- Step 1
- Step 2
- Step 3
- Step 4
- Calf Raises Plie
- Knee Strengthening Exercises
- Squats for Knee Strengthening
- Thigh and Hip Strengthening Seated Leg Raises
- Side-lying Leg Raise
Starting Position: Place a stability ball against a wall and gently lean against it, positioning the top of the ball into the small of your back, but making contact with your tailbone, low- and mid-back. Your feet should be positioned 6 – 12″ out in front of your body, feet hip-width apart and facing forward or turned out slightly.
Depress and retract your scapulae (pull your shoulders down and back) without arching your low back and gently lean into the ball, while loading your weight through your heels. Place your hands on the front of your thighs.
Downward Phase: Inhale and slowly lower your body, rolling the ball down the wall simultaneously, but keeping contact with your tailbone, low and mid-back against the ball. Focus on dropping your hips under the ball and pushing your hips back to reduce potential stresses placed across your knees. Avoid any movement of your feet and keep your knees aligned over your 2nd toe. Continue to lower yourself until challenged or until your thighs align parallel to the floor and hold this position briefly.
Upward Phase: Exhale and slowly push your body up away from the floor, focusing on extending your hips to bring them back underneath your body. Continue pushing upwards until your hips and knees are fully extended.
To help develop the foundations of good squatting form, emphasize dropping your hips down and slightly under the ball, and avoiding driving your knees down and forward.
The wall squat strengthens your lower body, targeting the quadriceps muscles (one of the largest muscles in your body), the glutes and hamstrings. Using the stability ball allows you to develop balance and good posture. To make sure you’re using the right size ball for you, sit on the ball and make sure your knees and hips are at a 90-degree angle.
Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart with a stability ball between your lower back and a wall. With your hands on your hips, gently lean against the ball.
Action: Bend your knees and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor, allowing the ball to roll down slightly. Hold for a count of five, then push into your heels to slowly return to the start position.
Beginner’s Tip: Try to get into a squat a little at a time before bending your knees all the way. Lower your hips down toward the floor a little at a time until your confidence grows.
• Keep your eyes forward and weight against the ball at all times.
• When you push into your heels to get back up, press against the ball for more stability.
• Keep your feet forward throughout the move.
• The ball should always have contact with your lower back, even as it rolls down the wall when you squat.
Unstable devices like the Bosu ball, Airex pad, Wobble Disc, or balance board are touted as strength builders. Their variability increases the difficulty of exercises, calling into play more muscles and making them work even harder with every rep.
But have you ever seen a record-setting weight lifter, an elite powerlifter, or Mr. Olympia using a Bosu ball while doing lower-body strength exercises?
Probably not—and there are several reasons for that, says Bret Contreras, M.A., C.S.C.S., owner of bretcontreras.com.
For starters, performing heavily loaded squats, lunges, hip thrusts, or deadlifts with your feet on the ground is risky enough, he says. Stepping onto an unstable surface while performing big movements like those only increases your risk of injury.
Secondly, Contreras says your glutes can’t “turn on” all the way if you’re standing on something like a Bosu ball.
“When you’re on an unstable surface, your glutes are working hard to keep you balanced,” he explains. “Because of that, your glutes are distracted from performing the task at hand: lifting and lowering the weight.”
Remove the Bosu ball, though, and suddenly your glutes can put all of their effort behind moving iron. “The glutes prefer a stable environment in order to achieve their maximum activation potential,” says Contreras.
And when you can fully activate your glutes, you can lift heavier loads, he explains. That leads to a bigger calorie burn per workout and more muscle all over—not just in your backside.
(Related: The 17 Best Glutes Exercises.)
Contreras also points out that every rep you perform on an unstable surface is different, making it difficult to achieve proficiency in an exercise and stalling your results over time.
Keeping your feet on solid ground, however, allows you to perfect your form, he says. You’ll be able to recruit more muscle and do the movement the way it’s meant to be performed, maximizing your muscle and strength gains.
So are there any times you should use a Bosu ball, Airex pad, Wobble Disc, or balance board?
Definitely, says Contreras. His opinion is that you can add them under your hands or forearms for an extra challenge during stability exercises like the plank, side plank, or mountain climber.
If you want a full workout plan that builds strength and lean muscle all over, start The Anarchy Workout. The DVD program is 6 weeks’ worth of high-intensity interval training that will transform your body.
Barre classes are notorious for tiny moves that push your legs and booty to the limit. But even though every pulse brings you a littttle closer to the point of exhaustion, they also make your muscles stronger by the second. Take plié squat pulses, for example. You wouldn’t expect such a tiny movement to burn so good, but oh, it does.
This move is a mainstay at NYC-based barre studio Physique 57, according to co-founder and chief creative officer Tanya Becker. “We love this move because it is a full-body exercise—it really works your thighs, glutes, and core simultaneously,” she says. (They call it Wide Incline Chair in their classes.) “Your glutes and legs are your primary working muscles in this movement, so they take on the majority of the heat.”
