Lesson 11: Exercise Technique – Glutes and Thighs

Table of Contents


Introduction

In the last lesson we discussed the relevant structure-function relationships and exercises pertaining to the back and biceps. We will do the same here for the glutes and thighs. The basic movement patterns that these exercise address include:

  • hip extension (picture standing up from sitting in a chair where the thigh extends at the hip joint)
  • hip flexion (the opposite of hip extension)
  • knee extension (straightening the leg from a bent position)
  • knee flexion (the opposite of knee extension)
  • hip abduction (picture standing and moving your leg out to the side directly next to your body)
  • hip adduction (the opposite of hip abduction)
  • hip external rotation (picture rotating your leg so your knee & foot point to the side away from you)
  • hip internal rotation (the opposite of hip external rotation)

As discussed below the glutes and hamstrings both work towards hip extension. They are thus used with some of the back extension exercises discussed in the last lesson. I will not discuss them again here but those exercises can be used effectively to target the glutes and hamstrings.

I will discuss hip and trunk flexion exercises in the next lesson when I discuss the core; for completeness I have included some of the relevant muscles in the anatomy section below as they cross into the thigh. Some of these muscles attach between the thigh and the pelvis and thus will aid in drawing the thigh upward without impacting the trunk. Some attach between the thigh and the spine so they can bring the thigh upward and additionally bring the trunk downward.


Basic structure-function relationships of the key muscles

There are a lot of muscles in the glutes/hip region as well as the thighs. These can be divided into the gluteal region as well as the anterior, medial, and posterior compartments of the thigh. If you want a brief overview of all of the relevant bones and muscles then click here. The articles and videos below discuss all of them but I will only elaborate on the most relevant aspects in the key points.


Thigh (anterior compartment) – iliopsoas, quadriceps, and sartorius

Key points:

  •  The iliopsoas is comprised of the psoas major that originates on the lower spinal vertebrae and the iliacus that originates on the iliac fossa of the pelvis. These two muscles merge together and insert into the femur. These muscles aid in flexion & external rotation of the hip as well as flexion of the trunk towards the hip. The psoas major additionally aids in lateral flexion of the trunk.
  • The quadriceps is composed of 4 separate muscles. Three of them, the vastus lateralis, the vastus medialis, and the vastus intermedius start within the thigh and merge into the knee. The fourth, the rectus femoris, starts in the hip and merges into the knee. The rectus femoris thus aids in both hip flexion and knee extension while the other three only contribute to knee extension.
  •  The sartorius begins in the outer portion of the hip, moves down and crosses over to the middle of the thigh, and then attaches to the inner portion of the leg just under the knee. It can thus contribute to hip flexion, hip abduction, hip external rotation, knee flexion, and lower leg internal rotation. Picture sitting in a crossed-leg position; in this position the knee is flexed, the hip is flexed, the thigh is pointed outwards (hip abduction), and the thigh is rotated externally (bringing the knee close to being level with the foot). It’s harder to visualize the lower leg internal rotation aspect.

More in depth articles if curious:

YouTube video if curious:


Thigh (medial compartment) – hip adductors and obturator externus

Key points:

  • Five muscles comprise the main hip adductors. These include the adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, gracilis, and pectineus. These mostly attach at different portions of the lower pelvis and in the middle of the thigh; they thus all aid in hip adduction as well as hip flexion.
    • The gracilis though actually travels downward and attaches to the proximal tibia; it thus also aids in knee flexion & internal rotation.
    • The other muscles to variable degrees may contribute to hip internal and external rotation as well as hip extension.
      • In particular, the adductor magnus is comprised of two parts. One of these is actually in the posterior compartment of the thigh and functions similar to the hamstrings to aid hip extension.
  •  The obturator externus lays within the pelvis and attaches to the top of the femur. It aids in hip external rotation and when the hip is flexed it assists hip adduction.

More in depth articles if curious:

YouTube video if curious:


Thigh (posterior compartment) – hamstrings

Key points:

  • There are three hamstring muscles:
    • The biceps femoris has two heads. The long head attaches in the pelvis while the short head attaches near the top of the femur. Both attach near the top of the fibula. Thus, both aid in knee flexion and may assist in external rotation of the lower leg, but only the long head contributes to hip extension. The long head may also assist hip external rotation.
    • The semimembranosus attaches in the pelvis and at the top of the tibia. It aids in hip extension and hip internal rotation as well as knee flexion and lower leg internal rotation.
    • The semitendinosus attaches in the pelvis and near the top of the tibia. It aids in hip extension, hip internal rotation, knee flexion, and lower leg internal rotation.
  • Additionally, as discussed above, a portion of the adductor magnus lays within the posterior compartment and aids hip extension and internal rotation.

More in depth article if curious:

YouTube video if curious:


Gluteal region – gluteus maximus/medius/minimus, tensor fasciae latae, deeper hip muscles

Key points:

  • There are three primary gluteal muscles:
    • The gluteus maximus is the most superficial and covers most of the gluteal region while attaching to the major bones in the area (the sacrum, coccyx, ilium, and femur). It assists in hip extension, external rotation, and both hip abduction & adduction.
    • The gluteus medius attaches between the top portion of the pelvis and the outer portion of the femur. It assists in hip abduction and internal rotation.
    • The gluteus minimus attaches below the gluteus medius in the ilium and also attaches to the outer front part of the femur. It assists in hip abduction and internal rotation.
  • The tensor fascia latae runs from the outer portion of the hip to the outer portion of the knee; this is the “iliotibial tract” or the “IT band”. It assists in hip internal rotation, abduction, and flexion as well as lower leg external rotation. When the knee is flexed <20 degrees it can aid in knee extension and when the knee is flexed >20 degrees it can aid in knee flexion.
  • The deeper posterior hip muscles include the obturator internus, superior gemellus, inferior gemellus, piriformis, and quadratus femoris. Some would also include the obturator externus that was discussed above. These all generally extend from the pelvic bone to the femur. Collective these aid the other muscles discussed previously in stabilizing the pelvis. They also assist in hip external rotation and when the hip is flexed they aid in hip abduction. They can variably assist in other hip motions as well.

More in depth articles if curious:

YouTube videos if curious:

Note: There are a lot of exercises to discuss that cover the glutes and thighs. I have tried to group them in a coherent fashion below but if you attempt to read through all of them it may seem overwhelming. You do not need to read through all of the exercise descriptions to move forward in this course; rather, consider reading the ones that seem most relevant to you.


