you've already got, your lower body should be an essential part of your gym routine and exercise regimen. Remember, your legs need attention - just like everything else in your pants.
Trevan Brandon Scharf