Category Archives: Reverse Lunges

Top 10 Exercises to Achieve an Athletic Build



An athletic build is desired by many, it is similar to that of a bodybuilder but they are not the same. While a bodybuilder is built for size and strength an athletes body is built for power, speed, quickness, explosiveness and agility. Typically the body of a bodybuilder is more bulky, sometimes VERY bulky. The body of an an athlete is usually more slight. Then there is a grey area where some athletes look like bodybuilders. If you want an athletic build you need to train like an athlete does. These are the top 10 exercises athletes do to give you an athletic build.

1) Power Cleans

Power cleans and other types of cleans are a mainstay in most athletic programs. Cleans are a total body exercise that use  your quads, calves, hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, deltoids, traps, and forearms, as well as the core muscles that come into play to stabilize your spine throughout the movement. Cleans develop power and explosiveness essential to an athlete. If an athlete could only do one exercise this would probably be it and if you can only do one exercise to achieve an athletic build this should be it as well.
power clean athletic build

2) Squats

Squats are the king of the lower body exercises. Any athlete who needs power in his lower body is doing squats. Don’t be one of those people with a built upper body and chicken legs. Squats  target a number of different muscle groups all over the body: the core muscles including the abdominals and lower back, the glutes, and the thigh muscles. Hit the squats hard and hit them often.
Squats for athletic build

3) Bench Press

If the squats are king of the lower body the bench press is the king of the upper body. Athletes that need upper body power use this as a mainstay of their training. The bench works the chest, shoulders, triceps, and even the abs are used to help generate power and stability. Whether you do it with a barbell or dumbbells the bench press is a must.
Bench press for athletic build

4) Sprints

Sprints are another biggie in an athletes training, athletes not only want power and explosiveness but as the old saying goes “speed kills!”  Speed can be a huge asset to to many athletes, whether it is going deep on a  passing route, a fast break in basketball, or stealing second base in baseball, having speed is essential. Not only does sprinting build speed but doing sprints in interval training will burn fat like crazy which we talked about in this article. If you haven’t noticed pretty much all sprinters have athletic build.
Athletic buildsprinter athletic build

5) Core Training

Athletes need to have a strong core and I am sure you are looking to have a six pack with your athletic build so you will need to do core training. Hanging leg raises, planks (both front and side) and crunches will get your core tight and strong.
Athletic build

6) Chin ups

Chin ups are common exercise for many athletes as part of their training to improve pulling movements, they will also help you get that nice  V-shape we all love.
chin up athletic exercisechin up crossfit athletic

7) Shoulder Press

Strong shoulders are a must in many sports for pushing movements. Shoulder presses not only work the deltoids but the triceps, lats and traps as well,  they are also a must for an athletic build.
Shoulder Press

8) Rows

Rows build strength for pulling movements useful in wrestling, football and other sports. They work primarily the lats and traps as well as the biceps and shoulders. Doing rows add thickness to the back muscles.
athlete barbell row

9) Close Grip Bench Press

The close grip bench is used for athletes to strengthen pushing movements, unlike the bench press the close grip bench press focuses on the triceps as the primary muscle rather than the chest.
Close Grip Bench Athlete Build

10) Lunges

Lunges are widely used to build strength in the quads, glutes and hips. They will also help you get a nice round butt we all like.
walking lunge athletic build

Honorable mention- Plyometrics

Plyometrics are very popular with athletes to build explosiveness, quickness and agility. They involve many different jumps and other movements. The most common type of plyometrics you see a conventional gym is usually box jumps. Use caution when doing these as they can lead to injury if you are not in good shape or do them incorrectly.

box jump plyos athletic
There you have the top 10 exercises you need to get you an athletic body. Notice all the exercises on the list are compound movements that use multiple muscles at the same time.  Athletes generally do not do isolated movements like bicep curls or calf raises as part of their every day training, you can feel free to mix in movements like that if you desire however.
Ryan Douglas

