There are tons of leg exercises out there. Most of them have their part in fitness. Some may be therapeutic. Some may be for muscle striation. Some may be for pure range of motion. Some may be for pure strength. This collection of leg exercises are my favorites that act as a combination of all parts of fitness.
I matched each one with a mutant or super hero just for a fun. Also, because some of my 5:30PM class members call me “GB”.
I’m pretty sure it means “ghetto booty”.
That tells me two things. My super hero name would be “GB” and these leg exercises must work (hence why my booty is oversized).
Barbell Squats: The Incredible Hulk
Twas November of 2012 when I had to surgically repair my ACL, LCL, both meniscus, and wait for a fracture in my tibia to heal during a freak avalanche accident in the Alps when I was saving a group of school children. Ever since then, my back squat game was gone.
I had started dabbling into front-loaded squats like goblets and noticed that I could get full range of motion rather than loading a bar on my back. It worked for therapeutic purposes for about a year, but my strength game just wasn’t the same.
So immediately, I went from the the calm man in the eyeglasses, to the unleashed green beast. Ever since I’ve started incorporating back squats back into the game, my knee has been stronger, I’ve been running faster, and I’ve been jumping higher.
Back squats are no superhero to play with though. You can’t just go up to the Hulk and slap him in the face. You have to take back squats easy. Master one weight before you try another. Find your hip crease, prevent your hips from turning down underneath you, and have a strong powerful upper-back/core. Goblet squats have their place in life, but you can’t hold a 300 pound dumbbell in front of you. Being able to control and handle more weight in your movements is a huge characteristic in being able to jump over buildings, throw mack-trucks 100s of yards, and feel good about being able to rock purple shorts.
Sled Pushes: Wolverine
In my opinion, these are the leader of leg days. I highly recommend finishing a leg day with some sled pushes. Heavy. Light. Slow. Quick. High. Low. You name it.
The great thing about sled pushes is that they are very non-destructive; meaning you are not adding a load to your body like a squat. I recommend getting large steps like you would do a walking lunge so your glutes can help you on your path to growing massive side-burns. Hence the superhero title of Wolverine. In fact, Wolverine pushes sleds all the time. That’s why he’s ripped.
Goblet Squats: Spiderman
As before mentioned, goblet squats are pivotal in saving the universe from evil mutants or mad scientists. When you look at Spiderman, you don’t necessarily think of him as the most fierce superhero. Little do you know, when sprung into action, this guy can pack quite the punch.
Goblet squats are amazing (like Spiderman) because they help you with things that people just don’t think about when it comes to legs. They help you discover proper form. They help you gain full range of motion. They place the load in front of your body, which targets your core. Once mastered, there is nothing quite like holding a 100lb kettlebell and being able to squat it multiple times. They may not look as cool as Superman who can fly, or Batman who has a cool car…but you can freakin’ spit spider webs out of your fingers! Who needs to look cool when you’re an often over-looked exercise that can save the planet?
Renegade Squats: Storm
Possibly my favorite wake-up exercise. The Renegade Squat is a stretch and an exercise all in one, which is what makes it so vital. They target mobilizing your IT bands and your major hip muscles along with waking up your quads and hamstrings.
Maintain a perfect squat hold position at the bottom of your squat. Roll your left knee in until it touches the floor next to your right foot. Your left toe will slightly turn in. Prevent your chest from turning and your opposite hip from opening up. You will know if your right hip opens up because the toe will turn. Stay in your squat position the whole movement. When you release back to your normal squat, fix your stance (because your toes may slide), and repeat with the other side.
Doing these as a warm-up for any major leg work is key and great for mobility.
These things can go from silent to deadly in a heartbeat much like Storm can concoct a lightning frenzy in the blink of an eye.
