Much of your muscle mass is in your lower body. So if you want to rev your metabolism and sculpt your physique, leg day is unavoidable. However, it can be overwhelming if you are just getting started. A lot of guys go straight to heavy barbell squatting and deadlifts, only to find themselves dealing with aches and pains a few weeks in.
If you are serious about training your legs, you’ll want to build a solid foundation through exercises you can safely overload through time. Taking the patient approach allows your body to acclimate to training and reduces your risk of an overuse injury.
Men’s Health fitness editor Ebenezer Samuel has five exercises that beginners can use to build muscle and strengthen their lower bodies.
The reverse lunge is an excellent lower-body exercise for beginners. Each leg works independently, so you are less likely to amplify any strength imbalances. Lunges work every muscle in your lower body in some capacity and help to improve your balance. The stability you acquire will carry over to all the other exercises in your workout routine.
The goblet squat is a great introduction to squatting. The weight at the front of the body counterbalances your torso, so you are able to learn how to stay upright and sit back into the squat. It also blasts your shoulders and core. (Samuel uses a dumbbell similar to this one from CAP Barbell.)
Romanian deadlifts train your posterior chain (your backside). They will improve your hamstring flexibility while teaching you how to properly hinge at your hip, which is an essential movement to grasp in order to prevent back injuries and build solid glutes.
The mini-band glute bridge targets the glute and hip muscles. The mini band trains your abductors, which when weak, can contribute to training injuries. (If you do get a lower-body injury, here’s how to come back from it.)
Farmer’s carries are a great total-body foundational movement. Not only will your entire lower body be put to work, but your shoulders, arms, core, and grip will, too. This exercise is great for improving posture and overall stamina.
Combine these exercises into a circuit for a killer lower-body workout. (And for more muscle-building workouts, check out the Metashred Extreme from Men’s Health.)
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