Importance of Leg Training: Depending on who you are talking to or training with, "leg day" is either a focal point in their weekly workout routine or a very minor component that is often overlooked. For a lot of males, unless you are an athlete, the "sexy" muscles, being their chest, arms and abdominals are the usual targets, whereas, for ladies, the glutes and legs receive a lot of attention.
While "leg day" seems like more work than fun, sometimes with the result looking like you just got off a horse, the importance of a well-balanced full body workout and a solid foundation is vital not only to having a successful and healthy daily life, but a strong lower body muscle group can assist with having a more powerful upper body. As your lower body contains some of the largest muscles in your body, training them will help improve your metabolic state by increasing testosterone and your resting metabolic state so that even when you aren't working out your body is still working for you.
How to Start:
When doing leg exercises with resistance bands, as with using weights, it is extremely important to know how much resistance you are working with. Most band brands color code their product, with red, traditionally being the easiest and either blue or black being the hardest. It is important to test out the band first to make sure that you are challenging yourself with the correct amount of resistance. As one of the most versatile pieces of workout equipment, a resistance band, be it a full loop, mini band or tubing with handles, can be used to perform hundreds of different workouts. Unlike when using weights, resistance bands will provide immediate feedback as to proper form and technique.
The Best Resistance Band Leg Workout (all exercises described below will be using a mini band unless otherwise noted). The targeted muscle groups for these fifteen exercises include the glutes, quads, hamstrings, hip abductors, hip flexors, and calves. While your focus is primarily on your legs, core activation is extremely important during each of these exercises.
Squats (full band)
Stand on the inside of one end of the loop with your feet shoulder-width apart. You can choose to either hold your arms crossed out in front of you with the band resting on your biceps or place it over top of your head on the back of your shoulders or hold it in front of you at chest level with your palms facing upward. As with regular squats, slowly lower yourself down until your hamstrings are parallel with the floor. Remember to keep your chest up and back flat. As you return to your starting stance, do not allow the band to snap you back down or for your knees to buckle.
Lateral Band Walk
Place the band around both legs, either slightly above the ankles for a more challenging workout or slightly above the knees for less resistance. Lower to an athletic stance or quarter squat with your feet approximately hip-width apart. Step laterally in one direction to extend the tension of the band and then without letting the band pull your opposite leg in, step your other leg into the same hip-distance stance. Repeat for 3-4 strides and then repeat in the other direction for 12-15 reps. Do not come out of the athletic stance during each step, maintaining that same quarter squat position.
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Side-Plank Lateral Leg Lift
A great exercise to strengthen your hip abductors, tart by placing around both legs, just about your knee (easier) or around your ankles (harder). In a side plank position, resting on your forearm, keep your legs straight and stacked on top of each other. Lift your top leg as high as you can without lifting your hip. Slowly restack your legs together using a controlled tempo. Repeat for a set amount of reps and then repeat on the opposite side.
While this exercise focuses on your lower body, it is important that your upper body assists in keeping you stabilized to maintain proper form. With the resistance band secured around the arches of your feet, set up in a tabletop position on your hands and knees. As you squeeze your glutes and core, kick one foot back behind you, creating a straight line from the heel of your foot through to the top of your head. Continue for reps or time, then switch feet.
Diagonal Band Walk
Not only will this exercise help strengthen your lower body, but it will also assist with increasing your hip mobility. With the band placed around both ankles, assume an athletic stance with a slight hinge at your hips. Step diagonally forward with your right foot and then the left foot as you keep tension in the band the entire time. Move forward 3-4 steps with each foot and then walk in reverse with the same diagonal motion while keeping in an athletic stance. The key to this exercise is making sure that the band remains taut throughout every step.
With a focus on your glutes and hamstrings, lay on the floor, with the band placed above your knees and your feet flat on the floor approximately hip-width apart. Engaging your abdominals and squeezing your glutes, press down through your heels and lift your pelvis off the floor until your hips are in line with your knees. As you move throughout the exercise, keep the band tension tight by slightly pushing your knees out or widening your stance. Slowly lower back to starting position and repeat for rep count. You can add a progression to this exercise by doing a single leg hip bridge, lifting one foot off the ground, and raising/lowering your body with just a single leg.
