Introduction

 

The final part of this 3 part blog post on exercise execution and how to apply tension is focused around legs. We will now turn our attention to some of the key exercises that will help develop your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. Training the lower body is never a walk in the park when you are trying to develop new tissue. The exercises involved are normally very challenging and require you to dive deep into unknown territory both mentality and physically. The body is always capable of so much more than we sometimes put out and it’s normally our minds that cave in first when we are exposed to uncomfortable situations. Usually, the things we want are outside our comfort zones and unless you are willing to smash through your comfort zone, you’ll never get what you truly want.

Exercises we dislike generally tend to be our weak points. It’s a doddle being comfortable and always playing to your strengths. The real test is tackling your weaknesses and making them a strength. Not every training session you do is going to be fun and enjoyable. There will be some days where nothing seems to flow and everything you do feels like swimming against the tide. Those are the days where you have to think about the bigger picture and the LONG journey you are currently working towards. I emphasise the word LONG simply because that’s part and parcel of the process. We all want to swallow a magic pill from time to time and miraculously have the results we crave, but unfortunately we have to take the longer but more rewarding journey in order to achieve our goals.

If you would like to see a video demonstration on how to front squat with correct form, then check out Candito Training.

Front Squat - personal training - CSS Fitness

Coaching – Front Squat

 

Exercise execution (Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes) – Hack Squat

 

 

Progressive overload is a fundamental factor for physique development. However, this is not an excuse to completely disregard exercise execution and place maximum intention on the muscle group being trained. 

Creating tension on the hack squat and more specifically (quadriceps) can easily be achieved by following these tips and cues. Firstly, in terms of foot placement, for arguments sake we will go with your standard squat stance.  As you start to descend controlling the eccentric portion of the movement make sure that your knees are tracking over your toes. In order to maximally recruit your quadriceps out of the bottom of the hack squat, load the outside of your feet driving the platform away from you. Think about driving your glutes into the pad instead of pushing your upper body into the shoulder pad. 

 

Tips & Cues-

 

  • Contract Quadriceps and control your tempo 
  • Focus on exercise execution & apply tension to the targeted muscle group 
  • Think about driving your glutes into the pad instead of pushing your upper body into the shoulder pad
  • Drive the platform away from you
Hack Squat - personal training - CSS Fitness

Hack Squat

Exercise execution (Quadriceps & Glutes) – Bulgarian split squats

 

 

Bulgarian split squats can be otherwise known as back foot elevated split squat. What is important to know is that the back foot is elevated. For anyone that’s involved in sports that requires a lot of jumping, the Bulgarian split squat is fantastic for anyone wanting to increase their vertical jump. Things to consider when performing this exercise;

Should I be using dumbbells or a barbell?

How high should my back foot be elevated?

How should I position my rear foot?

How far should my front foot be away from the multi-purpose bench?

How deep should I go?

 

How high should my back foot be elevated?

 

If you are new to this exercise make sure you start out by using your body weight initially in order to familiarise yourself with the movement pattern. Firstly, you will need a standard multi-purpose gym bench or a box step to ensure your can elevate your rear foot. If you find that the stretch to your quadriceps and hip flexors of your elevated leg is too extreme or uncomfortable, then you will most likely require a box step over a multi-purpose bench.

Should I be using dumbbells or a barbell?

 

I personally like to use dumbbells for this exercise as it is much easier to set up and I can generally use more weight. There is however nothing wrong with using a barbell for this exercise, you may require the use of a squat rack when using heavier loads. For more information on the variations of how to perform this movement check out this blog post by T-Nation. 

How should I position my rear foot?

 

In terms or your rear foot, my recommendation would be to rest the top of your foot on the bench and avoid doing this exercise with your toe on the bench. You may find this easy to do with lighter loads, but as you begin to go heavier it will be much harder as your balance will suffer and your range of motion will be longer. If you want to make this exercise a little more challenging then you can draw the heel out, just by changing the positioning of your back foot you can achieve a greater stretch in your hip flexors.

How far should my front foot be away from the multi-purpose bench?

 

When beginning this exercise I personally like to firstly place my rear foot on the bench and then take a step out with my front foot adjusting accordingly. You will notice that the closer you are too the bench the higher quad activation will be. The further away from the bench, the more glute activation.  

How deep should I go?

 

An effective way of measuring consistent depth would be to place a pad or mat underneath the rear knee. Touching the knee with each rep will not only act as a measure of consistent depth but also serves as a cushion to the rear knee. If you do not have a pad or mat available I would recommend aiming for your front knee to be in-line with your hip. 

Check out Strength Camp on YouTube for a video demonstration.

 

Tips & Cues-

 

  • Choose the appropriate height for your rear foot
  • Make the Bulgarian split squat more challenging by drawing the heel out
  • Rest the top of your foot on the bench and avoid placing your toe on the bench
  • Use a pad or mat underneath the rear knee for consistent depth
Bulgarian Split Squat - personal training - CSS Fitness

Bulgarian Split Squat

 

Exercise execution (Hamstrings) –  Lying Hamstring Curl

 

The hamstrings tend to be a common under developed muscle group among athletes and gym goers. If we use a runner/sprinter as an example; the hamstrings are involved in both knee flexion and hip extension, both important actions in the running motion. The hamstrings are also key decelerators, so the stronger your hamstrings are; the faster you will be able to stop, change direction and continue your movement. Developing this muscle group will only enhance sporting performance and reduce the potential risk of injury.

When performing the lying hamstring curl a common mistake people tend to make is letting their hips shoot up as they drive the heels towards the glutes. By making this mistake you will prevent your hamstrings from getting into a fully shortened position. This will ultimately lead you to finishing in a more mid range position. Firstly, select the appropriate weight to begin with and don’t let your ego get the better of you. Concentrate on driving both your hips and your quadriceps into the pad as you force your heels towards your glutes. You will find that the weakest point for your hamstrings will be in its fully shortened position, use full range of motion with a controlled tempo. I highly recommend checking out Mark Coles video demonstration on hamstring training tips (shortened range curls).

 

Tips & Cues-

 

  • Avoid lifting your hips up, drive your hips into the pad
  • Push your quads into the pad and drive your heels towards your glutes
  • The Hamstrings are knee flexors and hip extensors
Lying Hamstring Curl- exercise - personal training - CSS Fitness

Lying Hamstring Curl