Leg Weights Exercises
This is the first part of the Clean and Jerk performed in Weight Lifting competitions. Although you hold the bar with your hands and as such may think of cleans as an arm exercise, it is your legs that should be doing the bulk of the work. Hold the bar on the floor, just over shoulder width apart with you legs bent at about 90° and, very importantly, keeping your back straight. This will be helped by looking straight out in front of you, some people even try to look up a bit to keep their backs straight. This is very important in all types of weight training involving lifting.
Lift the bar straight up keeping your elbows high and when it is high enough (approximately half way up your ribs) you "jump" under the bar flicking your wrists under it, bend you legs and straighten up from the squating position. Hence during cleans you will bend you legs twice for one lift.
It is important to stress that, particularly with cleans and snatch which are a little complicated to learn, you must get help or tuition if you are not 100% happy with what you are doing. No-one should try to learn this exercise from scratch without the supervision of someone experienced in the technique - and even then start with very low weights.
In the past it was advised that you only bent your legs to 90 degrees whilst performing squats. Now the advice is to go as deep as you can, ideally bring your hips to a point lower than your knees, but following the rules below to significant injury risk
Place feet shoulder width apart, feet pointing out slightly (about '5 to 1' on a clock) with the bar resting on your deltoid muscles (not your spine).
Tense the muscles of you back and stomach, ensuring you back is straight (not curving out) the whole way through the lift. Keeping your feet flat on the floor descend until your hips are lower than your knees. Ensure you knees point out along your toes.
Drive up by extending your hips until you reach the standing position you started in.
Similar lift to Cleans, and the other lift competed in at the Olympic Games. The starting position is similar to Cleans except you will be a little lower and you hands further apart. Again keep your back straight (looking ahead of you instead of down helps this) and pull the bar up vertically.
Instead of "jumping under the bar" and resting it on your chest, you keep you arms straight and hoist it right over your head
These are identical to the regular back squats listed above, but with one major difference. Instead of resting the bar on your deltoids, you hold it in the finish position for the snatch above your head.
This means that you have to use the strength in your upper back in particular whilst performing the squat to hold the position required.
This is an excellent exercise for improving the strength in a vast number of different muscles, particularly core muscles, as well as, obviously quadriceps.
Stiff Leg Dead Lift
This is a hamstring exercise - and probably the best one for athletes to use.
Pick the bar up with your hands slightly further than shoulder width apart. Make sure you keep you back straight as you do so - picking it up from a bent knee position until you are standing upright with it. This is the start position.
Keeping your back straight, slowly lower the bar keeping it very close (no more than an inch away) or touching you legs - when you feel your hamstrings are tight and stretched, then lift it up again in a reverse motion up to the starting position.
Squat Jumps are useful for the development of power in your legs and also for getting your legs used to high levels of lactic acid, particularly of use for 400m and 800m runners, but others as well.
Squat Jumps are the same as the squat above, but, instead of going the whole way down this time you decend to about the point where your knee forms are right angle. Then from that position you lift up the bar and your body, forming what is referred to as triple point extension (something very useful to runners as it is what we do on every stride when running well) where the hip, knee and ankle joints are all fully extended. Go through this position and jump off the floor before landing as gently as possible and repeating the action.
Care need to be taken that the bar is positionned correctly on your shoulders to avoid hurting you neck and back when you land the jump.
Again the step up is an additional leg exercise to develop the muscles in our legs. It does a similar job to some of the others, but is useful as it works the calf muscles and in particular the soleus a little more than the other ones.
Get the bar in the same position as you would for a squat. Then step up onto a platform or solid chair at about 18 inches in height. Do on one leg before repeating on the other. Remember as with all lifts to keep you back straight and core tense as you step up.
From the picture you will see this requires the use of a machine. You will find that, because of the way in which various machines are set up, the weight you can lift will vary greatly from one to another. This is normal.
Lie on your front with your legs off the end of the bench and ankles under the lifting pad. In a smooth action bring your feet up towards you backside. Some people will be able to pull the weight the whole way over, whilst others will not have enough mobility for this. It is important that during the exercise you don't arch your back too much if you are struggling with the weight and this will place undue pressure on it.
Learn more / further reading
- Weights Main Page
- Upper Body Exercises
- Organising a Weights Session
- Weight Training Equipment Review