Lower Body Training

If you are like the masses, you probably have been neglecting lower body training for quite some time now. Most people focus on the upper body because these are the most visible muscles. Lower body training is paramount to increasing strength and overall muscular development. Movements like the deadlift and the squat are “the king of all exercises” because they develop the body unlike any other lift. In this article I will provide you with a common template that I use to train many of my clients.

After a complete dynamic warm-up, our athletes will start with a Max Effort squat or deadlift variation. We work up to a 3-5 rep max above 85% of 1RM. For more information on how we use the Max Effort method read this. Here are some examples of the variations we use:

• Back squat
• front squat
• Zercher squat
• Box squat
• Front squat grip +box squat
• Straight bar deadlift
• Trap bar deadlift (both low and high handles)

After our Max Effort movement, we perform unilateral training. Unilateral training is critical to improving muscular imbalances and is used a preventative measure to keep the lower back, hips and knees healthy. We typically perform 3-5 sets of 7-12 reps (we aim between 36-50 total reps). Below is a snapshot into some of the movements we use:

• Step ups-performed with dumbbells or a barbell
• Walking lunges- performed with a sandbag, dumbbells or kettlebells
• Reverse Lunges-performed with a sandbag, dumbbells, barbell (on the back or with a front squat grip), kettlebells (goblet or rack position).
• Bulgarian Split Squats

After unilateral training, we perform posterior chain work. Posterior chain work is necessary to improving athletic performance and also decreasing hip, knee, and lower back pain. Additionally, posterior chain work will have a significant impact on increasing your max squat and deadlift. We typically perform 3-5 sets of 7-12 reps (we aim between 36-50 total reps). Here are some sample movements we use:

• Romanian deadlifts
• Kettlebell swings
• Back extension
• Glute ham raise
• Good mornings
• Olympic lifts

After these 3 movements we end the session with conditioning. My favorite finishers
are the sled, prowler, jumping rope or heavy farmer walks. Our advanced athletes may finish with a kettlebell, dumbbell or barbell complexes. We limit the conditioning to 10-15 minutes.

While this is the template we use with most of our athletes, it is not written in stone. The exercise selection, load and volume, depends on training experience, sport, goals as well as other factors. For athletes who need to focus on strength endurance (combat athletes) we will perform some explosive training (jumps) in-between sets of heavy squats. Additionally, we may perform all the assistance work as a circuit and will continue to focus on conditioning at the end of the session. Beginners, or those who physically cannot squat or deadlift properly, will goblet squat and perform a ton of posterior chain work as well as unilateral movements. Below is a sample session my baseball players perform in the off season:

Lower body day

1) M.E Front Squat- work up to a 3-5 rep max.
2) Sandbag Lunges- 3-5 sets of 7-12 reps
3) RDL’s-3-5 sets of 7-12 reps
4) Prowler push- 4 trips- 200 feet each trip
5) Grip/Abs- Circuit style for 5-10 minutes

Strength endurance athletes training may vary slightly. See this example:

1A) M.E Zercher Squat- work up to a 3-4 rep max
1B) Broad Jump- 2 reps per set
2A) Kettlebell Goblet squat – 4 sets of 8-12
2B) Kettlebell Goblet lunge- 4 sets of 8-12
2C) Kettlebell Swing- 4 sets of 8-12
3) Prowler Suicides- 3-4 sets
4) Grip/Abs- Circuit style for 5-10 minutes

The important thing to remember when training the lower body is to limit the amount of exercises to around 3 or 4. If you train these 3 or 4 lifts properly, anything more will just be overtraining. Also, avoid most leg machines like the leg extension and leg curl. Instead, opt for compound movements that give you a great bang for our buck. Now get under the bar and start training!

Lift Strong,

Joe Meglio
Performance Enhancement Coach

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