5 Exercises for Athletic Legs

July 5, 2017 by VAHVA Fitness

5 excellent exercises to develop leg strength and athletic performance. Only a bench required - great workout to do at home or outside!

Your legs contain some of the biggest muscles in the human body and as a result strong legs are fundamental for most sports and overall athleticism.

In the regular gym culture leg exercises don't get the respect they deserve (mainly because squats are hard!) but for sports performance and health they are probably the most important.

Before trying out the harder exercises, you should already have a nice foundation of strength and mobility in your legs (Movement 20XX is excellent for this!). Harder exercises will only be effective if you are ready to do them.

Once the legs are relatively strong, different speed drills and explosive exercises can be utilized to improve your athletic performance.

One big factor of properly training speed and the functionality of the legs is actually core stability - without it you won't be able to fully activate the legs and move fast with your full potential.

Keep the core stable and stiff at all times to maximally target the legs. Although many of the exercises can be done fast your form should never be sacrificed.

3 sets per exercise and 5-10 repetitions per set will work well with 2 minutes of rest between the sets.

1. Bulgarian Split Squat 

bulgarian split squat for athletic legs and athleticism

Bulgarian split squat will mainly hit the glutes (gluteus maximus), hamstrings and quads.

Bottoms up (bottom of your feet facing upwards) bulgarian split squat will place more weight on the front leg. Lack of support from the rear leg also works the knee stability of the front leg.

Similar to other squats, it's important to keep the core tight and stable - this way you will eliminate any lower back activity and increase the engagement of your legs (which is the target here).

2. Bulgarian Split Jump 

Bulgarian split jump is an advanced variation of the bulgarian split squat where you are doing explosive jumps with every repetition.

This explosive push will work more the quads and calves. When you are lifting the knee up, you are also targeting the hip flexors.

In the beginning it's not necessary to lift the knee up - just focus on the explosive push with your front leg.

3. Lateral Lunge

lateral lunge for lateral glutes

Lateral lunge will emphasize the lateral glutes, inner thighs and quads (outer head).

Lateral lunge is an exercise many are lacking in their leg workouts. To fully develop the lower body, you should also do leg movements where you push to the side. 

Lateral lunge will enhance your lateral movement (ability to move sideways) and ability to throw kicks (especially the side-kick).

Keep your upper body tense and upright. It's easy to cheat by generating too much force with the lower back - focus more on the legs instead.

4. Step Over

step over for lateral glutes and core stability

Step over is another lateral movement drill that will develop the quads, hip flexors and glutes. 

Core stability is also emphasized since you need to keep the core stable to move fast from side to side.

Step over is great for developing speed in lateral movement while also developing core stability.

5. Step Up Knee Raise

step up for hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors

Step up knee raise will target the glutes and hamstrings (step up) and hip flexors (knee raise).

When you do the step up, you should move up and forward (not just vertically up) and pull the leg "backwards" - this will target the hamstrings and glutes.

With the knee raise it's important to keep the core tense and stable, because otherwise your abs will generate force and the hip flexors aren't fully activated.


samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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