3 Basic Strength Training Exercises

Strength training is essential for everyone.  The lower body is essential for any type of activity and is often overlooked by body builders and athletes. Your butt and legs provide the base of support for any type of movement—running to a bus, climbing stairs or powering up Heartbreak Hill. In addition, strength training your lower body will help prevent injury.

The following exercises work your hips, the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings. With all exercises, the first thing you want to do is to initiate your core.  You do this by pulling your belly to your spine. This movement initiates the core muscles.  Make sure that your back stays straight and your shoulders are down.


Squats are a simple exercise, but often performed with poor form.  Here's how to do it correctly:

  • Start with your feet hip distance apart.
  • Keeping your knees over your ankles, bend your knees, moving your butt back as if to sit in a chair.
  • Your knees and lower leg should form a 90 degree angle (if you can't get to 90 degrees without compromising your form that's OK).
  • Make sure your knees do not go over your toes.
  • Raise up and start again.
  • Do three sets of 10 reps. Do this two to three times a week.


Lunges are another great exercise. 

  • The working leg should be forward.
  • Keep the back leg hip distance apart and in a split stance. The heel of the back leg should be up.
  • Slowly bend the knees, keeping the front knee over the ankles. The end point is when both the front leg and the back leg make 90-degree angles.
  • Rise up and start again.
  • Do three sets of 10 reps. Do this two to three times a week.


Step-ups are great and very effective. Best of all, you can do them anywhere—even at work.

  • Place your right foot on a bench or step (about six to 15 inches).
  • Straighten your right leg. be careful not to lock it. 
  • Your left leg should be just behind you, don't let it touch the bench.
  • Lower your left leg till the left foot touches the floor.
  • Do three sets of 10 reps. Do this two to three times a week.

If you are consistent with doing these exercises, you'll begin to see noticeable changes in your muscle tone and in your performance in just a few weeks.

New York Endurance Sports Examiner Ann Karine is a personal fitness trainer and a USATF certified running coach.

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