Weather is hottin up and time to get to work on perfecting that posterior? Well you're in luck, as VPT Sofia Zolobova will show you how.
As some of you might already know, performing basic bodyweight exercises using light weights or resistance machines is effective, but only up to a point. When your muscles adapt to the same stress over a period of time, at a particular stage the exercise is no longer effective – simply because you have reached your comfort zone. If you want to see a difference you have to constantly ‘shock’ your body. For example, you can do this with heavier weights and lower rep range, or doing an exercise you haven’t done before. Even simply changing the volume or speed can drastically change the way your neuromuscular system reacts. From my experience and knowledge, I've discovered that heavy compound exercises in combination with explosive power/balance moves performed consistently overtime improves your body composition.
Training for strength with elements of functional training, in addition with some high HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), has a number of benefits: not only does your body becomes stronger, you also gain lean muscle, which means you boost the metabolism. Therefore, with an increased metabolic rate you shred body fat more efficiently, and as a result you start obtaining that desired lean/toned body.
But that’s not the full package yet! This type of training regime provides you with stronger core muscles, improved posture, which helps to prevent muscular imbalances and injuries. You just have to make sure you performing the exercise with a correct form. Bearing all of this in mind, let’s focus on lower body training. These are the top exercises you must add to your routine to get those pins and butt ready for summer.
Heavy Back Squat
Yes, back to the basics – squat is the king of all exercises. Start your routine with a heavier back squat. Perform from 4-5 sets with the weight you could only complete a maximum of six repetitions with good form per set. Focus on slow and controlled lowering down (eccentric phase): five second on the way down, one second to come back to the starting position. Also make sure you are squatting below 90 degrees angle, keeping your chest up, core engaged. When coming up into the starting position squeeze your glutes and abdominal muscles.
Heavy Hip Thrusts
Hip thrust is one of best exercises to fire up your glutes and hamstring. If you never performed this exercise start with lighter weight or body weight at first. When your body adapts to this exercise, 'shock' your legs by using a heavier weight. Perform four sets of 10-12 repetitions when using a light weight or no weight. After 3-4 weeks grab a barbell/dumbbell at least 5kg heavier and drop your repetitions from 12-10 to 8, four to five sets. The most important phase of this movement is the contraction at the top position, try squeezing for 3-5 seconds.
Around The World Lunge
Another great exercise to build muscle (tone your legs) is the around the world lunge. This exercise combines four types of lunges per repetition: basic rear (step forward), side/lateral, reverse and curtsey (transverse) lunges as one repetition. Around the world lunge is an exercise performed in all planes of motion, that challenges your balance, lower body and core strength. A lunge is a quad based exercise, however combining different types of lunges into one move will also hit your inner thighs and glutes. Start the exercise with a hip width stance. Step forward with your left, lunge down until both knees are 90 degrees bent. With the same leg step to the side with the toes facing forward bend the left leg 90 degrees, keep the chest up, back straight and the right leg should be fully extended, but avoiding locking your knee. Next with the same leg (left) step backward and lunge all the way down with control until both legs are bent 90 degrees, from this position shift your left leg directly behind or a few inches further and lowering down into a curtsey lunge. Thy this exercise without using any extra weight to make sure you have a good form – back straight, chest up at all times, making sure your knees are not tipping over toes, and feet are firmly placed on the ground, especially paying attention to your heels which should be flat on ground. When feeling confident, try increasing the intensity with using dumbbells, kettlebells or a barbell. Try performing 6-8 repetitions per each leg for 2-3 sets.
Single Leg Deadlift
Single leg exercises help to correct left-right strength asymmetries, improve balance and core strength. Single leg deadlift – excellent exercise to focus on your hamstrings, glutes and lower back. Begin this exercise from standing tall and balancing on the left leg keeping the right bent in front you. Bending at the hip keep the left knee slightly bent, extend your right leg behind, lower down till your body is parallel to the floor, and bring yourself into an upright position. For this exercise you can use a kettlebell, dumbbell or just bodyweight, focus on 8-10 rep range (if using weights), 3 sets.
Step Ups With Knee Raise
Another single leg exercise that will help you strengthen each leg at a time. This exercise works mainly your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves. Start this exercise by placing one foot (right) on an elevated platform. By extending the hip and knee of your front leg step up, flex your left hip and knee, bringing the knee as high as possible. You can use a bench, step board or a plyometric box. Try performing this exercise using only bodyweight, then progress into using some weights, for example a pair of dumbbells or barbell. The higher the platform the more challenging this exercise becomes. If performing this exercise with bodyweight work around 12 reps per each leg, if using dumbbells, reduce the reps to 10 and don't forget to focus on your form – straight back, chest up, shoulder blades contracted, keep your abs engaged at all times, and don't forget to breathe!
Have you tried a sumo squat before? It's slightly different than the traditional squat, as a the feet placed significantly wider. Changing the placement of your feet with the stance width, will engage muscles differently. When performing a sumo squat more emphasis is placed on your inner thighs and glutes. To perform a sumo squat hold a dumbbell or a kettlebell with both hands and stand tall with your feet wider than shoulders width apart and toes facing out. Flex your hips and knees, slowly with control lower down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, pause at the bottom position and come up into the starting position. To make this exercise a bit more challenging elevate your feet by using step boards and try to squat a bit lower. Perform this exercise with an appropriate weight to complete 10-12 reps with a good form for 3 sets.
Some honorable mentions:
These are my favourite two exercises. I often use as a part of a warm up or as a part of a metabolic conditioning circuit. Both exercises are dynamic and explosive, when performed with speed they help in increasing your metabolic rate. Having this type of exercises in your lower body routine will be a great aid in getting stronger and leaner legs and butt.
Photos: Vesna Nikolic