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A woman doing an elevated squat with one leg on a bench and one on the floor while holding a dumbbell.

Strength training is an essential part of anyone’s fitness regimen. And it’s important for all muscle groups to be given attention, especially your legs and glutes, which are responsible for powering so much of your function throughout the day.

Before you push it too hard, however, it’s critical to first establish a foundation to ensure you have proper mechanics and don’t overdo it.

“The movements in this workout are going to build a good base for strength training by working on your stabilization and conditioning, which is often the first phase of most training programs,” says Francisco Padilla, RD, CPT, who has an MS in sports nutrition dietetics and is an in-club and virtual personal trainer and nutrition coach based at Life Time in Parker, Colo.

“Stabilization and conditioning work are great starting points for new training clients because it enables us to establish baselines for training and identify any movement compensations,” adds Padilla. “For more experienced clients, it’s still a helpful phase to include in programming to add different stresses and challenges to the body. It’s also a critical phase to cycle back through between training periods in other phases.”

Whether you’re aiming to form or further increase your foundation, try this easy-to-follow workout developed by Padilla which uses the weight of your body and some simple equipment to improve your lower-body strength.

Equipment needed:

  • Lighter-weight dumbbells (choose a weight where you’ll be able to perform four sets of at least 15 reps)
  • Step-up box
  • Mat
  • Quad extension machine
  • Hamstring curl machine

Front Squat with Dumbbells

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Grip two dumbbells and bend your elbows to bring them to shoulder height in front of your chest. Let one side of the dumbbells rest on the top portion of your chest.
  • Lower into a squat position while keeping the dumbbells up at chest height.
  • Use your legs to push up through the floor to return to a standing position.
  • Complete four sets of 15 to 20 reps at a slow tempo.

Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat

  • Hold two dumbbells with your arms straight at the sides of your body.
  • Stand in front of a step-up box. Place one foot back on the step-up box so your toes are resting on it. You should be far enough away from the box that your back leg is straight at this point. Keep your front foot flat on the floor.
  • Stand tall with a slight forward lean, keeping your chest slightly over your front foot.
  • Lunge down until you feel the stretch in your glutes and back-leg hamstring.
  • Push up through the floor.
  • Complete four sets of 15 to 20 reps at a slow tempo. Complete the movement on both sides to complete one set.

Single-Leg Elevated, Weighted Glute Bridge

  • Lay on a mat. Bend one leg to place your foot on a step-up box, while lifting your other leg in the air and bending at a 90-degree angle, foot flexed.
  • Grab one dumbbell with both hands and place it below your belly button.
  • Keeping your shoulders on the ground, push through your heel on the box, lifting your hips off the ground and squeezing your glutes.
  • Lower with control, then repeat.
  • Complete four sets of 15 to 20 reps at a slow tempo. Complete the movement on both sides to complete one set.

Seated Leg Extensions

  • Sit at a quad extension machine and adjust it accordingly to ensure your knees are next to the hinge point on the machine (on Life Time equipment, this is indicated by a red dot). Put your legs behind the leg bar to ensure the shin padding is directly in front of your ankles. Set to a light weight (one where you’ll be able to perform four sets of at least 15 reps).
  • Grab the side handles and lift your legs to extend them forward, taking a quick pause at full extension. Make sure to keep your glutes on the seat.
  • Lower with control, then repeat.
  • Complete four sets of 15 to 20 reps at a slow tempo.

Seated Hamstring Curl

  • Sit at a hamstring curl machine and adjust it accordingly to ensure your knees are next to the hinge point on the machine (on Life Time equipment, this is indicated by a red dot). Put your legs on top of the leg bar to ensure the shin padding is directly behind your ankles. Bring down the lap bar to ensure your legs do not lift up during the movement. Set to a light weight (one where you’ll be able to perform four sets of at least 15 reps).
  • Grab the handles on the lap bar and lift to curl your legs, taking a quick pause at the full curl. Make sure to keep your glutes on the seat.
  • Lower with control, then repeat.
  • Complete four sets of 15 to 20 reps at a slow tempo.
Callie Chase
Callie Fredrickson

Callie Fredrickson is a content editor at Life Time.

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