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Squats strengthen the powerful muscles of the lower body.
Darrin Klimek/Digital Vision/Getty Images
CrossFit workouts are designed to be functional and full-body in focus, but some Workouts of the Day, or WODs, target the legs more than others. Major powerlifts such as the squat and deadlift are the best examples of lower-body strengtheners, while more complex conditioning WODs involving intervals and combinations of these movements with rowing, running or box jumps provide a cardiovascular boost along with stronger legs.
Squat it Low
Squatting with weight on one's back is a simple but hugely effective way to strengthen the legs. Performed correctly and safely, back squats target the body's posterior chain - comprised of the hamstrings, glutes and adductors - and demand stabilization and support from the shoulders, trunk, quads and lower legs. Particularly when performed in short sets with weight that is challenging relative to an athlete's capacity, squats force positive adaptation and systemic hormonal responses that drive long-term strength gains.
In CrossFit WODs, heavy back squats often appear in sets of one, two, three and five repetitions, and occasionally in sets of 10. Athletes typically try to maximize the weight they can squat in these challenging, short sets. Sometimes a WOD calls for a higher volume of weighted squats, and in these cases athletes typically use less weight.
Go Heavy with Deadlifts
The deadlift is another simple but major lift that targets the lower body. An athlete utilizes her largest leg muscles - quads, hamstrings and glutes - in the deadlift, gripping a barbell and standing up straight to move weight from the ground to the waist. The lift also requires the use of nearly every muscle in the back, trunk, shoulder girdle and arms to support the movement.
CrossFit workouts often feature deadlifts in strength-based repetition schemes similar to those listed for back squats above: sets of one, two, three or five reps at the heaviest weight possible for each individual athlete. As with heavy squatting, deadlifts require solid form and technique for safe training. Faster-paced conditioning workouts typically feature deadlifts with lighter weight loads.
Include Lower-Body Combos
Any combination of leg-intensive movements such as squats, deadlifts, box jumps, rowing and running can make for a particularly challenging lower-body workout. One well-known CrossFit benchmark, "Christine," is an example. The workout consists of the following movements:
500 meter row, 12 deadlifts, 21 box jumps
Athletes must complete three rounds of these exercises as quickly as possible. When performed together, rowing, deadlifts and box jumps can significantly tax the legs and improve metabolic conditioning and cardiovascular endurance as well.
Bottom-to-Bottom Tabata Squats
One of the most punishing leg workouts in CrossFit is bottom-to-bottom tabata squats. "Tabata" refers to an interval scheme in which athletes perform 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest. The interval is typically repeated seven times, for a total of eight intervals of work and rest.
When performing tabata squats, athletes execute as many unweighted or "body weight" squats as possible in each 20-second interval, amassing a total score at the end of eight intervals. The challenging twist in "bottom-to-bottom" tabata squats is that athletes must hold the bottom position of the squat - with hips back and down below the knees - during the 10-second rest periods.