The bench workout #1: legs

The bench workout #1: legs

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If you have been following me for a while, you will know that I love working out in the open. The weather in Athens is great throughout the year and I love the outdoors. My clients happen to love it too, so I often train them in track and field stadiums and parks; I just love these sessions! In parks and outdoor spaces we use benches and tables to perform a range of exercises. Ηere are my top exercises for a lower body workout:


You can do squats right after your warm-up, as they are good to get most muscles of your lower body working.
Focus on flexing the hips, knees and ankles as you lower into the squat position and make sure your knees stay behind your toes and in line with your toes. Focus on getting deep (not more than 90 degrees though) whilst keeping your chest lifted and then raise up to your starting position, pushing through your heels to activate your glutes.
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Bulgarian split squats

This is the ultimate exercise for building your glutes. Put your back foot on the bench and lower down into a lunge, keeping your chest lifted. Get as deep as possible (but not more than 90 degrees) and then raise up to your starting position, pushing through your heels. Make sure your knees track over your toes. Perform all repetitions on one leg before you switch legs.

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A controversial exercise which in my opinion is important in building the lower and upper body like no other movement, if performed correctly. Besides working the back of your legs, deadlifting increases your core strength and adds to core stability, as it targets the muscles in your lower back that are responsible for your posture. Many of my clients tell me that this exercise helped them keep their back straighter after practising it for a few sessions.
Make sure you start with a light weight in order to learn the movement. It’s very important to keep your back straight as you lower down.
Start by squating down and lifting whatever weight you are using (I am using a 5kg medicine ball here) by raising the hips and shoulders. As the weight passes the knees, drive the hips forward to stand up straight.


On return to the start position tilt forwards from the hip, driving the hips backwards. Keep your back straight and your weight between your toes and heels. As the weight descends past the knees allow them to flex a little until you reach the starting position, but do not fully extend your elbows. Make sure you keep your heels down.


If you’re doing it correctly, you should be feeling a stretch in your hamstrings (back of your legs) and lower back. 
Don’t increase the weight before you have mastered the correct technique. In fact, before you try it, ask a personal trainer to coach you on the proper form. Doing this exercise incorrectly can hurt your lower back, so take care!

Step-up with knee raise

Stand facing the bench with your feet shoulder width apart. Begin by stepping up, putting your left foot on the bench. Extend through the hip and knee of your left foot to stand up on the bench. Then flex your right knee and hip, bringing your knee as high as you can. Reverse it to step down off the bench. You can repeat the sequence using the opposite leg or finish repetitions on one leg and then switch legs.

Step up knee raise

Single leg glute bridges

Lie on the floor near the bench and place one foot on the bench (I have my right foot on the bench here). The other foot stays straight (to make it easier, hold it bent next to the working leg). This is your starting position. Execute the lift by driving through the right heel, extending your right hip upward and raising your right glute off the ground. Pause and then return to the starting position. Perform all repetitions on one leg before you switch.

Single leg bridge

Standing calf raises
Find a small step and place the balls of the feet on it, while your heels extend out of the step. This will be your starting position. With the toes pointing straight, raise the heels off the floor by contracting your calves. Hold the top for a second and lower to the starting position. You can try it with toes pointing straight (to hit all parts equally), inwards (for emphasis on the outer head) or outwards (for emphasis on the inner head).

Calf raise
Now, how can you combine all these moves into a workout? You can start with 2 sets of 10 repetitions for each exercise. Try alternating between a pushing move (e.g. squat) and a pulling move (e.g. deadlift), performing 10 reps of one before you move on to the next!
Make sure you finish off with some proper stretching to help your muscles release tension from contraction, help your joints move through their full range of motion and increase blood flow to your muscles for recovery.
Try out this workout and let me know how it went. Next bench workout will include exercises to target the upper body!
Keep smiling and enjoy the great outdoors,