Dumbbells For Massive Legs

Dumbbells For Massive Legs
Exercise, including resistance training, acts as a stress on the body. We’re accustomed to thinking of stress as a negative, but when it comes to training, stress applied in the correct doses is a good thing – because stress is the trigger that causes physiological adaptation to occur.
For example, apply the correct amount of aerobic stress to the body and it will adapt by becoming more aerobically fit. Similarly, apply the correct level of stress using resistance training, and the body reacts by increasing muscle size and strength. Thus, when it comes to training, stress applied in the correct doses produces positive results.
However, one of the challenges for lifters is that the body adapts quickly. The trick, then, is to manipulate the stress of exercise often enough to keep the adaptation rate at an optimal level while avoiding becoming over trained.
While there are a number of variables (e.g., rest times, sets and reps, training speed, training intensity) you can manipulate to keep the stress of resistance training elevated, one of the most significant variables to manipulate is exercise selection.
By providing exercise variation each workout, and then adjusting the specific exercises performed every 4-6 weeks, the body will continually be faced with an elevated level of training stress.
For the lower body there are the typical barbell lower body exercises (squats, deadlifts, and straight leg deadlifts) that can be performed along with various exercise machines (leg press, hack squat, leg extensions, etc.).
However, one variation that isn’t often considered is performing lower body training with dumbbells. I’ve been using dumbbell lower body exercises to supplement the barbell lower body exercises we perform with my collegiate athletes with great success for a number of years now.
Some of you might be thinking that it will be impossible to overload the musculature of the lower body using dumbbells, but I guarantee that if you perform these exercises with strict technique and high intensity, you’ll be fully aware of your training the next day.

Training with dumbbells also provides some specific advantages:

Variety. 
Safety. 
Novelty. 
Even when performing an exercise that requires the barbell to be held in the hands, such as a straight leg deadlift (SLDL), the load placement still differs because the barbell is held in front of the legs, in contrast to performing SLDL’s with dumbbells where the dumbbells are held to the sides of the legs.
When the load placement differs the muscle recruitment pattern, by necessity, also changes. This variation in muscle recruitment helps keep both the stress of exercise and thus the rate of adaption elevated.
The following are some of my favorite dumbbell variations of the classic lower body barbell exercises. In terms of programming, use the same training protocol on dumbbell days as barbell days.
For example, if in a hypertrophy training cycle, do these dumbbell lower body exercises for 4 sets of 8-12 repetitions with 60 seconds of rest between sets. If in a strength cycle, perform 5 sets of 3-6 repetitions with 2 minutes rest between sets.
To assist you, exercise technique instructions are provided as well as common mistakes to avoid. Video demonstrations are also included, so that you can see the exercises performed correctly.

Dumbbell Squats

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Hold the dumbbells along the sides of the body.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Arch the back, keep the head up.
  • Maintaining an arched-back position, initiate the movement by sitting back at the hips.
  • Continue to sit back until a parallel thigh position has been achieved. The center of the hip joint should be at the same height as the center of the knee joint.
  • The heels should be down. The knees can drift slightly forward of the toes, be kept in line directly above the toes, or be lined up slightly behind the toes, depending upon what’s most comfortable to the athlete.
  • Leading with the head (as opposed to lifting the hips first) return to the starting position. The back should remain arched and the head should be up.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not achieving a parallel thigh position at the bottom of the movement.
  • Initiating the movement with the knee joint moving forward rather than initiating the movement with the hip sitting back. Often this can result in the heel lifting off the ground because of incorrect position.
  • Lowering the weight too quickly rather than controlling the movement during the descent.

Dumbbell One-Legged Squats

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Hold the dumbbells along the sides of the body.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Arch the back, keep the head up.
  • Reach back with the left leg and place the left foot on a bench or plyometric box that’s approximately knee height.
  • The right foot should be placed far enough forward of the bench that you are now in a lunge position.
  • Maintaining an arched-back position, initiate the movement by sitting back at the hips.
  • Continue to sit back until a parallel thigh position has been achieved. The center of the hip joint should be at the same height as the center of the knee joint.
  • The heels should be down. The knees can drift slightly forward of the toes, be kept in line directly above the toes, or be lined up slightly behind the toes, depending upon what is most comfortable to the athlete.
  • Leading with the head (as opposed to lifting the hips first) return to the starting position. The back should remain arched and the head should be up.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not achieving a parallel thigh position at the bottom of the movement. This is especially common when performing a one-leg squat so emphasize correct depth.
  • Initiating the movement with the knee joint moving forward rather than initiating the movement with the hip sitting back. Often this results in the heel lifting off the ground because of incorrect position.
  • Lowering the weight too quickly rather than controlling the movement during the descent.

