Athletics – 3 Exercises for Unstoppable Legs

Athletes are built from the ground up

This is a statement that many of the athletes that have come through Penance Athletics have undoubtedly heard from me numerous times.

I am a firm believer that without strong legs (and hips) to carry them, no athlete is going to go very far.

So today, let’s look at my 3 top picks for building strength (of all types) in the lower body.

Goblet Squat

I can tell you from experience, the heavy goblet squat seriously challenges and strengthens the back musculature.

Most strength coaches would agree that this is a great starting point for young athletes. Fairly simple to teach, builds strong mechanics and awareness, and very safe to fail. I would argue that there is no reason that this should not continue to be implemented heavily (pun intended) for stronger and more advanced athletes. 

We have worked as heavy as 220lbs (100lb DB + 120lbs of chain). Not only do you challenge the legs, you also strengthen and build the lower and middle back like you would not believe. 2 areas that are often overlooked and later injured.

Strong legs are worthless if you’ve got a marshmallow for a midsection.

Gut Squat

Like the goblet squat, the gut squat is incredible for teaching safe and efficient squatting mechanics. Also similar to the goblet squat, the gut squat does a good job of challenging the low back. What begins to separate the gut squat is its effectiveness in strengthening the glutes and hamstrings. These are 2 more areas that are often underdeveloped, leading to pulled hamstrings and lower back injuries. (I’ll gladly discuss this in greater detail to anyone interested.)

Our sandbags go as heavy as 280lbs, and I’ve only had 2 people in our Athletics program to lift and squat them. 1 of which came home after his freshman year as a D1 Defensive Back to inform me that he Back Squatted 500lbs in his school’s weight room. In his words, “Coach, those Gut Squats work!”

Heavy Ass Sled Push

Coaches have a tendency to think of sleds as only conditioning tools, designed to leave athletes writhing on the floor gasping for air. But if you choose to stack on the weight and give more time for rest, the heavy sled push can be an almost unparalleled strength exercise.

I would say that this is a favorite, but honestly all 3 of these are favorites.

Although it requires a great deal of grit, the heavy sled push obviously translates to the field or court. This makes it easier to convince an athlete to step out of the comfort zone, and dig deep to get the work done.

From the forward lean that teaches acceleration mechanics to the time under tension without any eccentric loading (layman’s terms, greater strength development with minimal soreness!).

Now you probably have noticed a few things missing from this list: lunges, back squats, front squats, etc.

We definitely utilize our fair share of unilateral work (lunges, split squats, etc) but I do not use Back Squats or Barbell Front Squats, with 1 exception. If I know that 1 of my athletes will be expected or required to perform those lifts at their school. I will teach them before their time with me is up, as I want to be sure that they learn the movement properly. Better safe than sorry.

To see how your developing athlete could benefit from Penance Athletics email us.

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