When you think of leg day, you think of squats, lunges, deadlifts, and glute bridges. And although these fundamental exercises are the best for toning your muscles and increasing your lower body strength, they can sometimes become a bit boring.
Spicing up your usual routine with some fun and unique exercises as well as modifications of the abovementioned staples will not only challenge your leg muscles in a different way but also make your leg day that much more exciting.
Spice up your regular lunges with an explosive jump and feel your muscles burn. You can do this exercise on its own or combine it with back lunges for a challenging superset where you perform these moves back to back.
Start in a standing position and separate your feet hip-width. Activate your core muscles and feel your belly button lift. Inhale and step back with your right leg, bending the knee and bringing it close to the floor. Exhale here to prepare and on your next inhale, use the power from your back foot to drive your right knee up toward your chest and jump with both feet into the air. Exhale and come back to your lunge. Repeat 10-12 times before switching over to the left leg.
Every time you jump up, try to be as explosive as you can, feeling your hamstrings burn. As you’re descending, do it with control and very tight core muscles in order to avoid dropping down and risking injury through hard impact.
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Leave your palms on the floor and push them down, creating leverage and aiding balance. Relax your head and shoulders to avoid any strain on your neck muscles and feel your hamstring scream with every further rep. Aim for 10-12 repetitions.
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Keep your right foot flexed so you really use the power from the squat and avoid falling over to the left side. Keep your core tight and try to maintain a somewhat straight position of your upper body, utilizing the strength of your oblique muscles to keep you balanced. Repeat this exercise 10-12 times and switch legs or alternate between legs and do a total of 20-24 kicks (10-12 per leg).
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This exercise can very well be done at home, using only resistance bands or even just your body weight, but it can also be performed in the gym on the cable squat machine.
Start by lying on the floor, belly facing down. Bend your knees and keep them hip-width apart. Let your feet come to touch and activate your glutes. Grab your elbows and place your forehead on your forearms. Inhale and lift your legs up as far as they will go, squeezing your feet together and feeling your glutes and hamstrings get fired up. Lower down on exhale. Repeat 12-15 times.
For an added challenge, you can place resistance bands around your thighs or shins, add weights around your ankles, or do it on the squat cable machine and lift a higher weight by pushing your feet into the bar.
Challenge your leg days.
This single-legged variation isolates the muscles on each leg, not allowing one side to take over. That way you’ll be able to tackle the weak links and strengthen them more efficiently. If you want to try this at home and don’t have a leg press machine, you can use a resistance band instead. Always remember to keep the tension on the band in order to really feel your muscles working.
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If you’re advanced enough to do a one-legged squat without any support, you’ll know how challenging it makes your leg day. If you’re just starting out, you’ll need to build up to this level and stay patient with yourself as it takes time.
Find a chair or a sturdy surface to hold on to and come to a standing position. Lift your right leg and extend it in front of you. Flex your foot to activate your muscles and grab onto your chair. Inhale and slowly bend your left leg, like you’re going into a full squat. Exhale and keep your right leg extended, drive through your left foot to stand up. Repeat 10-12 times if possible before switching sides.
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Leg days can be fun and with these unique and challenging exercises, you’re in for a treat. But, before you start working those leg muscles, do a proper warm-up and avoid potential injuries and strain.