Compound exercises

Here we will go over exercises that predominantly use the glutes and the thighs. They may incorporate other muscle groups but these will be the primary ones for these exercises. The ones that incoporate a hip hinge movement will frequently work the erector spinae muscles as well. With many of these exercises several of the above muscles groups will work isometrically to help stabilize the pelvis during the movements.


Squat movements

Video link demonstrations:

Set-up:

  • If using a barbell place it in the rack a little below shoulder height; you should only have to squat down a couple of inches to get in position underneath the bar and unrack it (“unracking” it means to take it off the hooks that are holding it).
  • If doing the low bar squat then pull your shoulder blades together before unracking the barbell to create a shelf of muscle with your rear deltoids for the bar to lay upon. Your grip width and hand/wrist position can vary based on what feels comfortable and allows the bar to remain stable on your back. The ideal grip position will vary based on differences in anthropometry. Click here for a good video explaining some of the key points.
  • If doing front squats the bar should not rest against your neck (see the safety section below). You can use a cross-arm grip or you can use a clean grip. The cross arm grip has fewer mobility requirements. The clean grip will be more useful if you intend to perform various cleans in your training program. Click here for a video showing the differences in grip positions and tips for a clean grip.
  • If doing belt squats it is helpful to place the belt correctly on your hips such that it is not applying forward traction to your lumbar spine. This is explained well in this video.
  • Prior to unracking a barbell take a deep breath. After unracking it take a couple of steps to get into position.
  • Ideal stance width varies based on one’s underlying anatomy. For most people it will be around shoulder width apart with toes pointed slightly outwards. Click here to see a great video showing how to determine a good squat stance for your specific anatomy.
  • All variations should begin with you weight evenly distributed throughout your feet.

Technique:

  • With versions where the weight is pressing down on your upper body tighten up all of your muscles and keep them tight during each rep. This allows more efficient energy transfer through the body and aids stability during the lift. You can do this with the non-barbell versions as well but without the weight pressing directly down on your upper body this is less critical.
  • With versions where the weight is on your back you can slightly bend forward prior to descending as you will be bent forward to some degree at the bottom of the lift and this will help keep the weight over the center of your feet.
  • Just before beginning to descend it is helpful to brace and breathe properly. Click here for a good video explaining this for people squatting without a weight belt. The basic idea is to:
    • Set up your appropriate starting position with good posture.
    • Tense up your abdominal muscles as if you were going to get punched in your stomach but do not crunch downward.
    • Take a big breath of air into your abdominal muscles.
      • You should feel the air pushing out against the front, sides, and back of your midsection as you breathe in.
    • Engage in the Valsalva maneuver (see discussion of this under the “Barbell bench press” section of Lesson 9).
      • A good mental cue here is after taking a deep breath into your abdomen, bear down and feel the pressure pushing against your front, sides, and lower back.
    • Keep everything tight while performing the rep.
    • Do not breathe out until you have ascended beyond the weakest portion of the squat rep.
    • You can take multiple breaths before the next rep if needed.
  • Begin descending by bending both your knees and your hips at the same time (not considering initial forward lean at the hips described in the set-up section above).
  • The weight should remain over the center of your foot throughout the entire rep. If at any point you feel your toes or heels coming up, or the inner or outer borders of your feet coming up, then immediately shift your weight back to the center. The full foot should stay in contact with the ground at all times.
  • Your knees should stay in line with your toes during the lift. Consider pushing your feet outward as if you are trying to spread the floor apart to help with this.
  • Your back angle should remain mostly the same throughout the lift but particularly in the lower portion.
  • Attempt to maintain a neutral pelvis throughout the entire range of motion. If you experience “buttwink” where your pelvis posteriorly rotates at the bottom (picture your butt curling downward underneath you) that means you have either gone down too far or something else needs to be changed (see tips below). Click here for a good video explaining this.
  •  For full range of motion in general most people will be able to get the crease of their hips below the top of their kneecaps (see tips below if this is difficult).
  • You can stop the squat once your hip crease gets below the top of the knees or you can continue descending until you get to a point where your form would begin to deteriorate.
  • Most individuals will have their knees in front of their toes by an inch or so at the bottom; this is completely fine.
  • At the bottom you can briefly pause or immediately begin the concentric portion of the rep.
  • When ascending try to ensure your hips do not move up faster than your shoulders; they should move upward at similar rates. It is ok if your weight shifts back slightly with your hips going up a couple of inches prior to your back moving upward as well.

Variables:

  • A video I linked above suggests how to find a good squat stance but this can be varied.
  • As seen above there are several different variations of squats. In general the more upright the torso is the more the quads will be utilized and the less the glutes and hamstrings will be utilized.
    • Of note, in general the hamstrings do not contribute a huge amount to squats. Recall that the hamstrings aid in hip extension and knee flexion. The hips do extend with the concentric portion of squats but the knees actually extend rather than undergo flexion. Thus, the overall contribution of the hamstrings is much less than the quadriceps.
  • The deeper you squat the more the emphasis will be placed on your glutes and the less weight you’ll be able to use (for most people).
  • People can generally squat more with a low bar position than a high bar position as the weight is closer to their center of gravity.

Tips:

