Basic Leg Strengthening

The gluteus maximus (gluts pronounced “gloots”) is the official name for what we refer to as our bottom, or “butt” sorry to offend.  The gluts are powerful hip extensors, which mean they help us walk, run, jump, and transition force from our legs to our back and up the kinetic chain.  This muscle atrophies like any other when it doesn’t get used, hence the look of no butt in some folks as they age.  The problem with losing your gluts is it’s also associated with low back pain, because it increases the strain and pressure on your back.  The legs are like the foundation of your home.  Without an adequate foundation, even the most beautiful, well-built home will crumble.

basic body weight squat

Find a mirror and start with your feet shoulder width apart, make sure your knees stay aligned with your feet.  Do not let your knees come over your toes.  Tighten your abs like you’re squeezing into tight jeans, and then tip your pelvis forward, chest up, butt back.  You should feel funny right now, like you’re sticking your bottom out way too far, weight is on your heels.  Now start to sit back, as if you were sitting in a chair, in fact grab a chair to practice with.  Go slow, 5 seconds to get to the lowest point in the movement.  Go down as far as you can while keeping the knees aligned with the feet, but not allowing the knees to come over the toes (really sit back).  I use my arms out in front as a counter balance.  When your buns tap the chair, or if you begin to lose your form or have pain, stop and go back up.  Repeat 5-20 times.  The amount you do depends on how challenging it is for you.  Go until you feel a slight burn in the muscle, can no longer maintain form or until the last two repetitions felt pretty challenging.

knee pain with squats

Even if you have knee pain, most people can perform a partial range squat correctly pain free.  When performed incorrectly and the heels lift off the ground and the knees go over the toes there is a significant amount of stress placed on the knees.  Once you become a master at 2-3 sets of 10-20 squats you can make it harder by trying it on one leg through a smaller range of motion.

basic lunge

A lunge is also an incredible leg exercise, and can be performed in multiple different directions for increased function.  The keys are similar, chest up, tight abs, knee does not come over toe, but in the lunge you take a big step forward, then slowly lower toward the ground, then push back with the lunging leg to your start position.  Repeat on the same leg for 5-10 reps, and then switch legs.  Lunges challenge balance more than squats so be prepared.  These exercises can be done anywhere and produce excellent results.  I would work up to 2-3 sets of 10-20 repetitions, 2-3 times a week.  There is one side effect of this program, better looking gluts, and nicer fitting pants.