Dumbbell Front Squats

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Place the dumbbells front to back on the shoulders, with the back end of the dumbbells resting on the shoulders. The hands should continue to grasp the dumbbells, with the elbows held high so that the dumbbells are level rather than the front end being lower than the back end.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Arch the back, keep the head up.
  • Maintaining an arched back position, initiate the movement by sitting back at the hips.
  • Continue to sit back until a parallel thigh position has been achieved. The center of the hip joint should be at the same height as the center of the knee joint.
  • The heels should be down. The knees can drift slightly forward of the toes, be kept in line directly above the toes, or be lined up slightly behind the toes, depending upon what is most comfortable to the athlete.
  • Leading with the head (as opposed to lifting the hips first), return to the starting position. The back should remain arched and the head should be up.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise. Focusing on keeping the elbows high will help eliminate this problem.
  • Not achieving a parallel thigh position at the bottom of the movement.
  • Initiating the movement with the knee joint moving forward rather than initiating the movement with the hip sitting back. Often this results in the heel lifting off the ground because of incorrect position.
  • Lowering the weight too quickly rather than controlling the movement during the descent.

Dumbbell One-Legged Front Squats

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Place the dumbbells front to back on the shoulders, with the back end of the dumbbells resting on the shoulders. The hands should continue to grasp the dumbbells, with the elbows held high so that the dumbbells are level rather than the front end being lower than the back end.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Arch the back, keep the head up.
  • Reach back with the left leg and place the left foot on a bench or plyometric box that’s approximately knee height.
  • The right foot should be placed far enough forward of the bench that you’re now in a lunge position.
  • Maintaining an arched-back position, initiate the movement by sitting back at the hips.
  • Continue to sit back until a parallel thigh position has been achieved. The center of the hip joint should be at the same height as the center of the knee joint.
  • The heels should be down. The knees can drift slightly forward of the toes, be kept in line directly above the toes, or be lined up slightly behind the toes, depending upon what is most comfortable to the athlete.
  • Leading with the head (as opposed to lifting the hips first) return to the starting position. The back should remain arched and the head should be up.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not achieving a parallel thigh position at the bottom of the movement. This is especially common when performing a one-leg squat so emphasize correct depth.
  • Initiating the movement with the knee joint moving forward rather than initiating the movement with the hip sitting back. Often times this can result in the heel lifting off the ground because of incorrect position.
  • Lowering the weight too quickly rather than controlling the movement during the descent.

Dumbbell Lateral Squats

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Assume a stance that’s substantially wider than shoulder-width.
  • Hold the dumbbells at arm’s length in a line directly under the shoulders.
  • Keeping the left leg straight squat back and to the right.
  • Lower the hips through a full comfortable range of motion.
  • The right knee can drift slightly forward of the right foot, be kept in line directly above the right foot, or be lined up slightly behind the right foot, depending upon what’s most comfortable to the athlete.
  • The back should remain arched and the head should stay up through performance of the exercise.
  • Return to the starting position and then repeat in the opposite direction until the desired number of repetitions has been completed.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not lowering the hips through the full comfortable range of motion.
  • Allowing the knee of the leg that’s supposed to remain straight to bend.Ê For example, when lowering to the right the right knee should bend but the left knee should remain fully extended.

Dumbbell Lunges

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Keeping the left leg stationary, step out directly forward through an exaggerated range of motion with the right leg.
  • At the forward position the right knee should be over or slightly forward of the right foot, the left leg should be bent with the left knee just off the floor, and the back should be arched with the head up.
  • Return to the starting position with the right leg and repeat the movement with the left leg.
  • Make sure to return to the starting position in one aggressive step; don’t take more than one step to return to the starting position.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not taking a full stride length step as you move to the forward position.
  • Allowing the knee of the rear leg to touch the ground.
  • Taking more than one step to return to the starting position.