  • A lifting belt can help with bracing, stability, and lead to greater strength increases, but this is absolutely not necessary. I personally have never used one. If you intend to compete in powerlifting or other strength competitions then purchasing a lifting belt is likely worthwhile. Otherwise you can choose to use one but you should not feel that this is required. Click here for an excellent video explaining the purpose of lifting belts, how to choose one, and how to wear one if curious.
  • When first learning squats if the motion is not coming naturally start with simple body weight (with self-assistance as shown above if needed) and then progress to doing goblet squats. When you can do goblet squats comfortably you should be able to progress to a barbell version if desired.
  • Take videos of yourself when you are learning how to do squats to check and see if anything obvious is wrong with your form. Many people think they are going low enough when in fact they are not. Take videos from in front of you to make sure your feet stay flat and your knees stay over your toes. Take videos from the side to make sure your feet stay flat, your squat depth is good, and your back angle stays the same for the majority of the lift.
  • Many people have limited ankle dorsiflexion range of motion (picture raising your toes to your shin). This will prevent you from doing a full squat with good form. Purchasing a heeled shoe, or placing something underneath your heels as you squat (small weight plates work well), will let you work around this limitation.
  • If you do not brace and breathe properly this will limit you significantly. Furthermore, the additional stability from appropriate bracing and the Valsalva maneuver will increase the safety of the exercise. If you are training for general health this is not a major concern and you will be fine if you just brace minimally by keeping your muscles tight. However, if you are an athlete or attempting to get as strong as possible it is worth the time and effort to develop your ability to brace and breathe properly throughout a full set.
    • If you choose not to hold your breath for a full rep then time your breathing so you finish inhalation just before you begin the concentric portion of the rep. Hold your breath until you ascend past the sticking point (the slowest portion of the rep) and then slowly exhale.
  • If you experience “buttwink” there are a few possibilities:
    • You may be starting with anterior pelvic tilt and your pelvis is moving to a neutral position.
      • If this is the case try to work on maintaining a neutral pelvis throughout the lift.
    • You are not purposely staying tight at the bottom of the range of motion.
      • This generally improves with experience but focus on staying tight throughout the lift.
    • Your femur is colliding with the top of the acetabulum (the hip joint socket). Of note, you will likely not feel any pain if this occurs. This limits any further hip flexion without your pelvis rotating posteriorly.
      • If your ankle dorsiflexion is limiting you then place something under your heels.
      • Consider adjusting your squat stance so your hips are slightly more externally rotated.
      • Consider doing front squats or goblet squats. With the weight in front of you your torso will remain more upright to keep your weight centered over your foot. With a more upright torso you’re less likely to have your femur collide with the acetabulum.

Safety:

  • With front squats be very careful not to let the bar rest across the sides of your neck. If it does it can compress the carotid arteries and cut off blood flow to your brain. This will result in you fainting with the weight on top of you. The bar can lightly touch the front of your throat but should no be pressed into it.
  • If doing a barbell version make sure to have a safety rack of some sort set up that can catch the barbell if you cannot fully stand up for whatever reason (ie, failing on the last rep of a set).
  • Be careful to make sure your knees are tracking over your toes and your weight is centered on your foot. Otherwise you will likely have a higher risk of injury.
  • With squats and deadlifts (discussed below), when you engage in the Valsalva maneuver there is a chance you will become very light-headed after you complete the set. This is not necessarily a problem unless it causes you to fall, which would increase the risk of injury significantly. Consider quickly kneeling down and holding onto one of the rack posts to steady yourself if this occurs. You can preemptively kneel down after re-racking the barbell if you are concerned this may happen.

More information:

If you would like a much more in depth discussion of the squat, read this: https://www.strongerbyscience.com/how-to-squat/


Squat-mimicking movements

Video link demonstrations:

  • Seated leg press – most commercial gyms will have a variation of this
  • 45 degree leg press
  • Single leg standing leg press – this can frequently be done on an assisted dip/pull-up machine, you will need to pull up on the handles to prevent your body from moving upward if you use heavier weight
  • Hack squat – this emphasizes the quadriceps more than the other variations
  • Lever squat
  • Smith machine squat – the leg stance can be varied to target the leg muscles differently as the weight does not need to remain over the center of your feet
  • Barbell hack squat – depending on one’s anatomy this lift may not be possible but it can target the quadriceps well

Set-up:

  • These are mostly self-explanatory.
  • You should check the available settings to change the range of motion of the exercise as well as the back angle for the leg press variations.
  • For the leg press variations you can adjust where you put your feet on the platform. In general the higher up you put your feet the more the exercise will target you glutes and hamstrings instead of your quadriceps.
  • With barbell hack squats start with the bar as close to your legs as possible. Additionally, you can put something under your heels to elevate them and this will shift the emphasis even more to your quadriceps.

Technique:

  • The technique is mostly self-explanatory.
  • A key point for the leg press variations is to only bring the thighs as close as you can to your chest with good form. If you try to use too much range of motion your lower back may round off the back pad and this will increase the risk of injury.
  • Another key point is that your heels should not come off the platform at any point. If you have to push through your heels instead of the center of your feet to make sure you do this then that is fine; if your heels come off and you start pushing through the balls of you feet you will be at higher risk of injury.
  • For barbell hack squats try to keep your torso more upright throughout the exercise to make it more of a squatting movement (with the legs bending significantly) than a hip hinge movement (with the legs remaining fairly straight and bending forward at the hip more instead).

Variables:

  • The different versions of the above exercises can place the torso at different angles.
  • Different leg press machines, even if they look similar, may place your body at different angles and make the movement more or less comfortable.
  • Changing your foot positioning can dramatically change how the exercise feels.

Tips:

  • It is worth trying different available machines, different settings, and different stances to see which feels the best for your targeted muscles.
  • If the machine feels uncomfortable or you feel you cannot maintain good form with full range of motion, then use a shortened range of motion and if this still feels uncomfortable then give up on that specific machine. Some people’s anatomy will simply not work with specific machines.
  • If the machine does not allow you to get a full range of motion without it “catching” the weight, you can put some sort of base (ie, yoga mats) either between your back and the back pad or your feet and the platform to increase the range of motion.
  • As a general rule, the more your knees go over your toes the more an exercise will emphasize your quadriceps, while the more your knees stay behind your toes the more an exercise will emphasize your glutes and hamstrings. You can vary this based on what effect you are hoping to get from the exercise.

Safety:

  • As indicated above, do not allow your heels to come off the platform; this will increase the risk of a injury.
  • Some platforms are slippery and your feet may slide during the rep. If this occurs, consider using grippier shoes, placing grip tape on your shoes, placing grip tape on the platform, wrapping resistance bands around the platform, or putting a yoga mat on the platform. If your feet slip slightly then reset your feet position prior to the next rep.
  • When using the machines make sure there is a safety mechanism present such that if you are unable to complete the full rep or if you accidentally go too low it will catch the weight.

Lunges

Video link demonstrations:

  • Split squat – notice the feet do not leave the floor, dumbbells can be held for resistance
  • Stationary lunge – to stay in one place you drive your body up and back with the front foot
  • Walking lunge – to walk forward you drive your body up and forward with the front foot
  • Rear lunge – this can be done stationary or walking, if space is short you can walk a few steps and then turn around before doing more reps
  • Side lunge – you can vary the angle you step laterally

Set-up:

  • The set-up for these is mostly self-explanatory.
  • If doing a walking variation make sure you have sufficient space and that other people will not get in your way.

Technique:

  • The further forward you place your front foot with a forward lunge the more it will target the glutes and hamstrings. If it is closer to you it will target the quadriceps more.
  • You will generally want to put most of your weight on which ever leg is stepping out for the lunge.
  • When you step out make sure to place your foot gently on the ground as opposed to “heavily” stepping on the ground.
  • Try to go as low as you can until your knee is just above the floor.

