Basic Lower Body Exercises

Strong muscles in your lower body help you move through your day. Learn these lower body exercises to improve your overall health and fitness.

Lower body strength training provides several advantages:

1. Helps reduce muscles loss that naturally occurs with aging. You lose between 3-5% of your muscle mass each decade after the age of 30. Muscle loss can nearly be halted with strength training.

2. Allows you to complete activities of daily living. Things like picking up a box off the ground, getting in and out of a chair, getting up off the floor, and climbing into your truck all require lower body strength. Working the muscles in lower body will ensure you will be able to function well into old age.

3. Provides a longer and healthier life. A study in the American Journal of Medicine found that people who strength train are less likely to die from all causes.

4. Increases your fitness and improves workouts. Set a few fitness goals, and lower body strength training will help you reach those goals.

If you are just beginning strength exercises for your legs, start with just your bodyweight or very light weights. Target 8-12 repetitions (reps) for each exercise. Work up to 3 sets. If 12 reps is easy, it’s time to increase the resistance. Some exercises are “push” while others are “pull”. A squat is a push and a deadlift is a pull. These are intuitive and functional for how you live your life. Work opposing muscles groups at the same time, like quadriceps and hamstrings.

Start with a basic strength training for your lower body. Muscles groups to work include legs, gluteals (butt), and hips. As you master this program, you can vary the exercises, intensity, and frequency. Start slowly, possibly using your body weight and completing just one set. Include squats, deadlift, lunges, step-ups, band walks, bridges, toe taps and calf raises.

Lower Body Exercises:

Squat: stand feet facing forward, hips distance apart, hinge at your hips sending butt back, keep back flat bend at knees until your legs are parallel to the ground (or less if your range of motion is limited),push through heels, and tighten core as you rise to stand

Deadlift: stand feet facing forward, hips distance apart, slight bend in knees, with a flat back, lower your upper body down until hands are mid-shin, raise back up using hamstrings and glutes, progression hold a dumbbell in each hand

Lunge: stand feet hips distance apart, step left foot back, bend both knees, keeping front knee inline with ankle, straighten legs to stand, repeat 8 times then switch legs, progression step back with each repetition

Side lunge: take a big step out to the side, feet facing forward, hinge at hips and send butt back, bend right knee, straighten leg and rise to stand, repeat 8 times on each leg, progression hold dumbbell at collarbone

Step up: step up onto your truck step with you right leg, bring the left leg up, lower back down with your left leg. Maintain an upright posture. Repeat, then switch sides. You can do this exercise sideways too.

Band walk: place a band above knees, slight bend in knees, maintaining an upright posture, step back and forth, keeping tension in the band, complete 16 steps, progression use a tighter band and walk one direction 30-60 seconds

Glute bridge: from supine position on floor, knees bent, weight in heels, raise hips up off the floor, squeeze glutes and hamstrings at the top, pause, lower down, repeat 8 times. Progressions including add a band above your knees, or holding a weight at hips. Bridge marches work each side.

Toe taps: sit with an upright posture, keep your heel grounded, tap toes 20 times, repeat on the other side

Calf raises: lean against truck for balance and raise up onto your toes, hold, release back down, progress to single leg calf raises

It’s never too late to start strength training. You can prevent muscle loss and ensure you will be active for your lifetime.

by Christy Coughlin