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Ask The Trainer: Lower Body Workouts

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Exercises that turn your buns into steel, often pull double duty and work your legs too. We’ve already tackled some great lower body workouts with squats, lunges and step-ups.  Now it’s time to focus on just your legs.

Trainer Doug Quinlivan at Ascent Fitness suggests starting your workout with a compound exercise to hit all the muscles and warm everything up. The leg press can do that. Start with your knees about 90 degrees and feet hip-width apart. Extend, but don’t lock out your knees.  “You don’t ever want to hyperextend your knees on this exercise,” Doug said. You can also target more glutes if you go deeper into the press.

Now, you can move onto isolation exercises. Try a leg extension. “A lot of doctors, physical therapists will tell you that this exercise is bad for you. I may not be a doctor, but I disagree with that because I’ve seen a lot of benefit from it, if you do it properly,” Doug said. Here’s how: Put the pivot point in line with your knee and begin with your legs bent at 90 degrees or less. That will alleviate extra pressure on the knee joint. Press up and hold for a second at the top. For variation, turn out your toes to hit a slightly different muscle.

Now for a hamstring curl. Again, line the pivot point with your knee and go slow and steady.  “A lot of times with this exercise you’ll see people that pull it down nice and controlled, but let it snap up.”

Now for one that’ll take you back to the 80’s, but really works. It’s the Donkey Kick. Keep your back flat and don’t rotate your hips. You can prop yourself up by your forearms or hands. Doug said, “The higher you get it here, the more you’re going to contract your glute.” Hold that contraction at the top, then try lifting your leg to the side for a slightly different workout.

For all these exercises, start with 15-20 reps, three times.

If you have diagnosed knee problems, you may want to skip some of these, but Doug says pops and cracks are normal, especially as we age.

If you have a question for the trainer, email