Follow along to find out what the most important lower body exercises are and why you need to include them in your fitness routine.
The only lower body exercises you need
Regardless of your goals, you only need three basic movements to develope your lower body. The squat, deadlift, and lunge. They should be the foundation of your lower body workouts and without them you limit your growth, mobility, and conditioning.
These three exercises are all you need to hit all of your muscle groups in the lower body. With each movement emphasizing different muscles, the anterior and posterior chain (front and back of the body) both get flexion and extension in both directions. This factor allows you to maintain muscular balance to minimize pelvic tilts as well as discomfort associated with them.
These three movements are all compound exercises, meaning they utilize different muscles at once. This is the most functional way to exercise because that is how we live and move throughout life as well as keep our bodies healthy. So not only are you working your major muscle groups like the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. You are also working those stabilizing muscles that help with adduction, abduction, and rotation too!
The ability to get so much out of so few exercises also comes from their adaptability. The squat, deadlift, and lunge can all be modified for almost any level. They also have variations for different pieces of equipment depending on what you want to focus on for that workout, such as core strength, endurance, balance, and more.
The squat is my favorite one. So let’s start there! The squat is, in my humble opinion, the most natural, and therefore most important, of the 3 lower body exercises. Everyone can do a squat, and if you feel like you can’t just sit in a chair and…voila, you just squatted! And in that case it is the easiest to master.
How do you squat?
What are you working? When performing a standard squat the muscles that are doing most of the work are your quads and glutes. Of course, many more are also contributing but those two are where you are really going to feel it.
What are the variations? There are so many different ways can you perform a squat. If you want more core focus you can use weight and perform an overhead squat or a front rack squat. If you are looking to really challenge your squat strength you can load your traps (usually with a barbell) for a back rack squat. We can also take a wide stance with our toes out to bring more focus on the glutes and external rotators for a sumo or pile squat. And even elevate one leg for a single leg squat.
There are also many ways to modify the squat, such as a simple sit down and stand up, or box squat. You can put a stability ball against the wall and lean with your back against it for another supported version. But to keep it simple, just squat to a depth that is safest for you and work your way into it!
Now let’s take a look at the next most important exercise… the deadlift.
The deadlift is such a great exercise. It is powerful and very corrective for posture when done properly. So how do you perform the deadlift?
What are the focused muscle groups? The deadlift is a mostly posterior chain exercise. Majority of the work will be done by your glutes, hamstrings, and even erectors in the low back (although in more of an isometric way).
What are some variations? The deadlift can be such a fun exercise because it is so diverse, because at the end of the day it is just a hinge. You can perform on one leg to test your balance and stabilization. Or even try to widen your stance for a sumo version. This stance allows you to test your strength even further, allowing heavier loads. We can also turn the deadlift into a power move with a swing or clean utilizing weights. If you need to modify, again just work at a depth that is good for you or just start by doing them unweighted. You can even move to the floor and do a bridge or hip thrust if needed.
Finally, let’s review the lunge.
With many ways to vary the movement, the lunge is a fantiastic way to hit all of your major lower body muscles in one exercise. Let’s go over how to do a lunge.
WWhat are the different ways to lunge? Although a slightly complex movement, the lunge can still be adjusted for all levels. You can stay stationary and hold onto a wall or chair to help control your depth. You can step forward, backward, or laterally into your lunge as well. The direction of movement will dictate where the lunge is most effective in the body. And you can also turn the lunge into a plyometric movement if you are looking for an advanced, powerful exercise.
The lunge is a great way to work the entire lower body. I love the lunge because you automatically are incorporating balance work. And with so many muscles working together, the lunge becomes a cardio exercise!
Why every mom needs these 3 lower body exercises
These three movements are as simple and basic or advanced and challenging as you want to make them. They are the foundation to your lower body fitness. Aside from fitness why should these exercises be important to you as a mom? Because that is what you do all day as a mom! They are functional for LIFE. Squatting down to pick up a heavy toddler. Holding your baby and squatting down to open a drawer to get him dressed. hinging forward to pick up toys, laundry basket, or your baby out of a bassinet. Standing up from a kneeling postion (the lunge, duh!) when you were playing on the floor with your kids. Or changing a diaper on the ground. All of these daily things you do as a busy mom, will be easier when you incorporate the squat, deadlift, and lunge into your fitness.
For more instructional videos, check out my playlist on youtube!