Would You Like to Have a Body Like Jennifer Lawrence?

Jennifer Lawrence has received a huge amount of attention for her amazing body during her role as the mutant Mystique in X-Men where she appeared on screen virtually nude.  

With her costume essentially involving just three layers of spray paint she had clearly put a huge amount of effort into ensuring that the body underneath was in top condition and the hard work paid off.

Her lean physique and strong, shapely legs and bum wowed audiences worldwide. You may not naturally have legs like Jennifer, but you can make the most of your own set of pins through the right training and nutrition.  

Aside from the obvious aesthetic appeal of a great set of legs and shapely bum, these muscles are also key players in running, walking and jumping so training legs can improve speed, power and strength for sports performance as well as improving your general movement. 

Training legs also increases your mobility, strengthens your joints and strong glutes are key in helping to alleviate lower back pain. In short, if you’re skipping leg day, you are doing yourself a disservice.

Training legs can also lead to huge improvements in body composition. The lower body muscles are the largest in the body which means that training your legs requires more energy and burns more calories than working other body parts. Leg day is key if your goal is to lose body fat and get lean.

Forget hours of cardio, the most effective way to get killer legs and a great bum is to strengthen the lower body through weight training.

Why This Workout Works

The Lower Body

The lower body muscles include the quadriceps (a group of four muscles running down the front of the thigh) the hamstrings (a group of three muscles running down the back of the thigh) the calves (two muscles which run down back of the shin) and glutes (three muscles which form the bum). To sculpt a killer set of pins your leg programme should aim to hit every muscle of the lower body, front and back.

Planning Your Leg Day

An effective and well-balanced leg training programme should include a combination of compound exercises (performed using more than one muscle group or joint) and isolation exercises (which use just one muscle or joint).  

Compound exercises require a larger number of muscles to perform which allows you to lift more weight and will require more energy (burn more calories). Squats, deadlifts and lunges involve all of the muscles of the lower body to some degree, so they are great builders of overall leg strength.  

Once you’ve mastered the basics of these exercises they can also be adapted to place more emphasis one specific muscle groups depending on your goal.  

Isolation exercises allow you to fully focus on a specific muscle group to help create a well-balanced lower body. Leg extensions (which specifically target the quadriceps) and leg curls (which target the hamstrings) are examples of great isolation exercises to really fine tune that lower body.

A well-balanced leg programme should also include some single-leg exercises, such as lunges or split squats. This can help identify and improve any imbalances in the body which can hinder performance in both life and sport.

Training Programme

To help you sculpt some enviable pins of your own, we have devised two leg day programmes for you to try below.  

Aim to train legs 2-3 times per week, alternating between Workout A & B each time you train and allowing adequate rest and recovery between workouts to get the best out of every session.

Here is a leg workout that will help you get a body like Jennifer Lawrence:

The Workout

WORKOUT 1

How to Perform the Exercises

This guide is aimed at trainees with a good knowledge of the exercises and how to train safely and effectively. 

If you are unsure and want access to training programmes, nutrition information and over 250+ demonstration videos, sign up for LiveUP online coaching today or consult a qualified PT.

The Set-Up

  •  Stand up with your feet about hip-width apart.
  • The bar should be resting on your upper back above your shoulder blades.
  • Hold the bar on either side of your shoulders with your elbows pointing down.  Pull down on the bar to engage your back muscles and brace your core.  
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

 

The Movement

  • With your back straight and core engaged sit the hips back and bend your knees to lower down into the squat position.
  • Keeping the weight in the heels straighten the knees and drive the hips back to the starting position. 
  • Squeeze your glutes at the top of the squat then repeat.

