Yoga Sweat: Moves to build lower body strength

Build strength in your lower body with Yoga Sweat. This workout, developed by yoga teacher Minnie Samengo, targets the muscles in your legs and bottom using moves inspired by yoga.

While we might be familiar with lunges and squats, it can be boring doing the same moves all the time. What’s more, you’re likely to see a plateau in results if you do the same workout all the time. Moving through a range of different exercises will help to keep you interested and your body challenged!

Here, Minnie shares her favourite moves for building strength in your lower body.

Why does our lower body become weak?

Your bottom muscles – otherwise known as the gluteal muscles – have a tendency to be lazy. Weaker gluteal muscles are a common thing if you have a desk job or sit down a lot – something perhaps we’re all doing more of thanks to lockdown. Having weaker gluteal muscles means that these muscles aren’t firing up. When we sit too much, our hip flexors tighten and our gluteals become weak.

The gluteal muscles are made up of three muscles (the maximus, minimus and medius). It’s the largest and strongest muscle group in the body. If you don’t activate these muscles, imbalances can start to occur.  Other muscles start to dominate instead – for example it’s common to see over-developed thigh muscles. These imbalances have a ripple effect throughout the body and can start to cause pain in areas such as the lower back, hips, knees and ankles.

Yoga Sweat moves to build strength in the lower body

Curtsey lunge

This lunge is a transverse movement and you’ll certainly soon be able to feel it working in your lower body!

  1. Stand tall with your feet a hip distance apart. Pick up your right knee to hip height.
  2. Curtsey and tap your right toes diagonally behind your left foot. Hold for two seconds and then drive your right knee back up.
  3. Repeat for five reps, increasing up to 10 as you build your strength. From here, you can continue to add on a further five reps as you get stronger.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.

Take it further: When you bring your right toes behind your left foot (and vice versa), pulse three times.

Airplane kicks

Begin to feel the burn with this next move. This exercise works the smallest of your gluteal muscles. You’ll need to come onto your hands and knees for this one, so do use padding under the knees if you need.

  1. Start in table top position, with your knees underneath your hips and your wrists beneath your shoulders.
  2. Straighten your right leg out behind you and lift your right foot off the floor until it’s level with your hip.
  3. Move your leg out to your right side, working towards bringing it in line with your hip. Pulse for three and bring it back to your starting position, reset and repeat.
  4. Repeat on the other side and aim for 10 reps on each side.

Cossack squat

For this one, you’ll come into a wide squat. Take care not to roll your ankles, or let your knee go too far past your ankle – instead have a focus on pushing your bottom out behind you.

  1. Start standing with your feet wider than your hips, with your toes facing out and your heels in.
  2. Bend your right knee and start to sink into the right hip, sticking your bottom out behind you. You may notice a stretch into your right hip and left inner thigh.
  3. Use your glute and thigh muscles to move yourself to the left hand side. Keep your hands off the ground if you can, but feel free to stabilise with the hands if needed.
  4. Repeat this three times on each side.

Goddess pose with heel lifts

To complete your workout and feel real work in your lower body, try this next pose. While the movement is only tiny, you’ll soon be able to feel the strength building in your legs and bottom.

  1. Start standing, with your feet wider than your hips, with your toes pointing out and heels in.
  2. Sink your hips down to knee height, keeping your knees tracking over the ankles. Don’t allow your knees to knock in, this means the glutes are switching off.
  3. Place your hands wherever is comfortable and experiment with lifting one heel off the ground. Hold for two seconds before releasing and repeating on the opposite side.
  4. Repeat 10 times on each side.

Take it further: Pick up both heels at same time and feel that shake! Do 10 reps on each side.

Try Yoga Sweat

Join Minnie online and try her Yoga Sweat classes at Minnie Samengo Yoga and follow her on Instagram @minniesamengoyoga.

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