This awesome workout designed by Ryan Rhodes, MD!
Now it’s lower body day. Some gym rats tend to overlook this, but friends don’t let friends skip leg day. It’s arguably the most important muscle group to workout. These are the biggest muscles in your body, so working them burns the most calories. Working them hard will also cause your body to adapt to the stress and increase you’re metabolism. What this means is you will burn more calories throughout your daily life and your hormones like your cortisol, testosterone and thyroid will all balance making progress and your daily life come much easier.
But people don’t like doing legs. Why? Because it’s hard. It wears you out. There’s a lot of blood that pumps to those big muscles and you get out of breath really quickly. Also when you’re sore in your legs the day after a workout everything is miserable. It’s painful to walk, it’s painful to bend down, and God help you if you ever have to climb stairs. I’m going to let you in on a little secret though: sore pain is a good pain. It means you’re getting stronger. And being out of breath is a good thing. It means you’re heart is working better. I’ll go as far as saying this: strong legs = strong person.
Without stalling any longer, here’s the workout. Same format as the upper body workout. The first exercise is done with heavy weights for 10 reps stacked in a superset with a body weight exercise. The bodyweight exercise is done to failure, meaning that you perform repetitions until you physically can’t go anymore. Good luck climbing stairs the day after this workout!
The first move is simple squats.
Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells in each hand. Lower your self down in a squat keeping your chest and head up. DO NOT bend at the waste. You should act like you are sitting in a chair. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to put a chair or bench behind you and let your butt physically touch it to know you’ve gone down far enough. Do not sit in the chair though. That’s cheating. Once you’re down low enough, slowly come back up to a standing position. Be careful to keep your back straight. You should be using a large amount of weight here and improper form can be bad for your lower back. Pick a weight heavy enough so that you can only do 10 reps. When you finish very carefully put the weights down making sure to not bend at the waist or put too much stress on the lower back.
For the body weight exercise, we’re going to do pretty much the same motion except we’re not going to use any weights and we’re going to explode back up. Ideally, you should have a box or bench or similar target that’s raised of the ground to use, but it is not necessary. Do the same squat as the last move, but instead of coming up slowly explode up and jump off the floor. If you have a target available, try to touch the balls of your foot on the top of it and quickly jump back down. If you don’t have a target, simply try to jump as high as you can. Do this for as long as your legs can take it. Go at a slow pace so you don’t wear your heart and lungs out before your legs.
Deadlifts are very basic and effective, but often over looked exercise for the lower body. Traditionally they are done with an Olympic bar and a lot of weight. Here we’re going to do them with dumbbells instead. Pick up two heavy dumbbells (should be slightly lighter than your squat weight) in each hand. Feet should be shoulder width apart. Now lock all of your joints up, firm but not forcefully. Slowly bend at the waist while keeping your back and arms straight. It might actually help to trace your legs with the dumbbells. You might find you knees bend slightly; this is ok just don’t start to squat down. Try to keep your waist as the only joint in motion. Once your dumbbells are at about ankle to shin level, start to raise back up again only moving the waist. Again, do 10 reps with a weight that starts getting hard at the 7th or 8th rep.
For the body weight exercise in this set, we’re going to be doing an isometric movement, meaning we’re going to hold a contraction and not change the length of the muscle involved. It’s called Superman, and you’ll be able to see why once you do it. Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs extended straight. Now lift your arms and legs off the ground by bending your torso with your lower back and hold them there. You should look like Superman when he’s flying through the air, hence the name. Hold this pose for as long as you can. You might have to take a break, but come back in to this pose and keep holding it. Keep going until your back and glutes can’t take it anymore.
Here is an exercise that islolates each leg individually. Grab a weight in each hand. You’ll find you need a slightly lighter weight than the previous exercises. With your feet together, begin by stepping forward with the right leg into a lunge. The front knee should bend to 90 degrees with the knee just over the ankle. Bend the back knee as well and go low enough so that the back knee almost touches the floor. The whole time keep your upper body straight and strong, contracting the core to keep your spine stable. Come back to starting position and repeat on the opposite leg. Do 10 reps per leg, don’t cheat and only do 5 and 5. I’ll come to your house and yell at you if you do.
For body weight, we’re going to do another isometric exercise. A yoga pose called Chair pose. Start standing up straight with feet together. Now with an inhale raise your arms straight up above your head with your biceps next to your ears. Now lower yourself down and sit your chair. Your knees should be bent to nearly 90 degrees. Your thighs should be slightly above parallel. Your spine should be straight from your tailbone to the crown of your head. Hold this pose for as long as you can. If you need to, come out of it for just a second, but get right back into it as soon as you can. Keep this pose until your thighs are begging for mercy and the lactic acid is gut punching your nerves. That’s what working to failure feels like.
The last superset works a part of the legs that are frequently ignored completely and even when they aren’t they are a frustrating area to work. The calves have such a limited range of motion that it’s tough to work them significantly. That’s why with this set we’re going to break the rules a little bit. Instead of one set of 10 we’re going to do 3 sets of 10 working the calves from 3 different angles. Just like the other moves in this workout, grab a set of fairly heavy dumbbells in each hand, probably close to the weight in the lunges. With feet parallel raise yourself up off the floor onto your toes up and down keeping your heels off the ground for 10 reps.
Now return to your staring position and repeat the same process with your toes facing outward. Do 10 reps in this position. Return back to starting position; now turn your toes facing in (pigeon toed). Do 10 reps in this position. Your calves should be burning by now.
The body weight move here is your fun reward for all your hard work. With no weight, get up on your toes and stay there. Now start running. You can run in place, or have a little fun with it and run all over the house or gym jumping off the couch or benches. The important things are just to make sure your calves stay contracted and your heels never hit the ground. If you cheat and let your heels touch I’ll send Dr. Courseault to your house to yell at you. Keep on your toes until your calves can’t take it anymore. You may find you calves take a long time to burn out, so that’s why I say have fun with this.
Just like the upper body workout, if you’re new to exercise then once through might be enough. If you have a little more experience, then repeat this whole sequence for a total of 2-3 cycles. One you’re done, go home and get some rest. If your followed these workouts as scheduled, your upper body should still be sore from yesterday and tomorrow you lower body will be too. Let you body recover, then come back and do it again. These workouts are one of the only times you fail in order to succeed.