Place the band slightly above your ankles and assume an athletic stance with your feet hip-width apart. With your glutes activated, level hips and your pelvis slightly tucked in, slowly lift one leg and kick it back behind you until the band reaches full tension. Pause for a count of one at the top before returning your foot to the starting position. Continue for a determined rep count of 8-12 and then repeat with the other leg.
A great cardio and strength combo exercise, squat jacks focus on the glutes, quads, and calves. For an easier exercise, place the band above your knees, for a more challenging workout, place the band around your ankles. Holding a quarter-squat position with your feet hip-width apart and pointed forward to activate tension in the band, jump your feet out to each side as far as possible, while maintaining control and form. Immediately return to your starting position and continue for a set amount of reps or time. Unless you add movements of your arms, your upper body should remain still throughout the exercise.
Standing / Lying Leg Curl (full band)
Place the band around both legs just above your ankles, or if you need more stability, place one loop under your planted foot to stop any slipping or movement of the band. Standing upright with your back and head straight, chest up, legs together and hips pointed forward. Slowly lift one leg back until your lower leg is parallel with the floor or at the point in which you feel the tension in the rear thigh muscle. As you return to the starting point, do not return the active foot completely to the floor. If you choose to lie down, do so face down on the floor with one end of the band around an anchor point and the other around one or both legs. Bend your knee and bring your ankle towards your butt, creating tension in the band. Do not allow your hips to raise off the ground.
Deadlift (full band)
Step in the middle of the band so that you have two "handles" on either side of your feet, or you can choose to grab hold of the band in the middle. Whether you use the handle option or the middle band, hold it with an overhand grip. With your knees slightly bent and your back in a neutral position slowly lower yourself down to approximately calf height. Contracting your glutes and pull the band up until you are standing in an upright athletic stance.
Single deadlift (full band)
Stepping on the middle of the band with one foot, grab hold of either end of the band, creating "handles". With your front leg slightly bent and your head, body, and back in a straight line, start to lean forward until you are horizontal. With a focus on keeping your balance and form, slowly return to starting position and repeat for desired reps.
Seated hamstring curl (full band)
With one end of your band attached to an anchor point, sit on a chair or bench far enough away that there is slight tension on the band as you wrap it around your ankles. Making sure that you are firmly supported on your seat, sit with your legs straight out in front of you and then slowly pull your feet down towards you as if you were sitting normally, which will create a firm contraction in your hamstring muscles.
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Not only does the clamshell exercise target the glute muscle group but it also works the oblique muscles. Position the band above your knees and lay on your side with your knees bent at 9- degrees. You can choose to rest your head on your bottom arm bicep or keep it propped up while resting on your forearm. With your core engaged, hips stacked and your knees and feet firmly pressed together, separate your knees by driving your top knee towards the ceiling as far as you can without altering your form. Then slowly lower it back to starting position.
Standing Leg Abduction (full band)
Secure one end of your band around an anchor point and the other around your outside ankle (standing laterally to the anchor point). Stand approximately 3-4 feet away from the anchor point or to the point in which your band has a slight amount of tension. Pull your active leg outward until it is roughly at a 45-degree angle from the floor or until the band has reached optimal tension. Try to keep your hands on your hips or on the back of a chair, while keeping your upper body straight and your abdominals engaged throughout the exercise. This exercise will target the outer thighs and hip abductors.
Reverse lunge (full band)
Stand in the middle of your band with one foot, and with your arms crossed in front of you, place the other end of the loop over the top of the front of your shoulders. With your feet side by side, step back with the opposite foot into a reverse lunge, bending your back knee down to 90 degrees. Make sure that you keep your elbows high, back straight, and chest upright. Push out of the lunge, while keeping solid pressure on the front foot.
As we have examined in previous articles, resistance band exercises are great for working out your abdominals as well as various upper body muscle groups as well as for warm-up, cool down, stretching, and as a tool to assist with exercise progression. Made of lightweight rubber, resistance bands are an extremely durable piece of equipment that can easily be packed in your gym back, kept in your desk drawer or the trunk of your car for a quick any place, any time strength, mobility, or rehabilitation workout.
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