Free Weight Exercises For Legs: Hamstrings
Exercises: Leg Curls:
The leg curl shouldn't be in the list of free weight exercises, but its another popular one so I thought I'd put it in! Lie prone (face down) on the bench of a leg curl machine and hook your heels under the support pads. Keeping your body flat against the bench, raise your heels toward your butt until you can't lift the weight any farther. Lower the weight slowly to the starting position and repeat. Try to keep your bum down. If your glutes rise up at the end of the movement, you should reduce the weight.
Exercise: Stiff Leg Deadlift:
Deadlifts are tied with squats as the king of exercises. Using a pronated grip (palms facing you), grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip. Inhale, slightly bend the knees, lock the shoulders back and begin the movement with the bodyweight over the heels. Allow the bar to descend, while ensuring it maintains contact with the front of the body. While descending, maintain the normal curvature of the lower back and neck, and allow the glutes to move rearward. Do not look up or down, but instead, maintain a normal head and neck alignment. Always use a controlled movement speed with this exercise. Never perform it fast or sloppy.
Exercise: Dumbbell Lunges: Variation "bulgarian split squat"
Grab a light dumbbell in each hand and stand upright. Your feet should be together. One leg will act as an anchor. You have the option to step forward or back, its up to you. Either way the forward legs upper thigh should be parallel with the floor. Thats the depth gauge. The knee of the forward leg should be directly over the toes and not in front as this is a great way to cause knee pain. With the front leg push with the quads and pull with the hamstrings and glutes to get back to the standing position and then repeat. In the beginning you may want to hold onto something for some support while you get used to the balance of the exercise.
Free Weight Exercises For Legs: Quads
Not included in free weight exercises: Leg Extensions:
The leg extension shouldn't be in this list, but if your scared of squats... Sit on a leg extension machine and place the tops of your feet under the footpads. With your lower back firmly against the seat, slowly lift your lower legs until your knee joint reach the semi-locked position. Pause for a contraction, then slowly return to the starting position. Do not bounce in the locked position. Take it easy on the knees.
Exercise: Normal Bodybuilder Squats:
Squats are tied with deadlifts as the king of exercises. Start by placing the barbell on your upper back and stand with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders. Check your balance to make sure your feet remain flat on the ground. Now squat down slowly until your upper thighs are about parallel to the floor. If your legs and knees are not quite warmed up yet, do your first few squats a little less deeply. At first, you will feel like you need to lean forward to keep your balance. This can be altered by leaning your head back and keeping your lower back straight. Maintain your body weight on your heels and mid-foot. Resist going up on your toes to maintain balance.
Leg Press Exercise Video Clip
I guess the leg press shouldn't be in the list of free weight exercises, but its so popular I thought I'd put it in! The problem is that this machine often becomes a demonstration station for those looking to say that they lifted 1200 pounds! But loading the leg press with as many 45s as you can find, and then doing small, 1/4 range of motion reps is an invitation to injury and impresses no one. Keep your feet parallel or slightly turned-out foot position, keep your knees tracking over your feet, and maintain normal spinal curvatures. At the "bottom" position, do not allow the weight to descend so far that your hips "tuck under." Pressing with the heels maximizes contribution from the hamstrings and reduces stress on the knees.
Exercises For Legs: Glutes
Ray's Best Glute Exercises
Free Weight Exercises For Calves
Exercise: Calf Raise (Standing):
Stand on a calf-raise machine with your shoulders under the pads. Place the balls of your feet on the foot platform and straighten your legs from the squat position for the first rep. Straighten your legs completely and extend your body so that your feet, hips and shoulders are in alignment. Lower your heels slowly until you feel a strong stretch in your Achilles tendon and calf muscles. Hold the top and bottom position for a second to avoid using momentum and bouncing.
Exercise: Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise:
This is the same as above except that instead of a machine you use a dumbbell for resistance. Hold the dumbbell at your side and do one leg at a time while standing on a raised surface.
Exercise: Seated Calf Raise:
With your knees under the pads, place the balls of your feet on the edge of the foot platform. Push up and release the safety lock and slowly lower your heels until you feel a stretch in your calves. Push through the balls of your feet to raise your heels as high as you can. Squeeze your calves hard at the top. Again, no bouncing!