Exercises Pick #1: Barbell Squat
- When performing the squat, it is important to use a four-post safety cage, or other stable squat rack with safety pins.
- Set the height of the bar so that you have to dip down slightly to get underneath the bar.
- Set up centered under the bar with your feet about shoulder width apart.
- Pinch your shoulder blades together, creating a layer of muscle above the shoulder blades on which the bar will rest.
- Position the bar across the trapezius muscles (upper back).
- Grasp the bar firmly with your hands closed, wrapping the thumb around the bar.
- Position yourself so your hips are right under the bar.
Performing The Movement
- Tighten the muscles of your torso and stand up into the bar, lifting the bar off its supports.
- Pause for a moment to make sure that the bar is centered properly across your back.
- If the bar is centered properly, step back just far enough so that you will not hit the supports while performing the movement.
- Position your feet slightly wider than hip width with your toes flared out (see performance tips below).
- Keep your eyes forward, jaw parallel to the floor.
- The weight should be felt in the heels of your feet. Do not lean forward, placing the weight on the toes.
- Begin the movement by bending the knees for a few inches. Keep your upper body upright.
- Continue the descent slowly and under control.
- Keep the weight on the heels.
- Stop the descent when your thighs are about parallel to the floor. Avoid rounding the lower back.
- Do not pause at the bottom.
- As soon as you hit the bottom position, drive back up by pushing through the heels.
- Make sure you push evenly. Do not allow one leg to dominate the press up.
- Keep your upper body strong. Do not bend forward at the hips as you ascend.
- Remember to keep your eyes forward and chin parallel to the floor.
- When you are finished the desired number of reps, slide your feet along the floor until the bar is directly over the supports.
- Bend slightly at the knees, placing the bar on the supports.
- Experiment with the amount of foot flare that allows you to squat comfortably.
- Remember to keep your shoulder blades pulled together, pushing your chest out.
- Do not place anything under your heels when performing the squat. Some people do this to “emphasize” the quadriceps. Placing anything under your heels can create great stress on the knees.
Exercises Pick #2: Leg Press
- Center yourself in the seat.
- Place your feet on the middle or upper part of the leg press platform (whichever is more comfortable on the knees).
- Your feet should be at least shoulder width apart with the feet slightly flared (toes turned out). Take some time to experiment with your foot positioning. If you have any problems with your knees, changing the position of your feet slightly can make a big difference.
- The platform should be positioned close enough to you so that the angle at your knees is no more than 90 degrees.
- Experiment without weight to find the safest depth for you to lower the platform. Your knees should never travel past the toes and you should avoid bringing the platform far enough back as to cause your lower back to round.
- Keep your head back, against the head rest.
- Grasp the handles to the side of the seat. If none are available, hold onto the frame of the machine (make sure your fingers are not in the path of any moving parts).
Performing The Movement
- Take a deep breath in.
- Press the weight through the heels until your legs are nearly extended. Do not straighten the knees completely.
- Exhale through the mouth as you press the weight away from you.
- Pause briefly at the midpoint of the movement (legs extended).
- Slowly bend the knees and return the weight to the starting position.
- Breath in through your nose.
- Use shoes with very little heel elevation, even flat soles. Even bare feet is an option. The more heel elevation your shoes have, the more likely your knees could be irritated.
- Keep the repetitions you do between 8 and 12, again to protect the knees.
- Breathing is very important. Always make sure you exhale as you press the platform away from you and inhale as you return the weight towards you.
Exercises Pick #3: One-Legged Squats With Dumbbells
- Stand in front of a bench or sturdy chair, facing away from the bench.
- With both feet on the ground, grasp a pair of dumbbells.
- Lift one foot and place it on the bench behind you. You can place your toes on the bench or if more comfortable, flex your foot so that the top of your foot is resting on the bench.
- Make sure that the support foot (the foot on the floor) is pointing straight ahead or so the toes are just slightly turned out.
- Keep your shoulders pulled slightly back and your head up.
- Maintain an upright position. Do not lean forward at the hips.
Performing The Movement
- Keeping your weight on the support heel, bend the knee and lower your body until the rear knee is just above the floor.
- Inhale as you descend towards the floor.
- Once you reach the bottom position, push through your heel and press your body back up, exhaling as you ascend.
- Do not fully extend the support knee. Keep the support knee slightly bent at the top position.
- Experiment by standing closer or further away from the bench.
- Do not let the knee of your support leg travel past the toes as you perform the movement. Doing so will put unnecessary stress on the knee.
- Do not rush through the movement.
- Take approximately 2 seconds to lower yourself towards the floor and about 2 seconds to raise yourself back up again.
- Perform the movement on a non-slip floor and use shoes with non-slip soles.