Hope you’re all enjoying a great day and found my first blog on the upper body an interesting read which you could practically use to help improve your results in the gym!
This week I’m going to get straight into talking about the lower body!! There is a lot going on with the lower body and please note I have summarised the key points as basically as possible – however there is a lot more with the lower body that I won’t discuss and if you want further information please don’t hesitate to email me privately.
When people think of the lower body most will think of squats and lunges, as that is what your Personal Trainer or group instructor has prescribed for the session. FANTASTIC exercises which I use regularly but the issue arises when people have knee pain prescribe themselves lots of squats and lunges with added weight to “strengthen the knee”, unfortunately this just isn’t the case.
Let me break this down, the lower body comprises of three main joints, the hip, knee and ankle. 95% of all strength work in a gym environment will focus on the hip and knee (should do anyways). Ankle work is mainly related to rehabilitation from injury.
1. HIP: The hip is one of the most important joints in the body. It allows us to walk, run and jump. It bears our body weight and is one of the most flexible joints in the body. It allows a greater range of motion than any other joint apart from the shoulder. In saying this it is one of the most neglected muscle groups in the gym, as people are unsure how to work these muscles or don’t believe they need to. The hip movements include flexing and extending and occur through the GLUTES (bum) and HAMSTRINGS.
I want to mention the glutes quickly. To me the GLUTES are the powerhouse muscle group of the lower body. For most people who sit at a desk all day this muscle group is turned off and doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. This lead to a whole host of lower back and hip issues. Because the lower limbs are all interconnected this can translate into knee and ankle issues as well.
BOTTOM LINE, if you are not targeting your glutes during your sessions you are leaving yourself open to injury or potential injury in the future. From experience anyone who has come to me with lower back/knee/hip pain, once we have switched on the glutes their pain has decreased and also seen improved power generation in all aspects of cardio and strength.
KEY HIP EXERCISES INCLUDE: Dead lifts, Romanian dead lifts, Kettle Bell swings, crab walks, bilateral and uni lateral glute bridges.
2. KNEE: The knee is one of the strongest and again most important joints in the body. It allows the lower leg to move relative to the thigh whilst supporting the body’s weight. The knee joint is designed to be a shocker absorber of force when we walk, run and jump taking load off other areas of the body.
KEY KNEE EXERCISES INCLUDE: Squats (front and back), lunges, split squats, Step ups.
One major issue I see with the knee is an over programming of knee exercises and poor exercise selection when it comes to injury of the knee. Firstly in a gym setting most exercise training groups do lots and lots of squats and lunges, leaving out a key component the posterior chain (back of the legs). This is fine, as they are easy to complete and most people can squat and lunge. HOWEVER it means it’s so important to perform posterior chain exercises (glutes and hamstrings) on your own or in a PT session. To see the true benefit of these exercises they need to be under supervision or in a controlled environment.
Secondly something I mentioned at the start and see all the time, is clients who have sore knees doing weighted squats or lunges to “strengthen the knee’, this could not be further from the truth as all your doing is placing more unnecessary load on a sore joint, in most cases making it worse. Knee injuries need plenty of rest off knee exercises and lots of load through the hamstrings and glutes which act as a force absorber taking load off the knee, giving it time to heal until pain free.
I could talk all day about the lower body but I’ll leave it there for today. In summary 80% of the clients I see on a daily basis have some sort of lower limb issue which is treatable with scientifically backed training programs backed by proven results.
In the video below you will view my favourite lower body exercise for development of lower body strength! Start programming this exercise into your sessions for some serious gains or improvements in injury!
Finally, if you suffer lower limb injuries and need help, please don’t hesitate to email me privately. Until next time, I hope everyone has a really great day!!
Jamie De Abreu
Senior Personal Trainer/Qmax Instructor – Fit n Fast Southland