 

Trainer Tips

  • Remove your shoes or wear lifting shoes when performing this exercise.
  • The set-up of a squat will vary significantly between individuals depending on your limb length and range of motion.  Finding the right set-up for you may take some trial and error and you may find it useful to enlist the help of a PT to check you are using correct form or video yourself from the side.
  • You should be aiming to squat to parallel or lower in order to fully engage the muscles of the lower body so you may need to play around with your set-up to get this right.
  •  Keep tension in the legs throughout the set by not locking out at the top of the squat.
  • Keep your bodyweight distributed evenly between both feet.
  •  Focus on keeping your knees out and don’t let them cave in.
  • Keep your abs engaged through the exercise and don’t let the back arch.

The Set-Up 

  • Stand in an open space with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  • Place your hands on your hips and tuck your elbows in if using bodyweight. If using dumbbells, allow them to hang by your sides with the palms facing inwards. 
  • Step backwards and place your toes on the floor, with shoelaces facing down and heel raised (stepping backwards is more stable than stepping forwards when using heavy loads). 
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

 

The Movement

  • Drop your back knee down towards the floor and drive your front knee forwards to close the gap between your hamstrings and calf (elevating the front heel with a wedge may allow a greater degree of motion if you do not have a great deal of ankle flexibility).
  • In the bottom position, your front foot should be flat and your back knee bent at 90 degrees and one to two inches above the floor. 
  • Pause for a moment at the bottom, keeping the upper body braced and tension in your legs. 
  • Push through the front leg to reverse the motion (imagine closing a pair of scissors) to return to the start position. 
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps. Pause for 30-60 seconds before switching sides. 

 

Trainer Tips

  • Start with your weaker leg forwards first and perform the same number of reps on both sides. 
  • The greater the forward lean of the torso, the more you will emphasise the glutes.
  • Pick a stride length that allows you to keep your front foot equally placed on the floor throughout without the heel lifting. The back foot should not be so far back that you cannot fully flex the back leg or the hips are pulled forwards. 
  • Make sure to keep the range-of-motion consistent throughout. Try placing a small block under the back knee if you are unable to reach the floor. 
  • Only pause briefly at the top position and do not rock backwards onto the back foot. 
  • Use straps to prevent grip becoming a limiting factor when using dumbbells.

The Set-Up

  • Position a flat bench in an open space (or in a rack/cage) and secure it with something heavy to prevent it sliding forwards. 
  • Sit straight legged on the floor with your upper back resting against the bench. The edge of the bench should be just underneath your shoulder blades or bra line. If the bench is too high, it may be useful to place a plate underneath your buttocks to position you correctly.
  • You can perform this exercise with bodyweight only, use a single dumbbell or barbell for added resistance (if you’re a beginner, we advise progressing in this order). 
  • Make sure you’re using a hip pad or folded up matt over the hips and roll the barbell into position so it is situated directly over your pelvic bones (not over the abs or upper thighs). 
  • Tuck your feet in towards your buttocks and keep your feet roughly shoulder-width apart (a slight external rotation of the knee favours the abductor muscles).

 

The Movement

  • Drive your hips upwards towards the ceiling, pushing through your heels and squeezing your glutes. Keep your knees in line with your toes. 
  • In the top position, your hips should be fully extended and your torso parallel to the floor. 
  • Pause for a moment and focus on contracting your glutes (imagine you are trying to crack a walnut between them!), with a slight upwards rotation of the pelvis. 
  • Lower your hips down towards the floor. You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when you cannot move any further without your lower back rounding or knees rocking backwards.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

 

Trainer Tips

  • If the bottom of your range-of-motion is higher than floor-level, place blocks or plates underneath the barbell plates to standardise the range-of-motion.
  • Keep a solid brace throughout and do not relax the tension at the top or bottom of the rep. 
  • Focus on ‘pivoting’ on and off the bench, do not allow your pelvis to rock backwards and forwards as this will strain the spinal erectors. 
  • Be careful not to overextend at the top of the movement and you should not feel this in the lower back. 
  • Keep the head in a neutral position by keeping your eyes on the bar pad at all times.

