Build your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves with these muscle-burning movements.
At first glance, Tonal may look like your upper body’s best friend. The adjustable arms and cables are perfect for presses, pull-downs, curls, and rows. But you can also reap huge rewards from using Tonal to train your lower body with a variety of leg exercises.
“Tonal can be used to train your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves with a wide variety of squatting, hinging, bilateral, unilateral, and compound moves,” says Tonal Director of Curriculum John Christie.
Tonal coach Liz Letchford, Ph.D, adds that the wall-mounted system not only helps you avoid the weight room clutter of multiple racks, bars, and plates, but also features advanced weight modes that can take your lower body training to the next level.
“Tonal’s Eccentric Mode—which adds resistance to the negative portion of a movement—and Chains Mode—which changes the weight to get heavier as you pull or push through the full range of motion like a resistance band—create opportunities to overload the muscles of the lower body in ways that are much harder to pull off in a traditional gym,” Coach Liz explains.
Plus, using heavy free weights or barbells for functional movements like squats and deadlifts can be difficult and potentially dangerous to do on your own, adds Tonal coach and certified personal trainer Allison Tibbs. “With Tonal, you can safely load heavier [digital] weight with the click of a button, which gives you better control,” she explains.
These six leg exercises will help you build serious strength and power in your lower body so you can push your performance to new heights, no matter what your fitness goals are.
1. Sumo Deadlift
The Benefit: Any deadlift is a powerhouse lower-body move that targets the glutes and hamstrings while engaging your core and building strength in the hips, which are often weaker due to long periods of sitting, says Coach Allison. “This is a safer version of the traditional barbell deadlift because the wider stance allows you to get deeper into the lift,” she adds.
The How: Grab the bar and hold it in front of your thighs with your arms straight. Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart and toes pointed slightly out. Hinge at the hips and bend knees as you lower the bar between your legs, while keeping the core engaged. With a straight back, stand by pressing the floor away from you. Repeat.
2. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
The Benefit: This deadlift variation will fire up your hammies, and “strong hamstrings help protect the hips and knees from injury,” explains Coach Liz. That challenging hip motion also requires calf and glute power, making it a triple whammy.
The How: Stand facing the Tonal and grab the handles with each hand. With a microbend in your right knee, engage your core and hinge at the hips as your left leg lifts up behind you, keeping your back flat. Imagine your hips are like headlights and keep them both pointed directly at the floor. Use the right glute to power the torso back up and repeat. Complete the reps, then repeat on the other leg.
3. Alternating Goblet Reverse Lunge
The Benefit: Lunges strengthen the core, glutes, and legs as well as improve posture and range of motion. It’s also relevant to movements you might do every day. “It’s not all that common to do action from a bilateral stance,” says Christie. “This exercise preps you to carry anything while moving, but it’s also very applicable to sport.”
The How: Hold the straps of one of Tonal’s handles at your chest with your thumbs wrapped around the top. While standing tall, reach one leg back keeping the other leg planted on the floor, and lower with control until both knees are bent at 90 degrees and the back knee is hovering just above the floor. Press the floor away, using the glute of the front leg to power back up to the starting position, and switch sides.
4. Bulgarian Split Squat With Hip Internal Rotation
The Benefit: Many people, even elite athletes, lack optimal internal rotation of the hip, which can cause back, knee and hip pain due to the compensatory patterns created by inefficient movement. Hip internal rotation is essential for stride-length in walking and running, for the ability to safely jump and land, and for the transfer of power in all rotational movements, whether it’s throwing a baseball or hefting a suitcase into the trunk.
The How: Line one foot up with the end of Tonal’s arms. Reach your opposite leg back, placing your foot, shoelaces down, on the bench. Reach through your legs to grab the handle closest to your front leg with the opposite arm and stand tall. Rotate your torso toward your front leg as you bend your knees to lower your hips until your front thigh is parallel with the floor. Press the floor away to stand and repeat.
5. Barbell Front Squat
The Benefit: “Weighted squats are key to building more power and strength in your lower body,” says Coach Allison. This version fires up your glutes and quads, plus “racking the barbell to the front adds an extra boost to strengthening the core,” Tibbs explains.
The How: Face Tonal with your feet hip-width apart at the end of Tonal’s arms. Rest the barbell on the front of the shoulders with the fingertips under the barbell and elbows pointing straight ahead. Alternatively, you can cross your arms and lift the elbows to keep the bar in place. With the toes slightly turned out, send the hips back and down like you’re sitting into a chair behind you. Press the floor away from you by squeezing your glutes, and pushing your hips forward, to stand tall.
6. Barbell Squat to Press
The Benefit: This advancement of the barbell front squat allows you to harness the power you built at the bottom of the move and transfer it into an overhead press, while strengthening the quads, glutes, core, shoulders and back. “It may seem there are a lot of components to this move, but there’s no need to be afraid,” says Christie. “Tonal will start you with resistance that’s manageable, so your overhand grip on the barbell won’t feel awkward, and your performance will elevate the weight over time.”
The How: Face Tonal with your feet hip-width apart at the end of Tonal’s arms. Rest the barbell on the front of the shoulders with the hands shoulder-width apart, the fingertips under the barbell and elbows pointing straight ahead. With the toes slightly turned out, send the hips back and down like you’re sitting into a chair behind you. Press the floor away from you by squeezing your glutes, and pushing your hips forward, to stand tall, while using your upward momentum to press the bar overhead. Once in a standing position, bring the bar back to your shoulders and repeat.
Lindsay Berra contributed to this story.