Anatomy of the Leg: Here we will focus on the muscles above the knee. The front of the legs is referred as the quads; short for quadriceps. They consist of four muscles. Two important muscles that help stabilize the patella (knee cap) are the vastus medialis (the tear drop muscle on the inside of the leg) and the vastus lateralis (the outside muscle of the leg. In addition we have the rectus femoris and the vastus intermedius. The back of the legs consists of the glutes and the hamstrings.

Different Stances Work Different Areas: A narrow stance will target more the vastus lateralis (outside of the leg) while a wide stance will focus on the inner thighs and increase the recruitment of the glutes. Squatting deeply will recruit more glutes and the vastus medialis, a great thing for healthy knees.

To Squat or Not to Squat: The answer is a loud and clear YES. The squat is often referred as the king of exercises and for good reason. It gives you the most bang for your buck. In addition, squatting will strengthen your core and your bones. Squats have been getting bad press for a very long time with comments along the lines that you will hurt your knees. Many of the rumors about squats hurting the knees are based on a study done by Dr. Karl Klein dating back to 1961. The study used a device, which Klein had built, to measure the amount of medial and lateral give in the knee. Without getting in too many details, Klein concluded that squats created instability in two knee ligaments. The fallout of Dr. Klein study is that it was never duplicated. The fact is that every legitimate study on this subject has shown that squats will improve knee stability and therefore reduce the risk of injuries. Caution is too be exercised when you are a beginner or if you have any hip, knee or ankle conditions. Always start by using lighter weights until you are comfortable doing the motion.

Joint Health: Deep squats will do wonders for your hip health. Deep means your thighs will go below parallel. At first this will feel very awkward, with time it will become very natural. Important note: do not use the same weight you were previously using. You will have to lower the load since these are a lot harder to do. Things to watch out for: Do not look down. Avoid letting your knees buckle in. Do not let your heels come off the ground. Your back should always be in a neutral position, not rounded nor overly arched. Go down slowly (the eccentric portion of the exercise) and up at the speed of your choice. Unless you are an advanced lifter, your eccentric should always be slower than you concentric.

Posterior Chain: What is it anyways? The posterior chain has been getting a lot of press lately. It seems every health and fitness magazine has an article about it. In simple terms, the muscles comprising the posterior chain are your lower back, the glutes and the hamstrings. They are crucial muscles that need to be strengthened in order to avoid low back disorders. An interesting fact is that for these muscles, as for all core muscles, higher reps developing endurance will be more beneficial than developing strength. The reason being that we constantly use those muscles at 5-10% of their maximal voluntary contraction on a daily basis. Rarely do we use our core and lower back for a one rep maximum lift. Hence the need for endurance versus strength.

No Circus Training: We’ve all seen the really cool videos (and wipeouts) on Youtube: standing on a stability ball while doing squats or something similar. The muscles in the human body are in the same place as they were 30 years ago. People in the 60’s and 70’s developed great physiques without all the bell and whistles we have today. Barbells and dumbbells worked back then and they still do! It is nice to add some diversity in your routine, just remember to ask yourself what outcome you desire from the exercise and if the risk is worth the reward.

Putting It All Together:

Leg Exercises

*For instructional videos please visit the blog section on and look for the Humber Happening Leg Workout Video.

Understanding the program:

The letters represent the order for each exercise. For example, you start with A1 and perform 10-12 repetitions, rest 20 seconds and then proceed to A2, do 8-10 repetitions, wait 60 seconds and then go back to A1. Perform this for 3 sets and then move on to B1 and B2.

Exercises Description:

Deep Squats: Muscles Targeted: quads, hamstrings, glutes.

With the barbell resting on your shoulders, place your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Originate the movement by bending at the hips and then at the knees while keeping your torso upright. Squat as low as you can and then push yourself back up.

Leg Curls: Muscle Targeted: Hamstrings

Lie face down on a leg curl machine, place the pads slightly above your heel. Keeping your hips down, curl your legs upward, trying to touch your heel to your glutes.

Step Ups: Muscles Targeted: Hamstrings, glutes, quads

Place one foot on a bench or step, without pushing with the foot on the floor, rise yourself upright. Apply resistance when coming down to the starting position.

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift: Lower back, glutes, hamstrings

Standing upright, hold a pair of dumbbells and let them rest on your thighs. Place your feet at 4 to 6 inches apart and keep your knees slightly bent. This is your starting position. From here, push your hips back, this will make you lean forward, bend forward until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. From the bottom position, focus on pushing your hips forward to go back to your starting postion.

Deadlift: Muscles Targeted: quads, low back, glutes, hamstrings

Holding a barbell slightly wider than shoulder width, stand shoulder width apart, bent down at the hips and knees while maintaining your back in its natural curve (neutral spine). Always look straight ahead. Lower the bar until your reach mid chin and then using your legs, lift yourself back up.

Standing Calf Raises:

Holding a dumbbell in one hand and using the other hand to keep your balance, place the ball of your feet at the edge of a step. Your legs are slightly bent. From here, lower your heels until they almost touch the floor and you feel a stretch in your calves. Rise yourself up using your calf muscles only. Slowly lower yourself to the starting position.