Improve Athletic Performance & Strength With Lower Body Circuits

Improve Athletic Performance & Functional Strength With Lower Body Circuits

Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.

Want to build functional strength, hypertrophy, stability, and symmetry throughout your lower body while simultaneously improving athletic performance?  Try performing potentiation circuits in your training.  Here’s an example of a lower body potentiation circuit I recently used with several of my NFL athletes, Blake Simms, Marquell Beckwith, and Quayvon Hix.

This particular lower body circuit involved 3 primary movements including a Reeves trap bar deadlift with band resistance, eccentric isometric goblet squat jump, and single leg swaps on an unstable surface.

The Reeves trap bar deadlift with band resistance acted as the primary strength movement and potentiation exercise. The combination of the bands in conjunction with the Reeves grip setup (gripping the plates with a wide hand placement) not only crushes the quads, glutes, and hamstrings but also taxes the upper back, lats, and grip.  In addition it’s a very low back and joint friendly lower body variation due to the deloading that takes place at the bottom as a result of the accommodating resistance.  Learn more about the Reeves trap bar deadlift here.

The next exercise in the circuit is the eccentric isometric jump squat.  There are several goals here.  First, maximize body mechanics and proprioception by using a slow eccentric isometric to help dial in form, technique, and body positioning.  Secondly the goal is to use the post activation potentiation stimulus created from the Reeves trap bar deadlift to induce greater torque and power output on the jump phase of the movement.  This helps improve power output, speed, explosiveness, and even deceleration/force absorption on the catch phase of the movement.

The third exercise is the single leg swap on a soft unstable surface.  This immediately helps with foot and ankle activation as well as stability, motor control, and body alignment.  The goal is to take these improved activation patterns in the lower body and core and transfer them to the deadlift and squat movement.  This helps integrate the improved activation patterns into more dynamic activities and reinforce these optimal mechanics more strongly into the CNS. Learn more about foot and ankle training here

During this particular workout I had these 3 athletes perform 4 sets of 5 reps on each movement with 60 seconds of rest between sets.  This made up approximately a third of the workout as we also performed several other lower body circuits during that workout that emphasized posterior chain activation and power output.

Posterior Chain Circuit

Here's a particular lower body circuit that's quite intense yet effective at taxing the posterior chain including the glutes and hamstrings. In this video, Blake is performing a Reeves trap bar band resisted RDL to emphasize eccentric lengthening of the glutes and hamstrings.  Similar to the above, the Reeves trap bar setup also annihilates the upper back, lats, and grip making it a full body movement.  

Marquell is performing a goblet lunge using an unstable base for the front leg to insure optimal activation of the feet and ankles.  Maximizing foot and ankle recruitment during movements such as lunges not only teaches proper mechanics and body alignment but it also creates significantly greater motor unit recruitment throughout the primary muscle groups due to the fact that activation starts with the feet.  As a result most athletes will feel a tremendous burn and muscle mind connection throughout their posterior chain and quads.  

Also notice the slight forward lean during the lunge (which represents proper lunge mechanics) even though the movement is anteriorly loaded.  By forcing the hips back when the anterior goblet loading is attempting to produce a more upright torso this further recruits the glutes and posterior chain to a greater degree.

Finally I have Quayvon performing a weighted glute bridge walkout which torches the glutes and hamstrings from a variety of fully-contracted positions.  When the feet are closer towards the body this recruits more glutes.  When the legs are more extended while still keeping the hips tall, this places greater tension on the hamstrings particularly the lower regions.   

During this particular workout they performed several rounds of 4-6 reps of each movement with 45 seconds of rest between sets

To learn more about proper programming strategies for strength training, bodybuilding, and athletic performance check out my Complete Templates Series