Step-Ups: Hell Boy
There are two simple words that come to mind when I think about step-ups. “Body. Builder.” Not the physique competitors, but literally, step-ups are a body builder. The legs are doing the work, but when holding dumbbells, your grip comes into play. Your upper back and traps are in use. I prefer these over lunges every day of the week when it comes to muscle building and even function.
To make sure you’re getting the most out of it, when stepping up, drive with the heel and make sure your leg is completely extended before touching the step or bench with the floating leg.
These are hell and will make you feel like a little boy. However, they make you as strong as an ox and built like a rock with shaved off horns.
Weighted Glute Bridge: Professor X
xFour-minute sets of a weighted glute bridge are masterful. xWaking up your glutes before performing weighted leg exercises is crucial for injury prevention and booty bridges are the genius. xYou don’t feel like you’re doing much, but into the second and third minutes, you’ll be reminded who the man in the wheelchair is that you’re messing with.
xMost people will just hold their butt off the ground and think that they can read minds. xThe key to reading minds is keeping a constant press into the ground. xYour butt will start to slowly drop as you go, so every 10 seconds, give your self a butt check and press as high as you can. xStay on your heels and constantly grind.
Hill Sprints: Antman
Hill sprints may be one of the most under-utilized exercises of all time. One of the best things you can do for your workout program is to find the closest and steepest hill that you can run up and down. Even if it’s an hour away, a weekend trip to said hill will be worth the journey.
It’s a simple concept too. Sprint up the hill as fast as you can.
My favorite set to do on this is one that my buddy Steve came up with:
You have one minute to sprint up and down the hill. Rest the remainder of the minute that you have after the sprint (i.e. it took you 30 seconds to get up and down, you have 30 seconds rest). Do this 9 times. On the tenth hill sprint, give yourself 90 seconds to do as many hills as possible. It could be 4. It could be 2. Once 90 seconds is up, rest 3 minutes. Repeat this whole process with a 2-minute sprint. It’s one of the most self-accomplishing feelings you’ll ever have.
Why Antman? He’s really fast. Also, ants live in hills. #anthill
Banded Bear Crawls, Gorilla Crawls, Tunnel Bear Crawls, and Reverse Treadmill Crawls:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Banded Bear Crawls – Strap an assisted pull-up band around your waist and attach it to a fixed object. Crawl away from the fixed object with long leg strides as far as you can. Control your crawl back to the object and avoid being slingshotted.
Gorilla Crawls – Crouch down in a squat position with your fists on the floor. Jump both fists outward, then jump both feet in to your fists. You’ll feel like a gorilla and understand it’s name much better.
Tunnel Bear Crawls – In bear crawl position, flatten your back and pretend like you are crawling through a low tunnel. Take big steps, nearing your elbows and drive with your legs. Keep your head forward and even with the rest of your body.
Reverse Treadmill Crawls – Leave the treadmill off and put your hands behind the treadmill and feet on the treadmill in push up position. The natural force of your feet will make the belt of the treadmill move and your goal is to control that belt so you don’t go flying. It’s excruciatingly awesome.
Four crawling exercises? Four turtles? Couldn’t be more perfect.
Speed Skaters: Deadpool
You have to throw a little plyometrics into your leg day. Much like you have to throw the witty comical bad-ass superhero into your comic books as well. Deadpool was graceful and light on his feet, but indestructible. Shoot him and he heals right back up. Movements like these will help you on your way to helping your body become bulletproof.
Set up a distance requirement that you are expected to meet. Usually about 3 to 4 feet in distance is to be expected. Explode off with your outside foot, reaching your required distance, as if you were jumping over a stream of water or a body lying on the ground. Land on one leg, touching the floor, and repeat the motion.
Why Deadpool though? Ask your glutes how they’ll feel after several of these. For experienced movers, try adding light dumbbells or a bumper plate in your hands.
It takes a well-rounded, nondestructive, high volume, and heavy leg session to not over-train our muscles and destruct our joints. Keep these in mind next time you put your self through a leg day.
This is where your body changes,