Variables:

  • You can vary your stance width to target muscles differently.
  • Shifting your body weight closer or further from the leg that steps out alters the targeted muscles.
  • You can do these one leg at a time or alternating.

Tips:

  • This is generally not an exercise people go very heavy on. Lighter weight for higher reps (at least ≥8 per set) is generally a better strategy.
  • If your knee tends to hit the floor or this concern prevents you from going lower, consider wearing knee pads.

Safety:

  • Be careful not to step down too hard or awkwardly on your foot as that could cause injury.
  • Avoid banging your knees into the ground.
  • Taking too big of a step could put you in a vulnerable position; start with smaller steps and gradually increase the step size if desired.

Step-ups

Video link demonstrations:

Set-up:

  • You will need a stable platform to step upon.
  • The height of the platform can be variable but as a good starting point try to make it high enough so that your hip crease is below the top of your kneecap when one of your feet is on the platform (ie, if your right leg is on the platform your right hip crease should be below the top of the right kneecap).
  • Each rep should start with the majority of your weight on the leg that is elevated on the platform.

Technique:

  • Step up until your body is fully upright on the platform.
  • If you are off balance at the top then put your non-working leg on the platform to steady yourself prior to lowering yourself back to the ground.
  • If you are doing one leg for a full set and then switching to the other leg, keep your working leg’s foot on the platform the entire set. Alternatively, if you are doing one rep with each leg in an alternating fashion then you can choose to switch legs on top of the platform or on the ground. Do whichever feels best for you. Of note, if you switch on the platform each rep will start with an eccentric phase while if you switch on the ground each rep will start with a concentric phase.
  • As you descend downward keep your weight on the working leg and lightly touch the back leg down onto the ground.
  • If you are off balance then reset your feet prior to starting the next rep.

Variables:

  • The main variable is the height of the platform. Try adjusting this to see what feels best.
  • You can decide to do multiple reps in a row with one leg or alternate.
  • You can purposefully push more or less off the back leg to begin the step-up motion.
    • If you push off the back leg you will be able to use more weight and thus overload the top portion of the range of motion more.
    • On the other hand, for greater consistency you should avoid pushing off the back leg.

Tips:

  • Generally you will want to use lighter weights and higher reps for this exercise (≥8).
  • Make sure the platform is not slippery. If it is, cover it with grip tape, a yoga mat, or put resistance bands around it to add traction.
  • If you struggle controlling the descent phase then you may be using too much weight or you may be shifting your weight backwards as you descend rather than keeping it more centered or on the heel of the front foot.

Safety:

  • Be careful to maintain your balance. If you lose your balance significantly it can cause you to awkwardly place your feet down and this can increase the risk of injury.
  • It is very important to avoid dropping your back leg back onto the ground too quickly in an uncontrolled fashion. A severe impact of the back leg into the ground can cause injury such as a broken bone in the foot. Try to control the descent phase and place the foot on the ground gently.

Bulgarian split squats

Video link demonstration:

Set-up:

  • Place the back leg on a platform of some sort. This can be a stepping platform, bench, chair, or something else. The platform should be high enough such that at the bottom of the rep your back knee does not touch the ground.
  • Place the front foot a few feet in front of the platform. The distance between the front foot and the platform will significantly impact the muscles that are targeted.
  • Place your back foot and your front foot at a staggered stance (meaning not directly in line with each other) as this will aid balance.
  • Place the majority of your weight on the front leg.

Technique:

  • Bend you front leg until you achieve full flexion of the front leg without feeling any significant strain on your rear leg hip flexors. Ideally your front leg hip crease should descend below the top of your front leg’s kneecap.
  • If your front leg is relatively far in front of the platform your center of gravity will be between the front and back foot.
  • When descending you can actually shift you weight backwards and this will better target the glutes and hamstrings instead of the quadriceps.
  • Pause briefly at the bottom if you would like and then stand back up.

Variables:

  • If you put your front foot closer to the platform this will target the quadriceps more, while if you put your front foot further in front of you it will target the glutes and hamstrings more.
  • If you lean forward during the movement this will target the glutes more, if you keep your torso more upright this will target the quadriceps more.

Tips:

  • This can be a great quadriceps exercise or a great glutes/hamstrings exercise depending if it is done moreso to target the quads or glutes/hamstrings as described above.
  • Start with light weight on these, especially if you are targeting the glutes/hamstrings. Compared to exercises such as squats and hip thrusts, there will be more resistance on your glutes at the bottom of the movement here when your glutes are extended. This can cause significant soreness so I advise starting with light weight and building up gradually.
  • If you have any balance issues with these then pausing at the bottom of the reps can be helpful. If you have to take your back foot from the platform to the floor to steady yourself prior to proceeding that is fine. With more practice balance will become less of an issue.
  • If you really want to use this exercise to target the glutes and hamstrings well, place your front leg far enough in front of you that while you are standing at the top your front leg is slightly bent. Descend down and backwards, and then when standing back up curl your front leg into the ground while extending at the hip. This will somewhat activate the hamstrings in their hip extension and leg flexion role simultaneously and minimize the quadriceps involvement.

Safety:

  • If you lose your balance it can be better to simply move your back foot onto the ground to steady yourself rather than try to contort your body while keeping your feet in place to regain balance. The latter will put you at a more significant risk of straining something.
  • If you put your front leg too far in front it will increase your risk of straining something. Start with a comfortable stance and gradually extended your front foot forward as you get accustomed to the exercise if desired. If you get to a point where it feels painful then you should narrow your stance.

