Front Barbell SquatThe front squat uses similar form as for the back squat except you hold the barbell at the chest. Some novices don't find this particularly easy either because of the wrist flexibility required. There is an alternative front squat grip that some find a little easier. This involves wrapping the arms around the bar at the shoulders.
Front Barbell or Dumbbell Hang SquatI use this exercise regularly, although technically it tends to morph into a form of deadlift. It doesn't matter what it's called, here is how to do it.
- Stand with barbell (or dumbbells) hanging in front at the thighs -- or sides for dumbbells if preferred.
- Squat down as low as you can go (ATG) and return to standing position. Use good form as described above.
- Do sets of 8 or 12 repetitions.
With a challenging weight, this exercise will work you hard.
- Lift a barbell from the floor to the thighs.
- Lower the bar while keeping the legs relatively stiff. That is, don't bend at the knee as you would in a squat movement.
- Remember to keep the back straight.
- Lower the barbell -- you can also use heavy dumbbells -- until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings. If you're stiff in the lower back, bend the knees slightly so that you get some depth in the movement. How low you go will depend on hamstring, hip and back flexibility in relation to your requirement to keep the back straight. You can touch the floor if you like.
- Do sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
Good MorningsIn the Good Morning exercise, you use a barbell on the shoulders, or you could substitute with dumbbells resting across the shoulders as described above. The movement is a flexion of hips with straight legs in a bowing movement from which the name is taken. It's a nice exercise for the hamstrings and posterior chain.
Calf Raise - Machine or Heel RaisesThe calf raise works the muscles of the calf -- obviously. If you do sufficient running of any type -- sprints, long distance or team sports -- it's unlikely that you'll get much value from the calf raise exercise because running develops the calves well. Even so, I've included it here because bodybuilders probably have some use for it and it does target the lower leg more specifically than other leg exercises.
Bodybuilders may need to do them for muscle definition requirements, but I prefer the exercises outlined above plus the glute-ham raise for the delicate hamstrings that are the absolute bane of professional sports men and women.
Read more in my article on hamstrings.
- If you're doing a split routine where you do upper and lower body workouts on different days, do no more than six of these exercises in a session and include a squat exercise in that selection.
- Depending on your fitness, you might do 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 exercises as a general fitness routine equally targeting strength and muscle.
- Two sessions a week with two days between workouts should be sufficient to allow recovery.
- If you incorporate these lower body exercises in a full-body session of upper and lower body for 3 or 4 days each week, you may need to reduce the sets to 3 so as not to overdo the training.
Read up on weight training fundamentals if you need more background information on the principles and practices of weight training.