Dumbbell Side Lunges

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Keeping the left leg fully extended take a long direct lateral step to the right.
  • Once you plant your right foot, shift the hips back so you achieve a full comfortable depth and range of motion.
  • Keep the back arched and the head up during performance of the exercise.
  • Return to a shoulder-width stance with one aggressive step.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Allowing the knee of the “post” leg to bend rather than keeping it fully extended.
  • Taking an incomplete recovery step so that a shoulder-width stance isn’t achieved before initiating the next lateral step.

Dumbbell Arch Lunges

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Imagine an arch in front of you, each point of the arch is a stride’s length away from you.
  • Divide the arch up into sections based on the number of repetitions you have to perform.
  • The first repetition will be to the bottom right corner of the arch, the last repetition will be to the bottom left corner of the arch.
  • Each step is a gradual progression across the arch, starting at the right corner and ending at the left corner.
  • Keeping the left leg fully extended take a long, direct lateral step to the bottom right corner of the arch.
  • Once you plant your right foot, shift the hips back so you achieve a full comfortable depth and range of motion.
  • Keep the back arched and the head up during performance of the exercise.
  • Return to a shoulder-width stance with one aggressive step.
  • The next step will be a gradual progression towards the opposite side of the arch.
  • Continue until all the repetitions have been completed and you’ve progressed from one corner of the arch to the opposite corner.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not returning to a shoulder-width stance before initiating the next step.
  • Not progressing in sequence from one corner of the arch to the opposite corner with each step.
  • No steps should be directly forward to the center of the arch. Every step should involve an angled step.
  • Every lunge across the arch should involve a full range of motion.

Dumbbell Hockey Lunges

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Keeping the left leg stationary, step out at an angle that places the foot 18″-24″ wider than shoulder width (depending upon leg length) through an exaggerated range of motion with the right leg.
  • At the forward position the right knee should be over or slightly forward of the right foot, the left leg should be bent with the left knee just off the floor, and the back should be arched with the head up.
  • Return to the starting position with the right leg and repeat the movement with the left leg, taking that same 18″-24″ wider than shoulder-width step with the left leg.
  • Make sure to return to the starting position in one aggressive step; don’t take more than one step to return to the starting position.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not taking a full stride length step as you move to the forward position.
  • Making the lateral step too narrow rather than achieving the desired width.
  • Allowing the knee of the rear leg to touch the ground.
  • Taking more than one step to return to the starting position.

Dumbbell Reverse Lunges

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Keeping the left leg stationary, step out directly backwards through an exaggerated range of motion with the right leg.
  • At the back position the left knee should be over or slightly forward of the left foot, the right leg should be bent with the right knee just off the floor, and the back should be arched with the head up.
  • Return to the starting position with the right leg and repeat the movement with the left leg.
  • Make sure to return to the starting position in one aggressive step; don’t take more than one step to return to the starting position.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not taking a full stride length step as you move to the backward position.
  • Allowing the knee of the rear leg to touch the ground.
  • Taking more than one step to return to the starting position.

Dumbbell Pivot Lunges

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Pivot on the right foot, twist the body to the right, and lunge in a direction toward the back and to the right of the starting position.
  • At the end position the left knee should be over or slightly forward of the left foot, the right leg should be bent with the right knee just off the floor, and the back should be arched with the head up.
  • Return to a shoulder-width stance with one aggressive step.
  • Repeat in the opposite direction.
  • Foot placement can vary during performance of the exercise – there isn’t one correct foot placement so the angle during the pivot can be varied each repetition.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not taking a full stride length step as you move to the pivot position.
  • Allowing the knee of the rear leg to touch the ground.
  • Taking more than one step to return to the starting position.

Dumbbell Straight Leg Deadlifts

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Assume a shoulder width stance.
  • Lock and then slightly unlock the knees; maintain this slightly unlocked position during performance of the exercise.
  • Arch the back, lift the head, and maintain this position during performance of the exercise.
  • Keeping the knees slightly unlocked and the back arched, pivot at the hips and slide the dumbbells down the lateral portion of the legs through a full comfortable range of motion.
  • Return to the starting position maintaining the position at the knees and back.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Allowing the knees to flex beyond the slightly unlocked position during performance of the exercise.
  • Allowing the dumbbells to drift forward during the lowering portion of the exercise rather than keeping them on the lateral portion of the legs.
  • Performing the movement through an incomplete range of motion.

