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Top Lower Body Movements for Toning, Mobility, and Resilience

I previously discussed the benefits of training at longer muscle lengths. Today I wanted to cover some of your best options for lower body exercises that emphasize long lengths. Remember, to get the most out of these movements you want to focus on maximum (pain free) range of motion. It's better to use less weight and have a larger range of motion, than to add load at the expense of mobility.

  • Romanian Deadlift or Stiff Leg Deadlifts: This variation of the deadlift emphasizes the hamstrings by keeping your back straighter and hinging at the hips. These can be progressed by elevating your feet on a step or weight plate in order to increase the available range of motion.

  • Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat: This single-leg squat challenges your balance and stretches your hamstrings as you step back into a lunge position. Range of motion can be further increased by elevating the front foot on these.

  • Glute-Ham Raise: This exercise requires specialized equipment but provides a deep stretch and targets the hamstrings in a lengthened position.

  • Nordic Hamstring Curl: This advanced bodyweight exercise challenges your hamstrings by lowering yourself down from a kneeling position with minimal upper body involvement.

  • Lateral Squat: This single-leg biased squat variation requires significant balance and flexibility, promoting long muscle length in the glute and adductors.

  • Reverse Nordic Curl (Quad Falls): This exercise challenges the quadricep muscles, especially the rectus femoris, which often gets neglected with many other quad movements.

Additional Tips:

  • Focus on controlled movements: Maintain proper form throughout the entire range of motion, emphasizing a slow and controlled eccentric (lengthening) phase of the exercise.

  • Hold the stretched position at the bottom for a 1-2 count: I find this helps "own" the position, and also often you'll find you can sink deeper into the stretch if you give it a second or two.

  • Maintain proper range of motion: Don't sacrifice form for weight. Ensure you're moving through a full range of motion in each exercise.

It's always a good idea to consult with a certified personal trainer to ensure you're performing the exercises correctly and safely, especially with exercises that require advanced balance or technique.

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