The Advanced Lower Body Workout
"Bodyweight training is great because it makes the fibers of the muscles work harder, which causes you to become stronger at a faster rate, as well as burn fat more quickly."
In this final segment in her signature Dr. Nancy’s exercise series, Dr. Nancy takes it to another level with her Top 12 Advanced Lower Body Strength Movements, most of which use only bodyweight. The exercises are intended for those who exercise somewhat regularly or who have been doing the exercises in Dr. Nancy’s Beginner Lower Body Strength program and are ready to be more challenged. Get ready to sweat as Nancy breaks down each exercise.
In case you missed them, the other shows were on:
- Cardio exercises
- Core exercises
- Upper body strength moves for beginners
- Lower body strength moves for beginners
- Advanced upper body strength moves
Today, we’re going to show you Dr. Nancy’s Top 12 Advanced Lower Body Strength Moves to round it all out. If you’re still in that beginner phase, feel free to keep watching too. There’s plenty of tips and tricks you can integrate into those beginner moves, as well. Plus, it gives you something to aspire to.
As we’ve discussed in the past, strength training benefits your overall health and well-being in multiple ways, including:
- Improved posture
- Improved joint flexibility and mobility
- Muscle strength
- Maintain a health weight by increasing muscle mass
- Reducing the risk of heart disease
- Reducing anxiety and depression
- Improved endurance and power
To see these benefits, you should be doing some sort of strength training two times a week minimum — three is better and four is optimal! With that being said, you want to make sure that you’re not working the same muscle groups two days in a row. It’s a great idea to work your upper body one day and then the lower body the next day. This gives the muscles an opportunity to recover and not become overworked, which can lead to injury and inflammation.
Like a lot of the exercises in our Advanced Upper Body show, today’s exercises rely on your own bodyweight — you don’t necessarily need to use any extra weights.
Bodyweight training is great because it makes the fibers of the muscles work harder, which causes you to become stronger at a faster rate, as well as burn fat more quickly. Bodyweight training also gets you up and moving around more than if you were at the gym sitting at a weight machine, pushing or pulling weights around. This is especially important if you’re someone who sits a lot.
In addition to using your own body weight for a lot of these exercises, you’re also going to challenge your proprioception. Proprioception is your body’s ability to move and orient itself in space.
For example, when you were a kid, did you ever walk across a fallen tree or a giant log that was stretched across a creek? You would have to walk across by putting one foot in front of the other, and as you did, you probably pitched a little side to side. Your ability to adapt to that shift in balance and right yourself so you didn’t fall off is called proprioception.
Proprioception also involves your body’s ability to adapt to walking on different surfaces like, say, going from walking across your front lawn and then walking along your driveway. The body needs to move differently on the uneven surface of the grass than it does on the sturdy, smooth surface of the asphalt.
You can improve proprioception by challenging your balance, which we’re going to do in a number of the exercises.
Lower Body Muscle Groups
First, a quick recap of the four muscle groups that make up the lower body:
We’re going to be working all of them today with more advanced movements I think!
Top 12 Advanced lower Body Moves
Bulgarian Split Squats
These really challenge that proprioception we talked about as well as build strength in the legs. This move is incredibly effective without using weights but adding a dumbbell to each hand will not only take this move up a notch, but it will also encourage muscular balance. Muscular balance is when muscles surrounding a joint work to keep that joint centered through normal opposing forces.
- You will need a chair, step, bench, or stool for this move.
- Stand about two feet in front of your chair, step, or whatever you’re using, with the dumbbells held down at your sides (if you’re using them).
- Place the top of your right foot on top of the support you’re using.
- You’re going to bend both knees, lowering down as far as you can. Make sure you keep the chest lifted and the shoulders back. Core is engaged.
- Press through the heel of your left foot to come back up.
- Do 12-15 reps before switching sides and repeating.
Alternating Jumping Lunges
This move is also known as a Split Squat and they’re a nice progression once you’ve mastered the lunges we showed you in my beginner lower body workout episode. They work the legs and they especially work the glutes, forcing the muscle fibers there to work harder since you’re adding a jump, which will give you more power.
- Start in a lunge position with your left foot in front, right foot back. Try and get a 90 degree bend in both legs.
- I want you to jump up, and, as you do, scissor the legs so you land with your right foot in front and the left foot in back.
- Lower down into a lunge as soon as your feet touch down. That’s 1 rep.
- Do 15 to 20 reps.