The Set-Up

  • You may have access to either a 45-degree incline leg press or a horizontal leg press but the set-up is similar for both. 
  • Load the weight plates onto the machine or set the pin to the desired weight. 
  • Set the safety stop in the right position for your range-of-motion. 
  • Sit down on the machine and place your feet on the platform shoulder-width apart (a wider stance will favour more glutes/hamstrings but we want a quad-dominant focus here).
  • Position your feet at a level that is comfortable for your ankles (so that your feet remain in full contact with the foot plate at all times).
  • Grip the handles firmly and pull yourself down into the seat. 
  • Straighten your legs to take the weight off the racks.
  • Your knees should be slightly bent (not locked out).
  • This is the start and end position for each rep. 

 

The Movement

  • Start the movement by lowering your legs to bring your knees towards your chest. 
  • You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when you cannot lower your legs any further without your heels lifting or buttocks lifting off the seat. 
  • Pause for a moment at the bottom position, keeping tension in your legs (do not let the weight “sink” into the hip joint at the bottom. 
  • Press both legs into the platform to return to the start position. Focus on pushing through the entire foot; the toes, ball of the foot and the heel equally.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps. 

 

Trainer Tips

  • Keep your knees in line with your feet and do not allow your knees to “lock-out” at any point.
  • Practise keeping a rock-solid brace throughout. 
  • Only pause briefly at the top position between reps, not several seconds.

The Set-Up

  • Adjust the ankle pad so that it is just above the ankle joint. 
  • When you lie down on the machine, your knees should be just short of full extension (this set-up will vary between machines). 
  • Position yourself so that your knees line up with the machine pivot point.
  • Grip the handles, lift your chest up slightly and engage the lats by tucking your armpits down towards your hips. Point your toes up towards your shins.

 

The Movement

  • Push your thighs down into the and curl your legs up towards your buttocks. 
  • You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when your knees are fully bent or you cannot move any further without your hips or thighs lifting off the pad. 
  • Pause for a moment and focus on contracting (squeezing) your hamstrings. 
  • Reverse the motion, under control, to return to the start position. 
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps. 

 

Trainer Tips

  • Keep your abs braced to limit movement of the hips at the top of the movement. 
  • Avoid ‘swinging’ the weight; as your feet near your buttocks, the movement should be slowest as this is the shortest and weakest position. 
  • Keep the range-of-motion and tempo consistent throughout.

The Set-Up

  •  Stand up straight with your feet facing forwards.
  •  If using a calf raise machine, position the shoulder pads so that these are resting comfortably on your shoulders.
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

 

The Movement

  • Engaging your abs, slowly lift your heels off the floor or machine until you are standing on tiptoes.  
  • Pause for a second, then slowly return to the start position.

 

Trainer Tips

  • Do not allow your ankles to roll in or out during this exercise. Ankles should be straight.
  • If you do not have a calf raise machine, try elevating your toes on a raised platform such as a step to increase the stretch on your calves as this will allow your heels to dip lower than your toes.
  • Keep your core tight and look straight ahead throughout.
  • Make sure to keep the range of motion consistent throughout.

WORKOUT 2

How to Perform the Exercises 

The Set-Up

  • Remove your shoes and stand in the centre of the trap bar.  The line of the bar should run through the centre of your feet.
  • Your feet should be roughly hip-width apart (the exact positioning will be determined by your limb length and range).
  •  Keeping a neutral spine, bend your knees and hinge at the hips to grip either side of the trap bar.  Your hands should be in line with your shins.
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

 

The Movement

  • Engage your abs and lock in your upper back, keep your arms straight and elbows locked out.
  •  In one movement drive your feet into the floor, your hips forwards and straighten your knees until you are standing up straight.
  •  Squeeze your glutes and brace your abs at the top of the movement.
  • Slowly return to the start position by sitting your hips back and bending your knees.
  •  Your back should remain straight throughout the movement.

