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The gluteus maximus — also known as your glutes or buttocks — is the largest muscle in your body, followed closely by the quadriceps and hamstrings in your legs. These muscles have an important job: keeping you upright as you stand, walk, and go about your day.

“Strong legs build a solid foundation for the rest of your body,” says Ebonny Fowler, group fitness performer at several Life Time locations in New York City. “Working these muscles through functional movements can improve your lifestyle. For example, squats mimic the same everyday movement used to get out of a chair, and deadlifts mimic the same movement you do to bend over and pick something up off the floor.”

Jadi Collado, group fitness performer at Life Time in King of Prussia, Pa., agrees. “The muscles in our legs quite literally hold our bodies! Strength training for your legs helps build muscle, reduce injury, and improve your overall fitness.”

Fowler and Collado both teach MAXOUT Lower Body at Life Time, a class that focuses on movements to strengthen your lower body, including all the muscles from your glutes to your calves.

“MAXOUT Lower Body is a fun class designed to strengthen the muscles in and around your legs and glutes,” says Fowler.

“It’s your leg day — but better!” Collado adds.

To get an idea of what this class is like, we asked Fowler and Collado to demonstrate three exercises commonly performed in MAXOUT Lower Body.

1. Dumbbell Swing

“Dumbbell swings target your glutes and hamstrings, can boost your strength, power, and speed, and elevate your heart rate,” says Fowler. “You have the option to use one dumbbell or two.”

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  • Hinge at the hips and swing the dumbbell(s) behind you.
    • If you use one dumbbell, hold it with two hands and swing it in between your legs.
    • If you use two dumbbells, hold one in each hand, and swing them on the outside of your legs.
  • Squeeze your butt as you stand up straight and drive your hips forward.
  • As you come back to a standing position, move the dumbbell(s) up to the height of your chest with your arms out in front of you.
  • Repeat.

2. Pop Squat to Jump Squat

“Both the pop squat and the jump squat are considered plyometric exercises,” says Collado. “Most ‘plyo’ exercises are meant to build power and speed, but some of my favorite benefits of these moves are that they help with balance and coordination while building your cardiovascular system by pushing you to breathlessness.”

  • Begin with your feet planted on the floor, shoulder width apart or slightly wider.
  • Sink down into a squat position and quickly lift yourself up from the squat, moving off the floor with a jump. Land softly on your feet and sink right back into a second squat.
  • Then, quickly jump your feet inward and right back out for the “pop.”
  • Repeat.

3. Lateral Leg Raise to Kickstand Squat Pulse

“This move challenges your balance and stability with unilateral movement,” says Fowler. “Many people don’t realize their dominant side may be overcompensating and doing more of the work in bilateral exercises, such as a basic squat. Unilateral exercises, like a single-leg squat, help to train both sides equally. This variation of a kickstand squat is essentially a single-leg squat with slight support from the moving leg.”

  • Place a mini loop band around your thighs, right above your knees.
  • Start with your feet hip width apart.
  • Lift your left leg up to your left side until you feel tension from the band and pulse for two counts.
  • Lower your left leg down but keep your heel lifted off the floor.
  • Bend your knees and sit back into a squat.
  • Pulse your squat for two counts before straightening your legs and returning to a standing position.
  • Complete the movement with your right leg.
  • Repeat on both sides.
Emily Ewen

Emily Ewen is a senior writer and content editor at Life Time.

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