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Best Exercises for Lower-Body Weight Training

Build Strong Legs and Butt


Updated June 19, 2014

The Deadlift

Ready for the Deadlift

Photo (c) Paul Rogers & Cooloola Fitness

I see plenty of men, especially younger men, who bulk up in the arms, chest and shoulders and just about forget about the legs and butt. This is not a good look. I suspect many who train like this don't play sport of any kind and are only interested in the T-shirt look.

However, if you are interested in strong and shapely legs and rear end, beware that lower-body and leg training is hard work. Squats are hard work and squats will be your main lower-body exercise . . . but not the only one.

In this article, I'll look at how you can vary your lower-body training with the best exercises, including some you may not have tried before that will ad variety and results.

General Form Considerations for Squats and Deaflifts

Many of these exercises have similar form requirements. Any exercise where you lower or raise a weight, including your bodyweight, by flexing at the hips with feet planted on the ground, demands that you implement these form rules for safety and efficacy. Also brush up on the general weight training safety tips.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor and don't raise up onto the toes or lift the heels from the floor. This takes a little practice, so you should practice squats with bodyweight only until you get comfortable with this movement. You will feel like falling backward at first. Try it with a low bench behind you if you want a safety barrier.
  • Try not to get the knees extended past the toes. As long as you keep those heels planted firmly, your knees won't usually get much beyond the toes. Body shape and flexibility can impact this, so don't worry if the knees extend a little.
  • Set the feet about shoulder-width apart with heels planted solidly on the surface. Toes should point outward slightly and knees should never track inward or outward as you lift or lower.
  • Keep the back straight. Beginners often find this advice confusing. It doesn't mean you can't bend at the hips, it just means you should not flex the back at the lumbar or thoracic spine, that is, bend your back and spine in a curved shape. When you flex at the hips to do a squat or deadlift, your back remains straight. See this squat example.
  • One of the best ways to get this right is to make a deliberate movement outward with your butt as you bend the knees. Thrust that derrière out as a first priority and you will get a feel for proper form for squat and lift type exercises. Practice this and you will never lift or lower anything heavy again at gym or home or work without making this basic move.

Squats can be performed to any of the squat depths described below.

Different Types of Squats

  • Bodyweight squats. Squatting without weights is the basic exercise movement for any further weighted squat. The rules described above apply. This is a convenient and useful exercise that you can use at a variety of times and locations.
  • ATG squat. You lower all the way as far as you can go. This is called ATG or "ass to ground squat." If you've ever used an Asian or Middle Eastern pit toilet or had to do like a bear does and **** in the woods, then you will be familiar with this form of squatting.
  • Quarter squat. You lower to the point where your upper and lower legs form 90 degrees at the knee joint. (See picture in previous link.) This is generally called a quarter squat.
  • Parallel squat. Lowering to a point where the top of the thighs (quads) is horizontal and parallel to the floor is called a parallel squat.
  • Half squat. When you lower to the point where the surface of the lower thigh (hamstrings) is parallel to the floor, this is generally called a half squat. Some variation in terminology exists.
Related Video
Weight Lifting Leg Exercises

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