 

Trainer Tip

  • Avoid looking up at the start of the exercise (you may have a tendency to look at yourself in the mirror) as this will may cause you to lead with your upper body and will bring your back out of a neutral position.  Look at the floor and keep the chin tucked throughout the exercise.
  • If you lack flexibility in your lower body or have particularly long limbs you may need to raise the trap bar up on blocks so that it is further from the ground.
  • Use straps to prevent grip from becoming a limiting factor.
  • If you are unsure on your form, get a trainer to check your positioning or video yourself from the side.

The Set-Up

  • Set up the machine so that the hip pad rests just below your hip bone so that you can get into full hip extension.
  • Start in the prone position with your feet flat on the footpad and in front of the ankle pads.
  • Your thighs should be against the thigh pads and your legs should be straight but with soft knees.
  • If using weights, hold a plate across your chest or hold a dumbbell in each hand and let this hang beneath you.  If not using weight cross your arms over your chest.
  • Brace your abs.
  •  Internally rotate your shoulders and deliberately round your upper back. 
  •  This is the start and end position for each rep.

 

The Movement

  • Keeping the knees soft, contract the glutes hard and drive your hips into the pad.
  •  Keep squeezing the glutes as your upper body slowly lifts up. 
  • Your shoulders should be rounded with your eyes looking down.
  •  Hold for a second when you get to the end of your range, your back should remain flexed throughout so the end of your range will be when you cannot get any higher without extending your spine.
  • Sit your hips back and slowly lower down to the start position under control.

 

Trainer Tips

  • You should feel most of the tension in your glutes and hamstring.  If you start to feel this in your lower back check your form and decrease your range of motion.
  •  Your range of motion will vary depending on your individual mobility and flexibility. You may find it helpful to enlist the help of a PT or video yourself to determine your exact set-up and range of motion,
  • Be careful not to overextend the lower back as this can lead to injury.  Your core should be engaged throughout and keep the lower back rounded.
  • Initiate the movement by squeezing the glutes together. This should be the first bit that moves.
  •    Your range of motion will vary depending on your individual mobility and flexibility.
  • Perform the movement slowly and carefully and don’t use momentum or jerk your torso.  

The Set-Up

  • Start by standing straight with a dumbbell in each hand.
  •  Your feet should be hip-width apart, your chest up, and your core engaged.

 

The Movement

  •  With one leg, take a big step forward and place the foot flat on the ground.
  •  Bend both knees and lower down under control until both your knees are bent at 90° and your front thigh is parallel to the floor.
  •  Push through the front foot and bring your back foot forwards stepping straight into another forward step.
  • Repeat on the other side.

 

Trainer Tips

  •  Keep your hips square and feet facing forwards throughout the movement.
  • To increase the emphasis on your glutes, lean the torso forward over the front leg and hold the dumbbells closer to the knee.
  • Keep the front heel down throughout the lunge.
  •  Regress the exercise by bringing the feet together between each rep rather than stepping straight into the next lunge.
  • Use straps to prevent grip from becoming a limiting factor when using dumbbells.
  • Make sure to keep the range of motion consistent throughout.

The Set-Up

  • Set up the bar in a rack at hand-level and add the desired amount of weight (start small and build up as your technique improves).
  • Stand close to the barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart and reach down to take the barbell with an overhand shoulder-width grip. 
  • Before taking the load, make sure to “take the slack out of the bar” by pulling away from the bar slightly to ensure your arms are taught. Lift the barbell off the hooks and take a step backwards.
  • Stand as tall as possible with your shoulder blades tucked into your back pockets. The barbell should be in contact with your thighs and there should be a soft bend in your knees. 
  • Look at the floor just in front of you or the barbell (this prevents the head from moving during the movement – we want zero movement in the spine throughout the exercise).
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

 