Wrap Up

Dumbbells For Massive Legs
Squats are still the “king of exercises” and you can’t beat deadlifts for building brute strength, but even the most stripped down lifter needs a little variety from time to time.
For some lower body variations that are both challenging and build serious size and strength, take a look beyond the barbell. Take some (or all) of these dumbbell variations out for a test drive and stay ahead of your body’s adaptation curve

Knee-Friendly Quad Builders

Knee-Friendly Quad Builders
As much as a beastly set of quads can really set you apart from the chest and arms crowd, training the quads hard and heavy can be problematic. Many of the best quad exercises put a lot of stress on the knees, hence their “knee dominant” classification.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’ve got healthy knees, but if you don’t, well, your quest to build tree trunks for quads will be an uphill battle.
You essentially have three choices:
Option 1: Ignore your knee pain and train through it. Better yet, just get some knee wraps and wrap em’ up as tight as possible. Buy your ibuprofen in bulk from Costco. You won’t feel a thing. Woot!
I’m kidding. Having gone this route many times before, I can tell you it’s a losing proposition.  It may seem cool at the time, and some of your lifting buddies might say you’re “hardcore,” but when you’re hobbling around and struggling to go up and down stairs, it’s not so cool.
Option 2: Stop training your quads altogether and resign yourself to a lifetime of sweatpants and chicken legs. I mean, let’s be honest, by the time someone of the opposite sex sees your quads, you should have already sealed the deal.
Again, I’m kidding.
Option 3: Get creative and find ways to blast your quads without hurting your knees.
That sounds best to me, so let’s roll with that. Here are some exercises to help.

1. Landmine Reverse Lunges

Landmine reverse lunges are a great knee-friendly alternative to regular lunges, or even regular reverse lunges.
Start by putting one end of a barbell in the landmine unit and holding the other end in your left hand, 1-2 inches in front of your thigh. Keeping your chest up, take a big step back with your left leg while simultaneously reaching your left arm slightly forward.
In the bottom position, your left hand should be approximately in line with your right shin. From there, push through the heel of the right foot and return to the start position.
Repeat with your other leg.
It should look like this:

The barbell functions as a counterbalance, allowing you to take a much bigger step back than what would normally be possible with traditional loading methods, thereby encouraging you to maintain a completely vertical tibia, which in turn helps take stress off the knee joint.
If you try keeping a vertical shin in a standard lunge or reverse lunge using standard loading methods, it’s extremely difficult to execute. Using the landmine, it’s no problem at all.
Moreover, this variation provides offset contralateral loading, which increases glute recruitment and helps to build hip, core, and pelvic stability while also developing grip strength (since you’re forced to hold the thick part of the barbell).
I don’t recommend loading the bar up with too much weight because it can be tricky to handle heavy loads so far out in front of your body, and you don’t want to risk a lower back injury. This is a tough exercise to begin with so you probably won’t need a lot of external resistance anyway, but if you do, try adding a weighted vest.

2. Valslide Landmine Reverse Lunges

Knee-Friendly Quad Builders
To make landmine reverse lunges even more knee-friendly, try adding in Valslides or a slideboard for the reverse lunges.
Do the reps in a slow and controlled fashion and focus on keeping your weight on the heel of the working leg as you slide back as far as you can go, all without losing your balance or having your chest collapse forward.
When you reach the bottom position, think about pulling through the glute of the front leg rather than pushing with the quad. Don’t worry, your quads will still get plenty of work.
Here’s what it looks like in action:

If you watch the video, you’ll notice that the shin of the front leg hardly moves at all during the set and the tibia stays completely vertical throughout. Being that our goal is to deload the knee, that’s a good thing.
If you continue watching, you’ll also notice that I’m able to slide  back; much farther back than you can step in a regular reverse lunge and even a little farther back than you can go in a landmine reverse lunge without the slide pad.
Along with making for one hell of a hip flexor stretch, this encourages a posterior weight shift to take pressure off the knee of the front working leg. Better still, it also limits knee flexion in the rear leg, which again is great for folks suffering from knee pain – sometimes the rear leg experiences pain during lunges when forced to bend excessively and absorb the impact of stepping backwards.

