Authored by Andy Chasse’ in Exercise
Published on 07-11-2009
A big upper body is a common sight these days. Cannonball arms and the huge barrel-chest look, you know? A good looking lower body, however, is a rare oddity. The entire population of the world is so focused on training the upper body that the legs and butt suffer horribly. Fortunately, lower body training isn’t a complicated task at all.
While the lower body consists of the calves, thighs, and butt, we are going to take a look specifically at the thighs. The front of the thigh is made up of a series of muscles known as the quadriceps. These muscles include the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, and vastus medialis. They all work together to allow for hip flexion and knee extension. The back of the thigh is known as the hamstrings. The biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus makes up this muscle group. Opposite of the quadriceps, the hamstrings control knee flexion and hip extension. Various other muscles run through the thigh region in addition to the quadriceps and the hamstrings. The sartorius runs diagonally across the thigh and assists in hip and knee movement. The gracilis is a hip adductor found on the very inner portion of the thigh.
For the sake of ease, we’re only going to go into detail concerning the quadriceps and hamstrings. Both of these muscle groups must be trained as equally as possible to avoid imbalance and injury.
1) Quadriceps. There are a number of exercises that involve the quadriceps; they are a very important lower body player.
- Squat. The squat is a compound exercise that involves movement at the hip, ankle, and knee. While the glutes are considered the main mover in the squat, the quadriceps play a major role. For a squat to be performed, the hips must flex and the knees must extend. The quadriceps control both of these movements. A traditional close stance squat sends more of the focus to the quadriceps, whereas a wider stance places greater stress on the hamstrings.
- Lunge. The lunge is a squat variation of sorts. Consider it a type of single-leg squat. As with the squat, the quadriceps and glutes work together to make this movement possible. Lunges may be performed moving, static, or elevated. Each of these variations should be used to keep the body guessing.
2) Hamstrings. As with the quadriceps, there are a multitude of training options for the hamstrings.
- Deadlift. Instead of the bar being placed on the back, it is placed on the ground. The lifter must then raise it from the ground to a full shoulders-back lockout. The lower back is involved in this exercise at a greater level than in the squat. The deadlift may be performed with either a close or wide stance. However, for the purposes of this particular training, a wide stance should be used. Just as seen with the squat, a wide stance places greater stress on the hamstrings.
- Hyperextension. In this exercise, the lifter must use a specific implement designed for this movement. It may be found in most large gym chains. The lifter will face down at a diagonal with the lower body locked in place. With the back arched, the lifter then lower the face towards the floor and then back up. The lower back takes most of the stress in the hyperextension, but the glutes and hamstrings also take on part of the work.
Utilize each of these exercises in your lower body training and you will quickly become one of the rare oddities with a pair of legs that the rest of the gym envies.