Building a Balanced Physique (Lower Body Edition)

Last blog we discussed the upper body movements to do to build a balanced physique.

In this blog, we will dive into rounding everything out and giving you that full balanced physique.

Not only will this help with your appearance, but it will also make you stronger and decrease common aches and pain, and even potentially lower your injury risk.

It’s far too common for people to skip over legs, men in particular.

If you dont care about growing your legs, that is one thing, and you can focus on mostly just upper body, or vice versa.

However, its important to hit the basics for your legs. Again, not only for appearance but this will help with lowering your injury risk and can help with common aches and pains.

For example, people who sit all day usually have some type of low back pain.

These people then either:

a.) only train upper body
b.) only train their quads and neglect things like their hamstrings and glutes.

This will only further exacerbate these issues potentially.

You want to make sure at the very least you are hitting your basics when it comes to lower body training.

Dont be that guy or gal (albeit less common with females) walking around with massive arms and a massive chest and then you have bird legs. It is NOT a good look.

With the lower body there are 3 basic movement patterns, and then an accessory pattern we can throw in there.

The 3 main movements patterns are:

  • Squat
  • Hip Hinge
  • Single Leg//Lunge

The goal is to pick at least 1-2 exercises from these 3 movement patterns and program them into your routine based on your goals and time.

Squat

The squat pattern is a knee dominant movement pattern that you have been doing for your entire life and will continue to do.

You do this every time you have to stand up.

Yet, it is commonly neglected when it comes to weight training. This is a big mistake.

Common exercises programmed for online clients:

Back squat


Goblet Squat

Leg Press
Hack squat

There are many other variations of squats you can do, however, I find these to be the best for strength, muscle development, practicality, and translation to everyday activity.

Hip Hinge:

This is the MOST neglected movement pattern in the gym and everywhere. Its probably the most unnatural one, therefore most people get it wrong so they end up not doing it.

The hip hinge is a hip-dominant movement pattern, not knee dominant.

This movement is super important because it loads the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae, etc.).

If people spent time learning the hip hinge movement and progressively loading it, a LOT of low back pain would go away. Im not a physical therapist, chiropractor, or doctor, so that is just my opinion and I don’t have the education on pain like they do, but im sure a lot would agree with me.

For an optimal hinge:

-Feet straight forward, hip to shoulder width apart
-Knees slightly bent, never locked out
-Push hips back, lean forward, shift weight slightly to heels
-Shins should be relatively vertical (knees don’t move forward)
-Flat back from start to finish
-Will feel stretch in hamstrings if pelvis is in proper position
-Felt in lower back if in a bad position

A great coaching cue is thinking about shutting a door behind you with your glutes if you cant use your hands.

Common exercises programmed for online clients:

Dumbbell Romanian deadlift
Barbell Romanian deadlift
Stiff leg deadlift


Conventional deadlift
Single leg assisted DB RDL.
Barbell good morning
Dumbbell good morning.

The hamstrings (which get hit during a proper hip hinge) dont need much work. So focusing on 2-3 sets per week for your hip hinges is a great foundation.

Another reason the hip hinge is important is that it will hit your glutes as well. Let’s be honest, a nice set of glutes are very aestically pleasing. Saggy/weak glutes can be a sign of a ton of imbalances and probably low back pain.

Why do you think most athletes have some nice glutes?

Lunge/Single Leg

Single leg strength is important since there will be many times you are in some sort of position that requires single-leg strength. Not to mention this will make your legs stronger overall.

Every time we walk, run, change direction, jump off 1 leg, or walk upstairs we perform variations of this movement.

Common exercises programmed for online clients:

Walking lunges
Weighted Walking lunges
Split squat
Weighted split squats

Just like with the hip hinge, doing single leg work can get you pretty sore with small amounts. So caution on the lower side of sets and weight when starting out.

PROGRAMMING

These are the basic exercises of your leg training routine. If you are short on time, doing these 3 movement patterns will be a GREAT foundation and will get you fantastic results.

Just to go over, there are 4 movement patterns for the upper body and then 3 for the lower body that should form the basis of your weight training routine.

Upper:

Horizontal pushing and pulling
Vertical pushing and pulling

Lower:

Squat
Hip Hinge
Single leg/lunge

6-12 sets per week on each upper body movement pattern is a great starting point and then 2-10 sets on each lower body movement pattern is a great starting point.

For most online clients, I like to use either a 3 day full body routine, or a 4 day upper/lower split.

If you have more time to dedicate to the gym, then doing a 5 day or 6 day split is also great. The only potential issue with a 5 or 6 day split is some people have trouble consistently getting to the gym that many times week after week. They do something like 5 one week, then 4, then 3, then 5 etc.

The reason being is that if you program for 5 days, but make 4, there is a chance that you will be missing out on baseline volume for certain muscle groups.

It would be better to stick to a 4 day split if you know thats how many days you can for sure make it to the gym each week. This ensures each muscle group gets a sufficient amount of work and then if you can make an extra day on certain weeks, you would then throw in a workout that hits a body part you want to build.

Accessories

Just like with the upper body, there are some extras you can throw in for your lower body if you have the time and once your basics are covered.

Hip extension:

Think of this as any glute dominant exercise. Working on building strength in your glutes can help with low back pain AND a nice pair of glutes are aesthetically pleasing.

Common hip extension exercises programmed for online clients:

Glute bridge
Single leg glute bridge
DB hip thrust
Barbell hip thrust
Cable kickbacks

Knee extension and knee flexion:

Knee extension think of things like the leg extension. This can be a great way to further develop your quads.

Knee flexion would be soething like a lying or seated leg curl. Again this can be a great way to further develop your hamstrings.

I hope this helps you program for your upper body and lower body to give you a more balanced physique.

If you have any more questions on this topic send me a message on Instagram @Jeffh91_ .

If you are looking to change your physique or improve your gym performance download my free Ebook “Nutrition for Performance and Aesthetics” here.

You can also apply for online coaching here.

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