3. Rear Foot (Slightly) Elevated Split Squats

Rear foot elevated split squats (RFESS), a.k.a. Bulgarian split squats, are one of my absolute favorite exercises for building the quads. That said, they aren’t always tolerated well by those suffering from knee pain.
Sometimes the pain is in the front leg, which can usually be cleared up by taking a longer stride and focusing on keeping as much of a vertical tibia as possible.
Interestingly enough, most complaints of knee pain during this exercise are usually related to pain in the rear leg. If that’s the case, the issue can often be ameliorated simply by not elevating the rear leg quite so high.
Most of the time you’ll see RFESS done using a standard weight bench, which depending on the manufacturer is typically somewhere between 17-19 inches. While that height is fine for most people, those experiencing knee pain in the rear leg should try using a 9-12 inch box instead and see if that helps.
Make sure to plantarflex the rear ankle and set up “laces down” on the box to avoid pushing through your toes. Do the reps in a slow and controlled fashion and focus on keeping your weight on the heel of the front foot, like so:

With the shorter box you can clearly see that knee flexion of the rear leg is dramatically reduced as compared to doing them on a full-sized bench. In that regard, it’s very similar to doing a regular split squat with the back leg on the floor.
I like split squats too as a teaching tool, but I don’t like loading them heavy because there’s a strong tendency to cheat and use the back leg too much as the weights get heavier.
I’d much prefer to progress to a RFESS with laces down and just limit the height of the box if need be, focusing on keeping the majority of the weight on the front leg.
Make sure you’re stretching and foam rolling your quads and hip flexors too, as that should also help a lot. In time you should be able to go back to using a full size bench, but until you can do so completely pain-free, don’t push it.

4. Eccentric One-Leg Squats

Knee-Friendly Quad Builders
I’d always thought of eccentric single-leg squats as an effective learning progression to work towards full single-leg squats (which it is), but I learned from Mike Boyle that it can also be a fantastic alternative exercise for individuals dealing with knee pain. After trying it out extensively, I think it works well in both scenarios.
To do them, simply lower down to a parallel box on one leg and come back up on two legs:

The key here is to control the eccentric portion of the rep and not just free-fall down to the box. If you’re unable to control it, raise the height of the box until you can and then slowly increase the depth over time.
If you’re new to single-leg squats and just can’t seem to get the hang of them, try doing these to a standard bench using 5-pound dumbbells in your hands to serve as a counterbalance.
[Insert Pic Ben Single Leg]
Once you can do five reps with 4-5 second eccentrics, you should be all set to do full single-leg squats.
If you’re more advanced and can already do single-leg squats but find they irritate your knees, the eccentric-only version may allow you to do them pain-free. Using a box allows you to sit back farther and keep a more vertical tibia than doing them without the box.
I’m using a front squat grip in the video above because I’ve done these for a long time and have progressed quite a bit in weight, but I recommend starting by holding 5-10 pound dumbbells in your hands and raising them straight-out to shoulder level as you descend. Having your arms out in front helps tremendously with balance so do it that way first until you’re completely comfortable and need to add more load.

