Best Leg Exercises for Functional Strength

Our legs have the biggest group of muscles. We use them daily to walk, run, and pick things up. It’s essential to strengthen them as they help carry our weight during the day. There are a variety of exercises that target the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. What exercises will give you the most significant value in general functional strength? These exercises are going to build your overall leg strength:

Squat: The squat is considered the “king of all exercises” as it will target every muscle in your leg and challenge your core and coordination. A squat can be performed with a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, or body weight. It is also an exercise that can be done differently; you can do a front squat, overhead squat, goblet squat, Zercher squat, and hack squat.

Deadlift: This exercise will teach you how to pick things up appropriately and with proper form. Many people throw their back out when picking up heavy items like boxes, furniture, and weights. Sometimes they’ll hurt their backs by even picking up a pencil or something light. This exercise will target all of your leg muscles including the low back muscles, but it will help strengthen the back without putting it in a compromising position.    

RDL: The Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is a more hamstring and glute-focused exercise when compared to the Deadlift, as your legs are slightly bent and the glutes are shooting back. You’ll also feel this in your back, but as long as the load isn’t too much and you must have a great form to perform this without issues.   

Hip Thrust: This will target the entire glute muscles, which help protect your low back. The glutes are the biggest chunk of muscles and are the source of your lower body’s power. Glutes can be trained heavily without worrying about any tears or sprains. Glutes provide that last bit of force you need to finish a rep of squats and deadlifts and help you become a faster and more explosive runner.  

Walking Lunges: Most leg exercises have you in a fixed position, while making walking lunges allows you to move and test your ability to move with the load. If your knees hurt, then do reverse lunges, as it puts less stress on your knees by not letting the knees go too far past your toes. This is also great to work on your stabilizer muscles as you walk; you’ll have to engage your core to not tilt to one side and keep your balance.     

Bulgarian Split Squat: A true test of single leg strength as this will allow you to see which leg is the weakest, and by addressing these imbalance issues, you’ll increase your squat and deadlift strength. This will also let you develop that power drive through the heels that you’ll need to perform the compound leg exercise more efficiently.      

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