Deadlift movements

Video link demonstrations:

Set-up (for the conventional deadlift):

  • Begin with your feet a bit inside of shoulder width apart and your toes pointing slightly outward. The bar should be over the middle of your feet.
  • Bend down to grab the bar and bend your hips until your shins touch the bar. The bar itself should not move.
  • Straighten your back by pushing your chest out.
  • Engage your lats by pulling the bar against your shins (the bar should not move as your shins are already touching it) while depressing your shoulder blades. Imaging trying to move your shoulder blades to your opposite rear pockets (ie, picture moving your right shoulder blade into your left rear pocket and vice-versa). Continue doing this the entire lift to ensure the bar stays against you body.
  • Take a big breath and brace similar to what was described in the squatting section above.
  • Pull the slack out of the bar while getting into position to start the first rep:
    • “Slack” refers to the fact that the barbell + weight plates are not 1 solid unit and that barbells are typically a bit flexible. Typically the bar can be pulled upward a few millimeters prior to the full load being held by the bar. If you pull upward as hard as possible without pulling this “slack” out the bar will jerk into the weights and then jerk upward again as it picks up the load of the weights. This can increase your risk of injury and get your body out of position for appropriate form. Pulling up these initial few millimeters while getting into position  and then starting the rep explosively with the slack already gone will prevent this from being an issue.
    • Click here for a good video demonstrating this.
  • To get into position:
    • When pulling yourself down prior to beginning the first rep, if your shoulders or shoulder blades are vertically aligned with the bar then your body weight will be behind the bar.
    • Thus, without including the weight of the bar your own center of gravity will be behind the middle of your foot and you will fall backwards.
    • Therefore, it is important to actively pull on the bar as you get into position for the first rep so the weight of the bar helps to counteract your own body weight and so the center of gravity of your body weight plus the bar remains over the middle of your foot.
    • If the weight on the bar is light it may have a tendency to slightly come off the ground as you do this; in this case you do not need to worry about doing this as much if you are sticking with light weight for your sets. However, with heavier weight the bar will not come off the ground and this becomes more important to get in the correct position to start the lift. This video demonstrates this well.

Set-up (for the other deadlift variations):

  • Much of the above advice will apply to other variations.
  • The set up for the deficit deadlift and the rack pull will be similar other than your starting torso angle and knee flexion will differ due to the bar being at a different height. Most people will only do a deficit from at most a few inches. Most people advocate doing rack pulls with the bar starting below your kneecaps.
  • Trap bar deadlifts will include a similar set-up as conventional deadlifts. To identify the ideal starting position of your hands relative to your feet when they are holding the handles you may want to perform a rep with light weight and lower it slowly in control while keeping the weight over the middle of your foot. Wherever the bar touches down on the ground will be a good starting point and you can adjust from here if desired.
  • Watch the above linked explanatory video for stiff-legged deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts to see how the set-up differs from conventional deadlifts. Most aspects are similar other than your legs will be more straight; this will lead to your knees being further back at the bottom of the movement. Additionally, with Romanian deadlifts the exercise starts at full lockout and the bar does not touch the floor during the reps.
  • For sumo deadlifts most of the set-up is similar. The key differences include:
    • You will start with your feet wide apart and you toes angled outwards. The toes should point in the same direction as the knees when you get in position to start the deadlift. Your shins should be straight up and down from from the frontal view when starting the deadlift. You should adjust you stance width and toe angle to ensure this occurs.
    • Your hands will grab the bar inside of your legs.
    • When you pull yourself into position and pull the slack out of the bar you will feel a lot more tension in your quadriceps relative to a conventional deadlift though this should still mostly load your hamstrings and your glutes.
    • You should additionally try to spread the floor apart with your feet while you prepare to initiate the movement. This will further activate the glutes and help ensure your knees stay in line over your toes when you lift.

Technique (for the conventional deadlift):

  • Once you are able to set up appropriately the lift itself is relatively simple.
  • Initiate the lift by engaging your legs as though you were performing a leg press. Keep your torso rigid while attempting to push your legs through the floor. Your torso angle should not change much at all in the beginning portion of the lift. You should continuously pull the bar against your body throughout the lift by activating your lats.
  • As the bar comes up the floor and particularly once it elevates beyond your knees towards the middle of your thighs, engage your glutes in a hip extension movement.
  • At the top of the lift your knees should be locked out and your lower back should not be hyperextended; you should be standing vertical.
  • You can lower the bar fairly quickly in the descent but do not outright drop the bar (unless you are using special equipment such as bumper plates).
  • Once the bar hits the floor, roll it back over the middle your foot and repeat the set-up again prior to the next rep.

Technique (for the other deadlift variations):

  • Much of the above advice will apply to other variations.
  • There are no differences for the deficit deadlift, rack pull, or trap bar deadlift.
  • With stiff-legged deadlifts you will start with your legs almost fully straight and keep them in this same position for most of the rep until you fully straighten them at lockout.
  • With Romanian deadlifts the rep starts at the top of the movement. You will purposefully move your hips backwards instead of downwards. As your hips move backwards the bar will go down your legs. Once you reach the limit of your hamstring flexibility such that you cannot move your hips back further without your back rounding, then you have achieved full range of motion and you should extend your hips to perform the concentric portion of the rep. It is ok for your knees to slightly bend during this movement to increase the range of motion.
    • Note that this is fundamentally different than the other deadlift variations as here you do a controlled eccentric phase. With the other variations you do a controlled drop.
  • With sumo deadlifts the technique is similar to conventional.

Variables:

  • One variable is how you grip the bar. You can use a double overhead grip, a mixed grip, a hook grip, or use straps of some sort. Click here for a video showing the first 3 types of grip.
    • I recommend using a double overhand grip for all sets until you get to a point where the bar seems to be slipping from your grip and limiting you.
    • You can try a hook grip (this will work better if you have larger hands) and if you can build up to using this without significant pain then this is a great option.
    • A mixed grip works extremely well but you need to be careful to keep your arms straight (see the safety section below). You can alternate which hand is over and which is under but ultimately I do not think it matters much if you alternate or just stick with one hand over and one hand under.
    • Lifting straps or an equivalent such as Krato grips (these are quicker to put on than lifting straps) will eliminate concerns with your grip. They are not allowed in powerlifting. If you do not plan to compete in powerlifting and you prefer not to use a hook or mixed grip then these are an excellent option. In general it is best not to fully rely on these as this will prevent you from training your grip but if you do any exercises at all where your grip limits you these are a great workaround.
      • If you choose to purchase lifting straps I recommend that you do not purchase Figure 8 straps as these will lock your hands into the bar and it can be more dangerous if you lose balance.
  • Stance width can be varied. Usually people will be strongest around where their natural stance is for a vertical jump but you can attempt to move your feet inwards or outwards a bit for the different deadlift variations.

