Research shows that the lower part of the body, particularly the legs, is the most overlooked and under developed aspect of our bodies. Unfortunately, you see so many guys out there with no balance to their physic. It’s great to have big biceps and a barrel chest, but your body will look out of proportion if you don’t consider your legs.
In fact, training your legs has a number of other benefits such as increasing testosterone that will assist you gaining muscle mass in other areas! When you train your ‘lower half’, the major groups of the body are emphasized producing strength that generates power right throughout your body.
So what is the best way to build your lower body and legs? Most people would answer “free weights” and that is partially true. We all know (and some people are even a little scared) the importance of foundation exercises here; squats, lunges and power cleans. You get the picture.
Now back to what the research is saying. We know that true power is generated from your core by having strong legs and that free weights are more effective than machine weights. The way to ensure you are getting a complete workout is to exercise on an unstable surface. By that I mean using a stability or swiss ball. You’ve all seen them in the corner of the gym or being used in the ‘girls’ classes but research has now proven that performing some of your workout on these unstable surfaces recruits more muscle fibers than traditional exercises such as normal squats.
Some of the exercises I recommend include one and two legged squats on a half stability ball (often known as a bosu ball) and working up to squats standing on a full stability ball. This will take some practice but the benefits are definitely worth the effort. Another great leg exercise is the stability ball hamstring curl. This exercise is performed laying on your back, heels on the ball and your but raised off the ground. Roll the ball in towards you by bending your knees and hips, hold then straighten your legs to roll the ball to the start position. Try varying this exercise and making it harder by placing only one leg on the ball. This will also recruit your abdominal muscle as your body needs to work hard at balancing itself on the ball. What a great way to work two body parts at once!
Swiss ball abdominal exercises should also be a regular component of your weekly schedule. I have found using a stability ball once a week for abdominal exercises has dramatically improved lower back and core strength.
While this article has focused on the importance of the lower body, it should be noted that unstable surface training is vitally important for upper body development as well. Some great exercises include push up on stability ball, shoulder press (while standing on bosu ball) and dumbbell chest press (lying on stability ball).