1. Back Squat
The back squat is arguably the best exercise for strengthening, weight loss, toning, muscle building, power production, and total body work. The back squat requires the trunk to remain rigid and stable and the Valsalva maneuver helps with this.
The back squat requires the pelvis to remain stable while rotating through the exercise and while the lower back extends to maintain a good lumbar curve and rigidity of the lower trunk.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Because of this, not only are the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings working; but also most of the major muscle groups of the entire body are working to keep the body stable throughout the entire range of motion.
As you progress in the back squat, you will notice strength gains and toning throughout your core and chest as well as shoulders and your back.
The squat is also very functional, it translates well into sport if you are an athlete, it is great training to make everyday activities more efficient, and it is a great exercise for burning calories and losing weight.
2. Front Squat
The front squat is a variation of the squat, this time with the bar racked on the front of the shoulders rather than across the back of the shoulders. Because the weight is in front of you, it is more quadriceps-dominant.
Although the front squat is a weaker lift than the back squat, it is a still a great exercise to have in your repertoire.
Studies have shown that the 1 rep max front squat should be around 80% of your 1 rep max back squat.
For those with tight hips, the front squat can be beneficial in allowing you to get more depth in your squats, but it does require you to maintain trunk rigidity and back extension so as not to round forward and lose strength at the bottom of the squat.
The front squat is also a great exercise to tone the quadriceps. As with any exercise that is multi-joint and multi-muscle group, this exercise will burn a lot of calories for those looking for weight loss benefits.
A lunge is another variation on a squat, but this time it is one-legged.
The weight can be held in the hands, such as kettle bells or dumbbells, or across the back using a barbell, or even one dumbbell in front of the chest.
Lunges will challenge stability in maintaining balance more so than the first two exercises, but it does not require as much weight, and weights are not even necessary.
Lunges will also work the adductor muscles to a much greater extent because they are working to stabilize the trunk to maintain a midline position throughout the exercise.
This is another great exercise to tone the thighs and glutes.
4. Stiff-Legged Dead Lifts
The stiff-legged dead lift, or SLDL, is a somewhat difficult exercise, but nonetheless, it is great for toning, weight-loss, and power production.
The SLDL is similar to a conventional deadlift, but the legs are stiff rather than allowed to bend; however, the legs are not straight as they would be for a Romanian dead lift (RDL).
For the SLDL, the back should be extended rather than rounded, and the knees bent slightly. Push the hips back at the bottom of the exercise and come into a standing position with the knees still slightly bent.
The SLDL is less taxing on the central nervous system than a conventional dead lift, and so it can be done in leg workouts where a dead lift would be too much stimulus.
The SLDL is a great exercise for athletes because it is not so taxing on the CNS to increase fatigue to undesirable levels, but still great at building strength and power production for explosive movements.
5. Push Press
Lastly, the push press is another great leg exercise that will benefit the entire body.
The push press is done with the bar racked on the front of the shoulders as you would rack the bar for a front squat.
You will then squat down and as you stand up by pressing through your heels, you will also press the bar overhead using leg strength and upper body strength.
It is not an explosive movement, but it should be fast and powerful. Because it is not totally dependent on legs, it is great for toning and strengthening the entire body, but it should not be done using high volume.