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The squat is the king of lower-body movements whether you are taking part in a CrossFit workout, a HIIT workout or just some casual bodybuilding. The squat is a great way to build full-body strength, with an emphasis on the glutes and quads, as well as being a good way to measure your progress- squatting ever more weight is a sure way to keep on track with progressive overload before, after and during the Fitness Challenge Dubai.
However, for building strength and eliciting hypertrophy, there are a couple of exercises that will take you there a little more efficiently. Including them in your sessions 1-2 times per week will see your legs explode in growth and strength gains.
They should be used as supplementary movements- you never want to replace the squat, only augment it! The law of specificity should be at work here- if you’re looking to build a heavy squat, you need to squat and keep squatting. But there is more to leg work than the barbell back squat.
Two leg workout exercises to boost strength and muscle gain
- Front squats
Because the weight is thrown forwards, in front of your center of gravity, front squats place a lot of the stimulation into the quadriceps and core. If you want to build up the strength of your legs and core, and your ability to brace and control yourself under heavy load, you need to include them in your regular routines.
Front squats use a weight in front of the body, most commonly in the form of a barbell in a rack position- the barbell sits across the front of your shoulders, close to your neck and supported by your fingertips just outside of shoulder-width as you drive your shoulders and elbows up.
There is a straightforward way to make sure the barbell is placed correctly: if you can straighten your arms out in front, parallel to the ground, without the barbell falling, you’ve got it right.
Remember, your hands are to support the bar, not to grip it: you only want to touch the bar, not hold onto it. The full weight should be borne by your torso and legs.
To perform the front squat with good form:
- Brace your core, taking a deep belly breath, and packing your abs. Bring your shoulder blades inwards and down and step into the bar, un-racking it.
- Step out, brace, and sit your hips back as you break your knees outwards and slightly forwards.
- Bring yourself down until your knees are in line with, or below, your hips.
- Drive through your midfoot, pushing it into the ground, as you reverse the motion. Come back to the starting position, with your quads and glutes doing most of the work (as opposed to a back squat, which will be using the inner legs and lower back a lot more.)
There are a few common mistakes to watch out for and avoid with the front squat.
To begin, you want to make sure that you don’t drop your elbows or chest as you descend into the squat. The barbell will throw you off balance and may even drop forwards. Also, make sure that your knees stay pressing outwards. You want to break them out more than forwards. If they collapse inwards, you will be exposing them to injury and taking the quads’ driving force away from the movement.
Core brace, ever important, is particularly so in the front squat. If you don’t keep it tight and braced, your body will fold in two and you won’t be able to complete the movement properly.
- Walking lunges
If front squats are key to working your quads and core during Dubai Fitness Challenge, walking lunges are where to head for your glutes. They will also work your quads and hamstrings, but most of the stimulation goes into your backside.
Walking lunges are a variation on the static lunge. However, rather than lunging in place, returning to the starting position after each rep, you will be moving forwards- ‘walking’ for the duration of the set.
Walking lunges are simple enough to get right and should be performed at mid- to low- weight, for higher reps. They are perfect as assistance work after squats or deadlifts.
To perform walking lunges:
- Stand up straight, with enough room before you to take a good 10-20 strides (of course, you can perform this movement going in circles or laps). Weight can be used- a lightly loaded barbell across the back, or in a front rack position, or dumbbells or kettlebells held in each hand at your sides will work very well.
- Take a good stride forward. Dip your rear knee down until it’s as close to the ground as you can manage without touching, bending the front leg to around a 90-degree angle.
Come back up out of the lunge and step the next leg forwards, repeating the motion for the required number of reps and start to make the most of your 24/7 gym!