- If scissoring the legs and switching mid-air proves too difficult, you can add a little hop in the middle before jumping into a lunge on the opposite side. Watch me. You’ll start in that lunge position with the left foot in front, right foot back. Jump the feet together before you jump into the lunge on the other side with the right foot in front and the left foot back.
These are another move that will help you build power in the glutes as well as help you build strength:
- Start in a squat with your knees bent, feet hip-width apart, and weight in your heels.
- You’re going to jump up off of both feet, landing back down as softly as you can in that squat position.
- What you do with your hands is up to you. Some people like to hold them straight off the shoulders, parallel to the ground. Then, when you jump, take the arms down past your sides, almost as if you’re pushing the ground away from you. Another option is to start with the arms down at your sides and shoot them overhead as you jump.
- When you land, make sure you’re rolling down from the balls of the feet first and the heels last.
- Do 15 reps.
This one gets its name from ice skaters, and you’ll see why!
- Start out in a squat position, just as you did in the previous exercise.
- Jump laterally from side to side. As you land on your left foot, swing your right leg behind your left, and touch your right hand to the ground in front of you.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Do at least 15.
Front Lunge Side Lunge Reverse Lunge
This one is concentrated on one leg at a time, and it’s intense.
- You can hold dumbbells in your hand, but you don’t have to for this exercise
- Pick a leg that you are going to lunge, and keep the other one stationary, as you execute a front lunge.
- Step back, then immediately move into a side lunge
- Return to center and then move into a reverse lunge.
- Repeat at least 8 times (and work yourself up to 15!)
- Start over on the other side.
Ever take ballet as a kid? If so, this next exercise is going to look very familiar. It works your inner thighs and your glutes, especially the glute medius — a smaller muscle of the seat region that has big benefits. It can improve posture and stabilize the hips. Here’s how you do it:
- Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart.
- If you want to use weights for this one, you have two options: either hold one weight in both hands, chest-height or hold a weight in each hand down by your sides.
- To perform the move, take a step back with your right foot, crossing it behind the left foot. Bend both knees, lowering into as deep a lunge as is possible while still keeping the chest nice and lifted. Hips should be facing forward the entire time and the shoulders should be drawing back slightly.
- Return to start. That’s 1 rep.
- Do 12 to 15 reps before switching sides and stepping back with the left foot.
Did you know that you burn approximately 10 calories for every minute of burpees you can do? If you’re not already familiar with this move — buckle up. It’s intense and challenging, but it’s an essential component of any workout routine. Burpees are great because they increase your heart rate while working the core, back, shoulders, legs, arms — really, the whole body.
- A burpee is a combination of a Plank Pose and Squat Jump. So, to do the move, start by standing up nice and tall. I feel like you know the cues already — feet hip-width apart, shoulder blades drawing together, tailbone tucked, core engaged.
- Lower down into a squat, lowering the arms all the way to the ground and jumping back into plank position. Your feet should still be hip-distance apart and your hands should be directly under the shoulders. Keep your gaze 3 to 5 inches out in front of you.
- Jump your feet back up to your hands, and, as you come up, jump up into the air, taking the arms overhead. That’s 1 burpee.
- Aim to do 10 to 15.
- A few things I want to say about these:
- Your landings after jumping should always be soft.
- If jumping at the top proves to be too much, skip it. You can always pop up into a squat before jumping back into plank pose.
- If jumping throughout the exercise proves to be too much, step back into plank and step back up to your hands before coming up to stand. Try and do these with a bit more speed – without losing proper form – so you keep the heart rate up. Also try and alternate which leg you’re stepping back with to maintain balance.
This is a great move for toning your thighs and your butt. Plus, it works the core and gives your heart rate a little boost. If you have any sort of knee sensitivity, you may want to do this on a mat.
- Start in a standing position — feet hip-width apart.
- Bring your left knee to the ground so you’re kneeling, followed by the right knee.
- To come up, place your right foot on the ground first, and then your left. That’s 1 rep.
- Repeat, this time, bringing your right knee to the ground first. Do 15 reps.
- Remember to keep your core engaged the entire time, and your chest lifted. When you come up to standing, try to press up through your heels.
Single Leg Squats
This is another great exercise that works your balance and improves stability because, as the name implies, you’re standing on one leg, which challenges your muscles a bit more.
- Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointed straight ahead. You can use a chair behind you for this, if you want.
- Feel free to do this one without weights or add a little resistance by holding a weight in each hand, down at your sides.