5. Deadlifts

Knee-Friendly Quad Builders
You know those people that say a deadlift is just a squat with the weight in your hands and cue you to get your butt way down low before you pull? As someone who loves to deadlift – and deadlift heavy – that advice always used to annoy me because it’s clearly not the best way to pull heavy weights.
I also think it can be dangerous to pull in this manner because almost every time I see someone set up for a near-maximal deadlift with their hips too low, they almost invariably shoot up before the bar breaks the floor and the person ends up rounding his lower back something awful.
So if your goal is to move as much weight as possible, a low hip position isn’t the best way to go.
But this article isn’t about the best way to deadlift as much weight as possible. We’re talking about working the quads here, and if that’s the goal, a lower hip position deadlift where you try to visualize squatting the weight up can be a pretty damn good exercise that’s much more knee-friendly than squatting.
Start by getting your butt down and your chest up with your weight on your heels. As you break the bar off the floor, it’s imperative that the hips and shoulders stay in sync in order to protect your back and keep the stress on your legs.
You’re going to have to drop the weights significantly to do this correctly. I’d even start with 30-40% of what you think you can deadlift normally as you adjust to the new technique. It’s important to be strict with these, both for the health of your back, and to make sure the stress stays on the quads.
I know that seems extremely light, but if you’re doing it right, your quads will feel it. You don’t have to stay super light forever and your numbers should climb quickly, but don’t add weight at the expense of form. The devil is in the details with these.
From time to time I also like to do them from a slight deficit to increase the range of motion. If doing so causes you knee pain, or you don’t have the requisite mobility to get that low with a flat back, avoid pulling from a deficit and just pull from the floor.
My favorite stance is what I’d call “semi-sumo” with my feet slightly wider than shoulder width. If you remove the bar from the equation and just look at the movement, this really looks more like a parallel squat.

You can also pull conventional, but I think the low hip conventional deadlift can be a bit riskier on the lower back, and I don’t feel it quite as much in my quads. Interestingly, I actually pull weight more conventional style than I do sumo, but sumo just feels better. If you choose to pull conventional, be extra careful not to let the hips shoot up as you initiate the pull.

If you’re lucky enough to have a trap bar at your gym, that’s another option too. I like the trap bar a lot, but I find that when my knees are bothering me it can be problematic, so keep that in mind.

Experiment with all the different variations and find what you like best.

6. Reverse Sled Drags

Reverse sled drags have been my biggest staple quad exercise for the past eight months and I’ve managed to add some muscle to my legs, despite not doing a ton of other heavy “quad” work. I’m certainly not advocating ditching all heavy lifting in favor of sled drags, but I do think it’s a great way to finish your lower body workouts, or even as a standalone on days when your knees just aren’t up for the task.
I’m not talking about taking a leisurely stroll at the end of the workout, though. In order for the sled drags to be a viable way to build muscle, you’ve got to push them (or pull them, rather) hard, just like you would any strength exercise. If you aren’t hating life while you’re pulling, you ain’t doing it right.
I’m hesitant to give specific recommendations on how to implement sled work because so much of it depends on the surface you’re pulling on and the space you have available.
As a point of reference, I’ve pulled up to 1,100 pounds on one indoor turf surface I use. On another outdoor turf surface, I top out around 650 pounds, and when I pull on rubber I struggle with 300 pounds. Don’t worry about the amount of weight you use – just worry about increasing that number over time.
Distance will vary depending on your space limitations. If possible, start with heavy drags of about 25-30 yards each. Start with four trips and gradually work up to 6-8 trips.
If that’s not specific enough for you, here’s a good general rule: go as heavy as you think you can go – plus a little bit – for as far as you think you can go (plus a little bit).
I’m not saying to get reckless, and you obviously need to exercise a certain degree of caution, but too many people wuss out at the slightest sign of a quad burn. Sorry, there’s no way to get around that – but the cool thing about sleds is that while they burn like hell while you’re doing them, they won’t leave you too sore the next day, so remind yourself of that while you’re pulling.
You need to push past your comfort zone to get results, but that goes for just about anything worth doing in life.

Closing Words

If knee pain has kept you from training your quads like you know you should, or the current exercises you’re doing are making your knees bark at the moon, give some of this stuff a shot and see how it goes.
And it should go without saying, but if any exercise hurts, stop doing it. Don’t try to be a hero.
Lastly, these exercises aren’t just for those of us with bad knees, nor do you have to wait until you have bad knees to start doing knee-friendly training. Even if your knees are feeling good at the moment, it might still be wise to sprinkle some of these exercises into your program to give your knees a little break so they stay healthy for the long haul.
It may require a little bit of imagination to find exercises that don’t hurt, but one way or another, almost anyone can build a set of wheels they can be proud of if you’re willing to put in the work.
Remember, friends don’t let friends skip leg day.

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