Tips:

  • There are a lot of steps mentioned above but once you get used to it the actual set-up is very quick and easy to perform.
  • When performing the deadlifts you should mainly feel it in your hamstrings, glutes, and erector spinae. If you do not feel it in these areas it is possible your form is not ideal.
  • Take videos of yourself from the front (to make sure your knees track along with you toes) and the side (to make sure your starting position is good (bar over midfoot, knees in line with the front of the forearms for the conventional deadlift, top of the shoulder blades in line with the bar, hip height above your knees but below your shoulders) and that your torso angle does not change much at the beginning of the rep).
  • Using chalk can help your grip immensely if you are not using straps of some sort. You can purchase actual lifting chalk or if you are concerned about making too much of a mess you can purchase liquid chalk. I use this brand of liquid chalk and it works well.
  • If you are doing the deadlift version with bands it will become more difficult as you ascend throughout the movement. If you want the bottom portion to become more difficult then use additional bands. You can do partial reps near the bottom with the additional resistance and then full or partial reps near the top with less resistance.

Safety:

  • Make sure to avoid bending your elbows during deadlifts. Your arms should stay fully locked out the entire range of motion. If you bend your arms you will increase your risk of tearing your biceps, particularly for the arm with the palm facing away from you if you use a mixed grip.
  • Some people will find they deadlift more with a rounded back than a straight back (particularly in the thoracic region). This can be done safely if it is done consistently but you should try to avoid significantly changing the degree of spinal flexion throughout the range of motion of a rep. If you find your back tends to round an increasing amount as you go heavier then you may be going too heavy and this could increase the risk of injury.
  • The deadlift works a lot of muscles in the body and if you engage in bracing vigorously as described above in the squatting section you may find you get very light-headed at the end of the set. If this occurs you can immediately drop down to one knee after a set for several seconds until your body acclimates to the change in pressure within the body. Then you can stand up slowly and you should not be overly light-headed.

More information:

If you would like a much more in depth discussion of the deadlift, read this: https://www.strongerbyscience.com/how-to-deadlift/


Glute-ham raise (GHR) movements

Video link demonstrations:

Set-up:

  • Regardless of the set-up you will want our ankles secured. This can be done:
    • using a specific bench made for this
    • with a lat pulldown machine where your knees go on the seat and your ankles go under the knee pads (seen in the first Nordic leg curl video above)
    • using a bed at home if the bed is heavy enough
    • using a loaded barbell as seen in the second Nordic leg curl video (if you do not have a pad to put on the bar you can wrap a towel around it)
  • Versions where your knees are on a flat surface will be more difficult than versions where your knees are on a curved pad.
  • If you would like to use a stick or pole to assist the movement, make sure that it will not slide on the ground.

Technique:

  • Slowly descend for these exercises and you should feel the tension building in your hamstrings.
  • Bring yourself back up without flexing your hips if possible. Flexing your hips will make the exercise easier as your center of gravity will get closer to your knees.
  • Alternatively, you can purposefully flex your hips while descending (if there is room for your torso when doing this) and extend them while ascending as this will work the knee flexion and hip extension components of the hamstrings simultaneously.

Variables:

  • If you use a bench with a a pad then your knee placement on the pad will significantly impact the difficulty of the exercise.
  • Hip flexion will significantly alter the way the exercise feels.

Tips:

  • This exercise is well-suited to performing a slow eccentric movement and can help with injury prevention.
  • Some would consider the above variations without hip flexion to be “inverse leg curls” and when also using assistance a “Nordic leg curl” while incorporating hip flexion & extension would then make the exercise a real GHR.
  • Doing these with the bench that has a knee pad is much easier than doing these off of the floor. If you intend to do them off the floor or a similar surface you will likely need to use something for assistance.
  • You have the option when using assistance to use less assistance with the eccentric portion and thus adjust the load between the concentric and eccentric portions of the reps.

Safety:

  • If these exercises are done in a controlled fashion there are minimal safety concerns.
  • These exercises work the hamstrings and hips somewhat differently than the other exercises listed in this lesson so it is important to start light and build up gradually.

Good morning movements

Video link demonstrations:

Set-up:

  • You can set-up similarly to the squat set-up description above.
  • You can choose to keep your legs straight throughout the movement or bend them slightly throughout the movement.
    • With straight legs the exercise will target the hamstrings more relative to the glutes.
    • With bent legs the exercise will target the glutes more relative to the hamstrings.
  • If you decide to do this with bands the set-up is described in the above video link.

Technique:

  • Keep the weight over the center of your foot while you extend your hips backwards.
  • Keep your back straight during the movement.
  • Continue extending your hips backwards until your back is parallel to the ground or until you reach the limit of your hamstring flexibility.

Variables:

  • The main variables are the degree of knee flexion and how this changes throughout the rep.

Tips:

  • People with limited flexibility may not find this exercise very beneficial, but this exercise can be used to help work on increasing hamstring flexibility as part of a flexibility & mobility program.
  • You can think of this exercise similar to the Romanian deadlift exercise described above, though this version will place more emphasis on the erector spinae.
  • This exercise is better suited for using lighter weight and higher reps (ie, ≥8).

Safety:

  • It is important to start with light resistance when doing this exercise and to slowly increase over time.
  • Failure should be avoided with this exercise as it can put a lot of strain on the lower back if your form deviates as you approach failure.

Reverse hyperextension movements

Video link demonstrations:

Set-up:

  • Ideally you will be able to set up with your hips flexed to 90 degrees.
  • With the stability ball version you can hold a dumbbell between your feet to add weight.
  • If using a machine you’ll want the edge of the padding around where your hip crease is.
  • Try to set your pelvis in a neutral position without significant anterior or posterior pelvic tilt.

Technique:

  • Extend your hips untl they achieve full extension.
  • Try to avoid excessively arching your lower back while doing this movement. Initially your pelvis should remain neutral without significant anterior pelvic tilt; then you can adjust if needed so the exercise feels better. Ultimately you should use an appropriate pelvic tilt and degree of lower back extension to allow you to feel the exercise correctly in the intended muscles (generally the glutes, hamstrings, and possibly the lower back).

Variables:

  • Other than adjusting the weight you can also adjust your pelvis position and see if a certain fixed position helps this exercise feel better overall.

Tips:

  • If you mostly feel this in your lower back then focus on contracting your abs hard throughout the exercise and purposefully putting your pelvis in posterior pelvic tilt for some reps and anterior pelvic tilt for some reps. Compare how the two versions feel and then you will have a better understanding of which pelvis orientation will work best for you.

Safety:

  • If you are not feeling any pain or excess strain during the movement then there are essentially no safety concerns with this exercise.

Isolation exercises

Below I will go through several exercises that focus on specific muscles of the glutes and thighs. Some are not true isolation exercises and target multiple muscles but as they are less taxing on the body and favor one muscle over the others I am including them below.

