The Best Movements for Stronger Legs – Besides Squats
The Best Movements For Stronger Legs – Aside From Squats
Squatting is not only one of the best leg exercises but it’s also one of the most effective ones. You don’t need any special equipment or even a gym membership to do it. But there are many reasons why you shouldn’t just go ahead with squats:
You may have weak quads, hamstrings, glutes, etc. If so, then you will experience pain when doing squats.
If your back isn’t strong enough, you won’t be able to perform heavy squats.
You might have poor posture which could cause injuries due to improper form.
In order to avoid these problems, you should try out some alternative leg exercises such as Bulgarian split squats (BSL), Romanian deadlifts (RDL) and lunges instead of squats. These exercises are very effective and they’re also safe.
Basketball players often use BSL to increase their jumping ability. Basketball players usually do them after every practice or game. They perform BSL while standing on two feet, lying down on a mat or even sitting in a chair. A basketball player performs BSL by using his legs to push up off the ground and bend forward until his chest touches the floor before straightening up again. This works out the quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves.
It’s an excellent exercise for increasing jumping ability and it also increases hip mobility as well.
RDLs are another great exercise which can be used in place of squats. They’re especially good for increasing hamstring flexibility as well as building strength in this area. To perform RDLs, stand up straight with a barbell across your upper back and shoulders. Keep your back straight and bend forward at the hips (but not at the waist), bending your knees only slightly. Go as low as you can while maintaining a flat back and then straighten up.
Lunges are also a good substitute for squats mainly because they work the same muscles that squats work but also involve some muscles that squats don’t; the glutes, adductors and the quads in the front of the leg. When doing lunges make sure you take a large step forward and to keep your front knee at a right angle. The knee should also remain over the foot’s ball. Make sure the knee doesn’t go in front of the toes or else you risk hurting your knee. Keep your back straight and hold a dumbbell in each hand or weight plate for added resistance.
A safer alternative to squats.
Another very popular leg exercise is the deadlift. Deadlifts are very popular with powerlifters and bodybuilders alike. They’re one of the best exercises for increasing overall lower body strength. Like squats, deadlifts are also great for building muscle and strength in the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. They also hit the lower back and the erector spinae muscles (the small muscles located at the base of your spine) quite well.
There are two types of deadlifts: conventional and sumo. Each type of deadlift works the muscles slightly differently. Most powerlifters prefer the conventional style while most Olympic lifters prefer the sumo style. Both can be used for either purpose.
How to perform the regular deadlift:
The bar should be in front of you on the floor, a bit closer to your legs than you might typically position it for a squat. Put a wide grip on the bar. Place your feet flat and straight ahead of the bar, with your legs straight. Bring your shoulders back and keep your chest high. Take a deep breath and push the floor away to keep your knees from bending or “buckling.” Pull the weight off the floor while keeping the bar as close to your legs as possible.
Pause at the top and push your hips forward to keep from pushing your lower back too far backward.
How to perform the sumo deadlift:
Place a barbell in front of you on the floor. Place your legs fairly wide apart and position your hands outside your legs, by your knees. Look forward and keep your back straight. Take a deep breath and push the floor away with your feet to keep your knees from bending or buckling. Pull the weight off the floor using your whole body to extend your hips forward.
Bodybuilders typically use a mixed grip on deadlifts, with one hand over/underhand grip, while most powerlifters use a straighter barbell grip.
A nice alternative to deadlifts for bodybuilders is the Romanian deadlift (RDL).
Unlike the standard deadlift, the RDL begins with the weight on the floor and you don’t need to pull it off. Stand with your knees slightly bent and stance just outside shoulder width. Keeping your back flat, pull the bar up while maintaining your knees’ angle. Pause and slowly return the weight to the floor.
Another popular alternative to deadlifts is the hex bar deadlift. The hex bar is a hexagonal-shaped bar that sits lower to the ground and has handles on the top and bottom. This reduces strain on the lower back and can be used by most people. Some powerlifters don’t use this piece of equipment since they need to learn how to properly deadlift with a straight bar first.
Incline dumbbell flys are a good exercise for the upper part of the chest. Most people have a hard time doing these due to the fact that it is quite difficult to keep your chest raised up and support the weight at the same time. It is advised that you lift very slowly to ensure form and safety. Take a shoulder-width grip on the dumbbells. Raise the dumbbells to your chest and slowly return.
You can also do flat bench dumbbell flys. You will not need as much weight for these as the incline version since the angle is easier, however it’s harder to keep the chest raised.
While seated on a flat bench, bend over and grab two dumbbells.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Leg dominancy in relation to fast isometric torque production and squat jump height (CJ de Ruiter, A de Korte, S Schreven… – European journal of …, 2010 – Springer)
- The effect of a hip-strengthening program on mechanics during running and during a single-leg squat (RW Willy, IS Davis – Journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy, 2011 – jospt.org)
- … , hip, and knee kinematics, hip strength, and gluteal muscle activation during a single-leg squat in males and females with and without patellofemoral pain syndrome (TH Nakagawa, ÉTU Moriya, CD Maciel… – Journal of orthopaedic & …, 2012 – jospt.org)
- Optimizing squat technique (P Comfort, P Kasim – Strength and Conditioning Journal, 2007 – researchgate.net)
- Comparison of lower extremity EMG between the 2-leg squat and modified single-leg squat in female athletes (K McCurdy, E O’Kelley, M Kutz… – Journal of sport …, 2010 – journals.humankinetics.com)