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.
The clamshell exercise is one of the best for hip strengthening and helping with injury treatment and prevention. The clamshell exercise is often used in physical therapy to help with back pain and sciatica. It helps to reduce pain by strengthening the core and lower back muscles.
- Lie on your side, with legs stacked and knees bent at a 45-degree angle.
- Rest your head on your lower arm, and use your top arm to steady your frame. Be sure that your hipbones are stacked on top of one another, as there is a tendency for the top hip to rock backward.
- Engage your abdominal by pulling your belly button in, as this will help to stabilize your spine and pelvis.
- Keeping your feet touching, raise your upper knee as high as you can without shifting your hips or pelvis. Don’t move your lower leg off the floor.
- Pause, and then return your upper leg to the starting position on the ground. Do 20 reps on each side.
The barbell hip thruster has become the go-to exercise to train the glutes.4 Some gyms have a dedicated machine for this move, but you can also do it using a weight bench or step. It's smart to master the bridge exercise on the floor before using a bench or adding weight.
- Place your upper back (lower scapula) against the center edge of the bench and place the weight bar across the hips.
- Squeeze the glutes and press the bar straight up until the hips are in line with the shoulders and the knees. The bench should support the mid-scapula area. Keep the core tight and maintain a slight chin tuck with your focus down your body (a few inches above the bar).
- Slowly lower the bar down until the hips are just a few inches off the floor.
- Squeeze the glutes and lift again.
- Perform 10 to 12 repetitions.
The Glute Bridge is one of the most effective exercises to tone the glutes and the hamstrings. This lower body workout isolates and strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, the core stability muscles, the hip muscles, the lower back muscles, and strengthens the stabilization of the spinal cord.The glute bridge is most often used as an exercise to activate the glutes and build core stability. This exercise is simple to perform and requires no equipment.
- Lie on your back, arms down by your sides. Bend your knees and plant your feet flat on the floor.
- Pull in through your navel to brace your core muscles and then squeeze your glutes to press your hips up so your body forms a straight line no archingfrom knees to shoulders.
- Keep your head on the floor and eyes focused on the ceiling.
- Hold the position for a beat, and then lower and lift, and repeat.
The curtsy lunge is great for building lower body strength and stability.
The gluteus medius is an important muscle for stability, but it isn’t directly targeted in standard squats and lunges, so strengthening it is often overlooked.The gluteus medius is often underactive, making strengthening exercises like the curtsy lunge even more important.Curtsy lunges also aid in strengthening the inner thigh area.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms down at your sides.
- Putting your weight into your right foot, step back and around with your left foot-almost as if you’re curtsying-allowing your arms to come up in front of you to a comfortable position. Ensure that your chest stays proud. Stop lunging when your right thigh is parallel to the ground.
- Begin to straighten your right leg, pushing up through your heel, and returning your left foot to the starting position.
- Repeat steps 1–3 for the desired number of reps, then switch legs.
- Stand tall holding a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length by your sides (palms in) with your feet hip-width apart.
- Keeping your chest up, shoulders back, core braced (imagine someone is about to hit you in the gut), and back flat, take a large step forward with your right foot. Lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and your rear knee is bent 90 degrees (it should hover a couple inches above the floor).
- Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Repeat, this time stepping forward with your left foot. Continue alternating legs with each rep.
The wall sit exercise is a real quad burner, working the muscles in the front of your thighs. This exercise is generally used for building isometric strength and endurance in the quadriceps muscle group, glutes, and calves.1
- Start with your back against a wall with your feet shoulder width and about 2 feet from the wall.
- Engage your abdominal muscles and slowly slide your back down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Adjust your feet so your knees are directly above your ankles (rather than over your toes).
- Keep your back flat against the wall.
- Hold the position for 20 to 60 seconds.
- Slide slowly back up the wall to a standing position.
- Rest 30 seconds and repeat the exercise three times. Increase your hold time by five seconds as you increase your strength.