The Basics of Legs

We’ve already gone over the foundations of fitness in two posts, now were going to go in a bit deeper and go over the basic movement patterns. There are six movements that everyone should be able to do, in order to be able to move effectively and efficiently. Today, we’re going over the main leg movements (luckily there’s only two of them), so here we go.

The first movement is a “knee dominant” movement.

These are movements that utilize knee flexion and extension more than any other joint, and include exercises such as squats, lunges, and step ups. For this example, we’re going to focus on the squat. Over my years of training, the squat is the movement we have to work on the most, as it is the foundation of your movement patterns and, with increased sitting in daily life, the motion that shows the most imbalances. A good squat varies from person to person, as each individual has different bone lengths, joint angles, etc, but all have a few characteristics in common. The first being that, though this is a knee dominant exercise, we are going to break from the hips first. This ensures your weight is going backwards, as it should. The next characteristic is keeping a tight core. This ensures that our lower back is protected and we stay nice and upright in our squat. As well, since it is a knee movement, we need to keep an eye on the knees. They should stay in line with your toes during the whole movement. This means no knee caving in, no bowing out, and, that if your toes turn out a bit, your knees should also track out. Keeping the knees in line with the toes makes sure that the knee doesn’t get put in a vulnerable position and reduces the risk of injury (always a good thing). Don’t worry if you can’t get the weight distribution right or the depth of the squat down right away, keep practicing good form and the necessary strength will come!

The next lower body fundamental movement is a “hip dominant” movement.

These are movements that use hip flexion and extension, and include exercises such as a hip hinge, deadlifts, and all of the deadlift variations. Today, we’re just going to focus on the basic hip hinge, as this is the basis for all other hip dominant movements. Strengthening the hip hinge will help with core stability, hip strength and stability, and correcting the imbalances that come from sitting all day. Increased sitting translates to quad (front of leg) and hip flexor (front of hip) tightness, while the hamstrings (back of leg) and glutes (back of hip/booty) are underactive. The hip hinge teaches how to activate glutes and hamstrings and re balance the body. The main misunderstanding of the hip hinge is that it is a movement that just involves bending forward and standing up. That is not correct, and can lead to lower back pain. The hinge really involves pushing hips back, while keeping a neutral (flat) back, until you reach your maximum range of motion. Once your range of motion is reached, squeeze your glutes and push your hips forward until you are back to standing. Many clients have very tight hamstrings, which limit their range of motion. Ensure you are doing the movement properly, no matter the range, and we can work on the mobility part separately. So remember:

The more efficiently and effectively that your legs move, the better your entire body will move. Practicing proper form of the fundamental movements will translate into all aspects of your life, not just fitness!

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