Leg extension movements

Video link demonstrations:

Set-up:

  • With sissy squats start with your feet around shoulder width apart and then make adjustments to see if something else is more comfortable. Place one hand on a beam of some sort for support.
  • With leg extensions you’ll want the bottom roller pads close to your ankles if possible.
  • Ideally with leg extensions the machine will be set up such that when your legs are bent the knee angle is less than 90 degrees or right at 90 degrees to provide a more full range of motion.
  • If using a cable version or a band try to anchor this close to the height of your knee.

Technique:

  • For the leg extensions simply extend your legs until they are fully locked out and then bend them until the limit of your range of motion is reached.
  • When using a cable or band and standing try to keep your hips extended throughout the rep so at full lockout you leg is straight down. In the video above the working leg has hip flexion which takes some of the resistance away at peak contraction. Additionally, as the rectus femoris crosses the hip and the knee, keeping the hip extended will help it engage more in the movement. With the hip flexed it will be in a greater degree of “active insufficiency” as the muscle will be in a shortened state; generally muscles are able to contract better from a lengthened state (imagine the muscle as a rope, in a shorted stated there is slack in the rope so it cannot be pulled as taut). Click here for a video describing active and passive insufficiency.
  • With sissy squats descend as low as you can go without experiencing pain and without making the exercise too difficult. If a certain depth keeps you from being able to do ≥6 reps you should probably stop higher than this point.

Variables:

  • You can choose to do leg extensions with both legs or with one leg at a time.
  • With cables and bands you can change the angle between your thigh and the cable or band to alter the resistance profile of the exercise.
  • With sissy squats you can alter how low you go, you can provide more assistance with your support arm, or you can add weight by holding onto a weight with your non-support arm.

Tips:

  • Unlike most other leg exercises, with leg extensions the maximum load is typically on the quadriceps at peak contraction. Thus, it is important to avoid cutting the range of motion short as otherwise you would be negating a main benefit of this exercise.

Safety:

  • This can place stress on your knee in ways that other exercises do not as the load is perpendicular to the leg at lockout instead of parallel to it. If you have any knee pain with these, either lighten the load and do more reps (if you can without pain) or stop performing this exercise.

Leg curls

Video link demonstrations:

Set-up:

  • The set-up for all of these is pretty self-explanatory.
  • Only certain types of leg extension machines will allow you to do a standing leg curl on each side.
  • The various body weight variations will vary in difficulty based on the height of your legs relative to your torso and the distance between your feet and your arms (when hanging on a bar).
  • Variations that place the hips in flexion throughout the movement will lengthen the hamstrings to a greater degree (at least the portions that cross the hip joint and act as hip extensors). Thus this will allow you to train the hamstrings in a lengthened position which generally targets muscles better due to avoiding “active insufficiency”. Click here for a video describing active and passive insufficiency.

Technique:

  • With most of these you simply flex your leg(s) at the knee joint(s).
  • For the standing cable versions you can attempt to keep your thigh fixed in one position while you bend the leg at the knee. This will prevent hip flexion/extension from contributing. Alternatively, you can allow hip flexion & extension to alter the direction of the pull of the cable relative to the lower leg. For example, in the standing cable leg curl video above if the right hip was more flexed there would be more resistance on the hamstring at the point of peak contraction.
  • You can adjust if your toes are pointed inwards, straight forward, or outwards and see if one method feels better.

Variables:

  • The amount of hip flexion during the movements can be variable.
  • Internal and external rotation of the hip can impact the movement.

Tips:

  • Your gastrocnemius, a calf muscle, helps to bend the knee. If you keep your ankles are dorsiflexed (where your toes point towards your shin) your gastrocnemius will assist more in knee flexion (due to active insufficiency as described in the video linked above). Thus you may find your strength varies if you dorsiflex or plantarflex (pointing toes downward away from your shin) your ankles.
  • As indicated above, movements where your hips are more flexed may allow a better contraction of your hamstrings.

Safety:

  • There are minimal safety concerns with these exercises.
  • With the body weight variations if your head is angled downward this may put stress on your neck or cause issues with your blood pressure. If this feels uncomfortable then I would not perform these variations.

Hip extension

Some of these are more appropriately considered compound movements (ie, cable pull throughs that use the glutes and the hamstrings for hip extension); I am grouping them all here as they have the similar movement pattern of hip extension. Hip thrusts mostly isolate the glutes but also incorporate the quadriceps and hamstrings. Additionally, with heavy enough weight they can be used to tax a majority of the body to simply support the weight. Thus, these can be included with compound exercises in exercise programs.

Video link demonstrations:

Set-up:

  • With all of these the lower back and core muscles should remain in a fixed position; the only movement comes from the hips.
  • Similar to what was explained in the leg curl section above, if you choose a set-up where the legs are bent this will place the hamstrings into a state of “active insufficiency”. They will be in a shortened position with respect to their knee attachment and thus will not be able to contribute as much to the actual hip extension (as opposed to a deadlift where the legs are almost straight at full hip extension).
  • For the cable pull throughs try to set up the pulley such that the cable is parallel to the ground when you are doing the rep. It is ok to bend your legs some to get a better stretch on the glutes and hamstrings at the beginning.
  • For the variants where you are lying attempt to adjust your feet positioning so that you feel the movement in your glutes.
  • With the barbell hip thrust make sure to use a pad of some sort around the barbell so it does not cause pain when it is laying across your hips. Hold the bar in place with your hands. Put your upper back on the edge of the bench. Ideally your set-up will allow you to do a full rep without you or the bench sliding. If the bench has a tendency to slide then put something heavy against the back side of it (ie, weight plates or dumbbells) to help hold it in place.
  • With some of these variations you can experiment with having your hip(s) in more internal or external rotation (by pointing your toes inward or outward) to see if you feel this better in your glutes and hips.

Technique:

  • Simply extend your hip(s) through as full of a range of motion as possible.
  • With the glute kickback you will also extend your knee to a degree.
  • With the cable pull throughs you will extend your legs if they were bent at the beginning.
  • You can adjust hip internal or external rotation throughout a rep to see if this lets you target the hips better.

Variables:

  • Hip internal and external rotation as well as the degree of knee flexion are the primary variables.
  • As you add more weight your range of motion will decrease; if you cannot reach full hip extension at the end of the movement you’ll need to consider if the weight is too heavy; one of the benefits of this exercise is that the weight is perpendicular to the glutes at peak contraction (similar to leg extensions above) so if you cut the range of motion short you are somewhat defeating the purpose.