- Keep the chest lifted, core engaged, shoulders back, and the chin parallel to the floor as you lift your right foot off the floor.
- Keeping the foot lifted, you’re going to squat, lowering the seat back behind you — you don’t want to hinge at the hips, that’s not a squat — and lower the weights, if you’re using them, toward the floor.
- Pause at the bottom before you press up to stand, driving up through your left heel.
- Do 15 reps before repeating with the left foot lifted up off the ground.
This next move is a progression of the Single Leg Squat, and we’re warning you now: it’s a killer — no pun intended.
- Start by standing, feet hip distance apart.
- Lift your right leg and extend it straight out in front of you. As you do this move, if you find straightening the leg too difficult, just bend the knee, but keep the foot lifted off the floor.
- You’re going to drive through your left hell and come up to standing. Pause and sit back down – keeping that right foot lifted the entire time.
- Do 12 to 15 reps before repeating with the left leg extended.
- That’s an intense one, right? But it’s great for toning so many muscles – the calves, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and hips.
- If you can’t do it right away, practice with a chair!
Single-Leg Glute Bridge
This is a challenging way to work your glutes, as well as challenge your stability and balance. As a bonus, you’re getting deeper into working the muscles of the back and hamstrings with this move over a Glute Bridge where both feet are planted firmly on the floor.
- Begin on your back with your feet flat on the floor, hip distance apart.
- Straighten your right leg toward the sky, toe pointed slightly.
- Curl the tailbone off the floor as you lift the hips toward the sky. Really try to keep the hips level as you lift up.
- Lower down one vertebra at a time, still keeping the leg lifted.
- Do 15 reps before repeating with the left leg extended toward the sky.
- Alternatively hold the position, pulsing a little, for 30 seconds.
Sumo Squat Shuffles
This is a plyo version of the standard Sumo Squat. You don’t need to use a weight for this one, but if you want an extra challenge, grab one weight and hold it in both hands.
- Begin in a sumo squat position — the legs out wide, knees bent, toes pointing out to the sides. Keep the core engaged, chest lifted and tailbone tucked. You want to maintain this stance and this alignment the entire time you do this exercise.
- If you’re using a weight, hold it in both hands down in front of you, making sure to keep the shoulder blades moving toward each other on the back, arms plugged into the sockets.
- You’re going to shuffle one time to the right and lower back down into that sumo squat.
- Shuffle one time to the left and lower into a sumo squat. That’s 1 rep.
- Do 15 reps, and I want you to really try and leave the ground when you shuffle. You also want to really lower down into that sumo squat position every time you land so you’re really working the inner thighs, quads, and glutes.
- If shuffling is too much or you feel like you’re not maintaining proper form, you can always do this move as a standard Sumo Squat Jump – start in that sumo squat position and jump up, straightening the legs, before landing in a sumo squat again.
Don’t Forget to Stretch
Take your right foot in your right hand, bending at the knee to stretch out the quads. Take hold of a chair or extend your left arm straight off the shoulder. Switch sides.
Step forward with your right foot so there’s about two feet in between your feet. Bend your right knee and lean forward, pressing your left heel toward the ground, feeling a great stretch in the left calf and left hip flexor, which is right here on the front side of your hip. Switch sides, bringing the left foot forward and stepping the right foot back.
From a standing position, bend forward, place both palms on the floor and step your feet back into a downward dog.
Make sure you hydrate with plenty of water as you move through your day and fuel up with a post workout snack that’s a healthy mix of protein and carbs. You can also help your recovery by taking Smarter Nutrition’s Curcumin supplement. It will help reduce post-workout inflammation and help improve joint mobility even more.
If you don’t know about Curcumin, it’s the active ingredient within the turmeric root, but the curcumin itself is 250 times more potent than turmeric alone. Smarter Nutrition’s Curcumin supplement is great because it contains the ingredient in its most active form, which, as a result, is more bioavailable once it enters your system. Take it every day for the best results!
Today marked the final episode in Dr. Nancy’s workout series, and we finished strong. You learned 12 advanced moves to strengthen your lower body today.
A lot of today’s moves relied on your own bodyweight, which causes the muscle fibers to burn fat at a quicker rate, as well as making you stronger faster.
We also talked about proprioception, which is your body’s ability to orient itself in space and adapt so you don’t fall or become injured. You can improve your proprioception by challenging your balance, which is something else we did a lot of today!