Leg Weights Exercises

Below are a range of exercises you might like to try to improve your leg strength and power (or have been asked to do by your coach). At Momentum Sports we believe strength training provides a great benefit to athletes, both through improved performance and injury prevention.


Targets: thighs, calf muscles, glutes, chest & shoulders

Suitable for: all athletic events, especially, sprints, jumps and throws

Overview and some pointers:

The power to move the bar for this exercise comes initially from the legs and through the ankles, knees and hips (ďtriple extensionĒ) not the arms. This is why itís a great exercise for all athletic events as triple extension is a requirement of them all. Donít pull on the bar with your arms until itís beyond your hips and your body is fully extended. The arm pull involves lifting the shoulders and then bending the arms as the body drops below the level of the upwardly travelling bar. You Ďcatchí the bar on your shoulders in the racked positon with your upper arms parallel to the floor.

With a heavy weight in particular the lower you are able to get below the bar as it moves upward the greater the likelihood that you will make the lift. You basically squat into position to receive the bar as you initiate the arm pull.


Targets: thighs, glutes, calf muscles

Suitable for: all athletic events

Overview and some pointers

Depth of squat is a debateable issue with some coaches recommending a full (near bottom to heels) level of lowering and others half-squats and three-quarter squats (where the knees are bent so that the thighs are parallel to the floor and at 135-degrees respectively). Much will depend on your level of training and flexibility. The deeper you squat the more the requirement for back, hamstring and calf muscle range of movement.

When starting out with weighted squats itís best to develop confidence over three-quarter and half-squat ranges before progressing deeper. Consult with your Momentum coach about deep squats. Virtually all athletic events donít require more than a 90-degree angle at the knee and for the vast majority the knees are only slightly bend when running and jumping, for example.

Always keep the bar secured to the back of your shoulders on the fleshy parts and away from the top of your spine.

Snatch / Power Snatch

Targets: thighs, glutes, calf muscles, upper arms, chest & shoulders

Suitable for: all athletic events, but particular, sprints, jumps and throws

Overview and some pointers:

Like the clean the power snatch is a very dynamic exercise and requires full concentration and commitment. Power to move the bar overhead is generated by the legs (ankles, knees and hips). Your arms, again as with the clean, Ďaidí the bar overhead. Lead with your elbows as the bar rises beyond your hips and you are on your toes and let the bar move to full armsí extension overhead. And again, as with the clean, you should drop under the bar on its way up by bending your knees and then extending into the end position, to make completing the lift easier.

This is a particularly advanced exercise in terms of technique and you must spend time mastering its technique before going heavy. You need good shoulder flexibility to get the bar into the correct overhead position and therefore you should not neglect working on this.

Overhead Squats

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 / Romanian Dead Lift

Targets: hamstrings, quads, glutes & back

Suitable for: all athletic events, especially sprints, jumps and throws

Overview and some pointers:

This is not a squat, the hinging movement to pull the bar into position comes from your bottom, hamstrings and back. Think opening your hips and pulling back to raise the weight. (Note your arms only hold the bar and donít contribute to the momentum of the exercise.)

When learning the exercise only lower the bar to around knee level as a lower depth requires very good from and otherwise can place undue strain on the back. Regardless you should always maintain the natural curves of your spine albeit braced.

If using a heavy weight use a squat rack set at an appropriate height to avoid having to overextend the back when placing the bar on the floor at the end of each set.

Squat Jumps

Targets: thighs, calf muscles, glutes

Suitable for: all athletic events

Overview and some pointers:

The jump squat is a great exercise for developing explosive power. It combines a plyometric movement with added resistance. A plyometric exercise uses the natural elasticity of your muscles to increase power and force production. Unlike with the squat, the depth of lowering for the jump squat should be around the three-quarter level. The key requirement is to try to transition between the landing and the reaction into another jump as quickly as possible Ė but safely. Doing this will generate the highest level of power and this is what is key to maximising athletic performance whatever your event.

Itís important also that you keep the bar pulled into the back of your shoulders so that it does not bounce off and on to your neck as you jump and land.

The exercise can also be performed holding dumbbells at armsí length.

Step Ups

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.


Hamstring Curls

Hamstring Curls

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

  1. Weights Main Page
  2. Upper Body Exercises
  3. Organising a Weights Session
  4. Weight Training Equipment Review

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