Tips:

  • It is worth trying different foot positioning (internally vs. externally rotated) as well as different degrees of knee flexion to see if a specific style will better target the desired muscles.
  • With hip thrusts your knees will extend throughout the movement; thus you may feel this significantly in your quadriceps. Varying you feet positioning may help with this but you can also try to curl your feet into the ground (assuming this does not cause your feet to slip); this should activate your hamstrings and disengage your quadriceps.
  • For cable pull throughs try different foot positions and degree of knee flexion at the beginning of the movement and use whatever feels best.

Safety:

  • If you keep your core tight during these movements with all of the motion coming from hip flexion and extension there are minimal safety concerns with these exercises.

Hip external rotation

Video link demonstrations:

Set-up:

  • The set-up here is self explanatory.
  • If you do the kneeling version you may find that the friction of your knees on the pad proves bothersome.

Technique:

  • Try to keep the thigh still while rotating at the hip joint.
  • Determine what your range of motion should be by first doing these exercises with no additional weight. Then strive to get close to that full range of motion when performing the exercise.

Variables:

  • The heavier you go the less your range of motion will be.

Tips:

  • This exercise is better suited for lighter weight and higher reps (≥8).

Safety:

  • As long as you resist the weight and prevent it from pulling you into an unsafe position there are no significant safety concerns with these exercises.

Hip internal rotation

Video link demonstrations:

Set-up:

  • The set-up here is self explanatory.
  • If you do the kneeling version you may find that your range of motion is limited and the friction of your knees on the pad may prove bothersome.

Technique:

  • Try to keep the thigh still while rotating at the hip joint.
  • Determine what your range of motion should be by first doing these exercises with no additional weight. Then strive to get close to that full range of motion when performing the exercise.

Variables:

  • The heavier you go the less your range of motion will be.

Tips:

  • This exercise is better suited for lighter weight and higher reps (≥8).

Safety:

  • As long as you resist the weight and prevent it from pulling you into an unsafe position there are no significant safety concerns with these exercises.

Hip abduction

Video link demonstrations:

Set-up:

  • The set-up for all of these is self-explanatory.
  • For the cable version start with your working leg adducted beyond midline to increase the range of motion.

Technique:

  • Abduct the working leg as far as possible in a controlled manner prior to returning to the starting position.

Variables:

  • For the lying versions you can adjust what part of your leg is on the ground or a chair and you can adjust if and how you add weight to the leg.
  • For many of these versions you can adjust the degree of internal or external rotation of the leg as well as the degree of hip flexion. This may alter the way the exercise feels and the muscle recruitment patterns. Utilize whichever feels best or incorporate different versions in your program.

Tips:

  • Perform these reps more slowly and in control as opposed to explosively.

Safety:

  • If you avoid jerking the weight there are essentially no safety concerns with these exercises.

Hip adduction

Video link demonstrations:

Set-up:

  • The set-up for all of these is fairly self-explanatory.
  • For the lying version you can add weight to the top leg and let that leg go into abduction prior to performing the concentric portion of the rep.
  • With the seated machine you have two options:
    • Option 1: you can set the pads as far apart as possible where you can still intentionally abduct your legs enough to fit them on the outside of the pads.
    • Option 2: you can set the pads one setting further apart than this, place one leg outside of the pad on one side, and then squeeze the pads together with both hands and your leg until you can put your other leg on the outside of the other pad.

Technique:

  • For the lying version attempt to squeeze both of your legs together.
  • With the other versions adduct the leg(s) until the are beyond midline (or at midline for the seated machine variation).
  • Perform the eccentric phase slowly to avoid moving beyond a safe range of motion when the adductors are stretched to their greatest length.
  • With the seated machine if you chose option 2 above then at the end of the set you will once again want to use your hands to push the pads together so you can take one of your legs out.

Variables:

  • For the variations without a firm endpont you can decide what range of motion will constitute a full rep.

Tips:

  • Practice setting up such that a full stretch is achieved prior to the start of the rep.

Safety:

  • If you use a set-up such that there is no firm beginning point for the rep and you are fully stretched at the beginning, be careful to control the eccentric phase of the rep. This will help prevent you from exceeding a safe full range of motion which could cause a groin strain.

Example: A sample routine focusing on the glutes and thighs may include:

Session 1:

  • High bar back squat: 3 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Romanian deadlift: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Lunges: 2 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Leg extensions: 2 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Leg curls: 2 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Hip abduction: 2 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Hip adduction: 2 sets of 10-15 reps

Session 2:

  • Conventional deadlifts: 3 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Front squats: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Bulgarian split squats: 2 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Glute-ham raises: 2 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Leg extensions: 2 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Hip abduction: 2 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Hip adduction: 2 sets of 10-15 reps

This includes 5-10 sets per session for the main muscle groups including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. The last 4 exercises in each session can be done in a circuit. Rep ranges can be altered as described in previous lessons, though frequently people use higher rep ranges for isolation exercises.

Many different exercises can be substituted based on available equipment (ie, a leg press, step-ups, etc). Reverse hyperextensions can be included as can hyperextensions (discussed in the prior lesson), particularly if you only wanted to perform a deadlift variation one day weekly. One can easily add a couple sets of dedicated hip internal and external rotation work as well if desired.


Conclusion

You should now have a good understanding of the basic aspects of the glutes and thighs. We have briefly gone over the anatomy that is relevant for many exercises and we have discussed several different compound and isolation exercises to target these parts of the body. While the compound exercises alone can be sufficient, there are additional potential benefits from including the isolation exercises at times:

  • Leg extensions – the resistance is perpendicular to the leg when the leg is locked out; this puts more emphasis on the quadriceps at the terminal point of leg extension. The compound exercises do not do this.
  • Leg curls – other than the GHR variations the compound exercises do not work the hamstrings through a full range of knee flexion. Even with the GHRs hamstring function is limited at the end point of knee flexion since the force of gravity is parallel to the thighs at this point.
  • Hip abduction, adduction, external rotation, and internal rotation – none of the compound exercises work these ranges of motion in full.
  • Hip thrusts – some would consider these a compound exercise. Regardless, with these the weight is perpendicular to the glutes at full hip extension. Thus, these place the most tension on the glutes in their most contracted state. The other compound exercises do not allow this, though some of the other hip extension isolation exercises do.
In the next lesson we will discuss exercises for the remaining major muscle groups. After that we’ll use all of this knowledge to create detailed training programs.
 
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