Lower body strength and quality of movement has a greater effect on fitness, athletic performance, and every day life. Lower body strength allows you to create a greater ground reaction force, or the force that we place into the ground to jump, run, and even walk. Studies have shown that increase in squat strength can lead to up to a 10% increase in vertical jump height and sprint speed. Greater lower body strength will also allow you to better express upper body strength while on your feet, because nothing we do functionally or athletically requires us laying on our back or sitting in a chair. Also, aesthetically it helps us look better, ever seen that guy who looks like he only works his upper body??
I like to break my lower body exercises into two separate actions, pushing and pulling. Squatting exercises would fall into the pressing categories and deadlift varieties would fall into the pulling categories. Lower body exercises could also be grouped into knee dominant(squatting) and hip dominant or hip hinge(deadlift) . These movements are apart of all aspects of daily activities such as picking up and moving heavy furniture(pulling) to jumping to grab a rebound (pressing).
Now traditional squats and deadlifts are not the only way to train these movements. To training the “pressing movements”, I include single leg squats and all types of lunges into my training. Using single leg exercises, help with creating balance and do not allow one side to take most of the load. Single leg exercises also help in training proprioception(balance). For the pulling movements, I implement Romanian Deadlifts(can also be done single leg), KB swings, and Hip Thrusts. If you have not seen or done a hip thrust, it has recently become on of my favorite exercises to hit my glutes. It has also help bring my deadlift along. Below is a link to a video of the hip thrust which you may think looks like a weighted bridge.
If you notice, many of the exercises I mentioned are standing up and not in machines. I will leave the reasoning behind this for another day. Please feel free to share your thoughts on lower body training. Also, if you have any questions about form or variations please feel free to comment below.