The Movement

  • Push your hips backwards and bend forward at the hips. The movement should come only from the hips and you should feel a noticeable increase in hamstring tension. 
  • Keep your back straight and pull the barbell into your body to prevent it from drifting away from you. Keep the lats tight by imagining you are trying to “protect your armpits”. 
  • Lower the barbell as far as possible until you reach the end of your range-of-motion. You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when you can go no further without the lower back rounding or the knees moving. 
  • Pause for a moment in the bottom position and drive your hips forwards and squeeze your glutes to return to the start position. Make sure to “press” the weight upwards with the feet rather than yanking with the upper body.
  • Make sure to keep a solid brace throughout (see “How to Brace”). 
  • To begin, practise performing this exercise with control throughout. Once you have mastered the movement, you can add a more ‘explosive’ concentric movement (although this must still remain controlled).
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps. 

 

Trainer Tips

  • Use lifting straps to prevent grip becoming a limiting factor. 
  • Practise the hinging motion before attempting this exercise.
  • Keep a solid brace throughout. 
  • Avoid over-arching at the top of the movement; your lower back muscles will be working but you should not feel them throughout the movement.

The Set-Up

  • You may have access to either a 45-degree incline leg press or an upright leg press but the set-up is similar for both. 
  • Load the weight plates onto the machine or set the pin to the desired weight. 
  • Set the safety stop in the right position for your range-of-motion. 
  • Sit down on the machine and place your feet on the platform shoulder-width apart (a wider stance will favour more glutes/hamstrings but we want a quad-dominant focus here).
  • Position your feet at a level that is comfortable for your ankles (so that your feet remain in full contact with the foot plate at all times).
  • Grip the handles firmly and pull yourself down into the seat. 
  • Straighten your legs to take the weight off the racks.
  • Your knees should be slightly bent (not locked out).
  • This is the start and end position for each rep. 

 

The Movement

  • Start the movement by lowering your legs to bring your knees towards your chest. 
  • You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when you cannot lower your legs any further without your heels lifting or buttocks lifting off the seat. 
  • Pause for a moment at the bottom position, keeping tension in your legs (do not let the weight “sink” into the hip joint at the bottom. 
  • Press both legs into the platform to return to the start position. Focus on pushing through the entire foot; the toes, ball of the foot and the heel equally.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps. 

 

Trainer Tips

  • Keep your knees in line with your feet and do not allow your knees to “lock-out” at any point.
  • Practise keeping a rock-solid brace throughout. 
  • Only pause briefly at the top position between reps, not several seconds.

The Set-Up

  •  Set up the machine so that the back pad sits comfortably against your lower back and your knees are in lines with the pivot.
  • Place your legs on the padded lever so it sits just below your calves.
  • Set up the upper pad so that it sits tightly on your thighs just above the knees.
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

 

The Movement

  • Hold the handles, engage your core and slowly drive your heels back towards your hips.
  •  Pause for a second then slowly return to the start position under control.
  • That is one rep.

 

Trainer Tips

  •  Don’t rely on momentum and focus on contracting the hamstrings as hard as you can throughout the movement.
  •  Keep your torso braced and your lower back pressed against the back pad throughout the movement.
  • Don’t allow the weight plates to touch down between each rep, stop just above the plate stack to keep tension in the legs throughout the set.

The Set-Up

  •  Set up the machine so that the back pad sits comfortably against your lower back. Your knees should be lined up with the end of the seat and the pivot of the machine.
  •  Place your legs behind the padded lever so that it sits just above your calves.
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

 

The Movement

  •  Hold the handles and pull yourself down into the seat with your core engaged.
  • Squeeze your quads and slowly extend your legs so that the knees are straight. Pause for a second then slowly return to the start position under control.
  • Keep tension in the quads and repeat.

 

Trainer Tips

  • Try not to rely on any on momentum to perform the movement and focus on contracting the quads as hard as you can throughout.
  •  Keep tension in the legs throughout the set and don’t allow the weight plates to touch down between each rep.
  •  Keep your torso braced and your lower back pressed against the back pad throughout the movement.

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