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Lower Body Progression

February 04, 2014

Ever wondered how to progress your lower body exercises, from easy to hard, to make steady and consistent progress? Here, we'll start with a 12 week progression. You'll start with the easiest versions of each exercise and end at some of the hardest. Weeks 1-3 A) Squat 3x8, 3x8, 4x8: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nFAscG0XUNY I'm sure most of you have squatted at some point. This is no different. Settle into a comfortable stance with toes pointed slightly out. Puff your chest out and keep your eyes forward. Start the movement with your hips, not your knees, by giving your butt a little push backwards. As you hit parallel, explode upwards. B1) Barbell RDL 3x6, 3x6, 4x6 http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wtki_xXFFhw This slight variation of the Deadlift puts major emphasis on the hip hinge. Unlike the Deadlift, your knees will stay only slightly bent throughout the movement. Focus on keeping your back straight and hinging your hips by pushing your butt out and back. B2) Step Up 3x10, 3x10, 3x10: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SPFxUsCy7So This lunge progression works many of the same muscles, but moves you vertically rather than horizontally. For box height, start in the 8-12" range. If you focus on nothing else, make sure you avoid hopping off your rear leg. Drive your elevated foot into the box and try to "step", not jump. C1) Cable Pull Through 2x10, 3x10, 4x10: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4oZ_0_bQcOg It looks like a squat, but squats don't work your lower back like pull throughs do. Be prepared for some pretty intense lumbar soreness the next day. It's a tricky movement to pick up, but just remember to hinge backwards with your hips, pushing your butt back and bringing your back nearly parallel to the floor. C2) Kneeling Cable Twist 3x8/side: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ew8vKHH8Ok The standing cable twist is a rotational staple in any program, but the kneeling version takes it one step further. You lose the double leg support of the standing position, and have to work extra hard to resist movement at the hips. Finisher: Mountain Climber Circuit: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nmwgirgXLYM Nothing novel here, but it will wear you out. Start with regular mountain climbers, move to the same side version, and then finish with the alternating version. Keep your butt low and move your legs as fast as possible. Weeks 5-7 A) Box Squat 3x5, 3x3, 5x3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k50n2xO8liM The box squat not only provides good depth training, but also helps build power out of the hole. Choose a box that's just slightly below parellel. You'll squat just like normal until you hit the box. Try to sit back onto it, but stay nice and tight - tap it and blow it up. B1) Dumbbell RDL 3x6, 3x6, 4x6: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=c_-PcLcuS-8 For some, this might introduce just the slightest extra bit of instability. For the rest, consider it extra practice that you're going to need for the single leg version in the next cycle. B2) Dumbbell Reverse Lunge 3x8, 3x8, 4x8: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NfMIqYNNLl8 This lunge variation, similar to the step up, is much easier on the knees. Those with coordination and balance issues may find themselves feeling out of whack with these, but that's why you're doing them. To stay upright, pretend there's a string extending from you sternum to your belly button. During any position of the lunge, that string should stay completely straight - if it shortens, you're leaning forward. C1) Hip Thrust 3x10, 3x10, 3x10: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SEdqd1n0cvg Similar to the bridge, this movement hammers the glutes. There are a few major cues to remember - squeeze your glutes throughout the entire movement, drive your heels into the ground, and finish parallel with the floor. C2) Bar Rollout 3x12, 3x12, 3x12: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yHOwumNdWRk First, don't forget a pad for your knees - just trust me. This exercise can be hard to pick up, so actively think about squeezing your glutes to push you body forward. And don't forget the pause at the end. Finisher: Sled Pull: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6Xbv6zPxcpg We're starting to ramp up the conditioning here. Load a sled, or whatever sliding object you have available, with a moderate weight. These pulls are short, but should be difficult enough to get your heart beating. Weeks 9-11 A) Squat 5x3, 3x1, 5x1: The same old squat we started with on week one. After a month of box squatting, you should be comfortable with dropping to parallel and more explosive than ever. This time, you'll drop the reps and up the weight. B1) Single Leg Dumbbell RDL 3x6, 3x6, 4x6: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyV3rwv62AE If you've never seen this exercise before, it's best learned via visual representation - pay attention to the video. If you know how to hip hinge, you'll pick it up quickly. If not, just remember to keep just a slight bend in your knees, a straight and flat back, squeeze your glutes, and hinge at the hips. B2) Reverse Lunge w/ Front Squat Grip 3x8, 3x8, 4x8: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UiBfSWUPLBQ   By now, you should be used to lunging. This variation follows the same rules, but ups the difficulty a notch. You can use whichever front squat grip is comfortable. Any time you lunge with this grip, you're going to want to fall forward - pay extra attention to that. C1) Single Leg Hip Thrust 3x8, 3x8, 3x8: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TPRDpxgNgHU You should have noticed a trend - this last cycle features the harder single leg variations of a few exercises you should already be familiar with. This is no different. As with the double leg version, squeeze your glutes and drive you heels into the ground. C2) Turkish Get Up 3x3/side: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RNVi6H3OUVs Watch and learn. The Get Up is a mult-step movement that places a huge emphasis on technique. Major sticking point: sweeping the leg. If you have a trouble at this point, focus on your hips - they need to be high and open. Finisher: Prowler Push: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tQ7VhuwVOus Consider the prowler push a step up from the sled. Most of you probably don't have access to one of these, but you can rig together something similar with a little creativity. Stay low and drive, drive, drive. What You Need To Know: Every fourth week is blank - what's the deal? It's called a deload. It gives your body a mini active rest between workout cycles. Take 3 exercises from each workout, drop down to 2 sets and 8-12 reps, and go easy. As for the finishers, shoot for 1-3 sets - you want low volume and short duration, but a very intense effort. As for the reps listed (3x8, 3x8, 3x8), each set X rep represents one week. Week 4, 8, and 12 are left out, as explained above.

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