And, because you’re strengthening those larger muscle groups, you increase your metabolic rate, she says—this means your body burns more calories at rest because lean muscle mass takes more energy for your body to maintain. Of course, you need to do more than just this move to see full-body results, but it’s definitely worth incorporating into your routine.
You can do this move a couple of ways—if you’re standing in front of a barre or chair and able to hold onto it for balance, you can raise both heels off the ground (just make sure you’re not using the barre or chair to actually support yourself). Or, work one side at a time by raising just one heel off the ground and keeping the other flat. Balancing will be easier this way, but the move itself? Not so much. Here’s how to do it!
Plié Squat Pulse With One Foot Raised Whitney Thielman
- Start standing in a wide squat. Keep your toes slightly turned out, too.
- Bend your knees into a slight squat and lift your left heel so you’re on your toes. Keep your right foot flat on the ground.
- Lower your butt a few inches toward the ground while keeping your chest up and spine straight. Continue pulsing up and down. “Make sure your knees and shins stay still and stable over your heels as you begin to pulse,” says Becker. And engage your core, too!
- Start with 10-20 seconds of pulsing, then add more seconds as you get the form down. “I recommend pulsing to the point where you feel a lot of heat or burn and then begin to feel your legs shake,” says Becker. (Killer, but worth it.) If you only have one heel lifted, make sure you work the other side, too. Do this for 3 sets, resting for 10-20 seconds in between.
You may also like: 13 Incredible Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do At Home
- 6 Different Workouts That Target Your Lower Body
- 9 Low-Impact Workout Moves You Can Do At Home
- This Butt And Hips Exercise Will Also Help Prevent Knee Pain
Calf Raises Plie
A plie foot placement method can be used for a number of different exercises, as it helps to work the different muscles of the calves.
The calf muscles have a multitude of movements and as such you should aim to perform calf raises in a both a normal – plie and inverted exercise format..
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Point your toes out to the side at about 45 degrees, smoothly raise your heels off the ground, holding in the upper phase for 2 – 3 seconds, prior to returning your heels towards the ground.
Focus on keeping your foot straight throughout the movement, avoid any twisting movements.
This method can be used to work either one foot – both feet – or even a combination of one foot normal (facing forward) one foot Plie.
Stretch and Warm Up before you commence any exercise and aim to finish with some good stretching to let your body and mind recover.
Look in the Home Workout area for a great sample workout, if any of these exercises are too hard, then adjust them to your own needs.
Remember to record how many repetitions and sets you can perform, so that you will so how your getting fitter and stronger in all areas. Download your free PDF Record Sheet
Why not join our Members Area so you can have access to thousands of different exercises, workout plans and much more.
Squats are one of the most functional exercises for toning your lower body, and there’s no shortage of variations to make them more challenging. Using weights is one way to mix it up, adding additional resistance to your glutes, hamstrings, and thighs. With all the equipment options available to you, we broke down some of the most advantageous ways to use weights while performing a basic squat.
- Resting dumbbells on your shoulders. Start with your feet shoulder width apart and place the dumbbells on your shoulders, holding the weights in place with your hands. Keep the weights steady on your shoulders as you lower into a squat and return to starting position.
- Holding dumbbells by your sides. Start with your feet shoulder width apart holding one dumbbell in each hand, letting your arms hang freely. Lower your weights down past your knees as you squat, and back up toward your hips as you return to starting position.
- Back squat, placing a bar across your upper back. Start with your feet shoulder width apart, placing the bar up across your upper back, so it’s resting near the base of your neck. Grip the bar with both hands, just outside of your shoulders, and keep the bar in place as you squat and return to starting position. If the bar is uncomfortable on your upper back, you can use a pad or towel underneath to take some pressure off.
- Front squat, holding a bar across your chest. Start with your feet shoulder width apart, placing the bar across the front of your shoulders, so it’s resting above your chest. There are multiple ways to keep the bar in place on a front squat. You can use an underhand grip grabbing the bar near your shoulders on either side, or cross your arms and bring your hands toward your opposite shoulder to press the bar toward your body.
- Goblet squat, gripping one kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your body. Start with your feet shoulder width apart, taking the weight and holding with both hands at chest height. Keep steady in place as you lower and return back to starting position.
- One-arm kettlebell squat. Start with your feet shoulder width apart, placing the kettleball in your right or left hand, outstretching your arm straight up over head. Aim to hold the kettleball in place without bending your arm as you lower and return to starting position.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography
Knee Strengthening Exercises
Regularly doing knee strengthening exercises can decrease everyday knee pain and slow down the progression of knee arthritis. How?
See What Is Knee Osteoarthritis?
When the muscles around the knee get stronger, they are better able to stabilize the joint and absorb shock during weight-bearing activities, such as standing and walking. A stable, supported joint will undergo less friction and wear-and-tear.
See Knee Anatomy
Below are suggested knee strengthening exercises. If these exercises are too challenging, modifications may be used; as muscles get stronger the modifications may be eliminated.
See Exercising with Arthritis
Squats for Knee Strengthening
The squat is a multi-purpose knee strengthening exercise that targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and buttocks.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, firmly planted on the ground.
- Slowly bend the knees as if sitting back into a chair, keeping the back straight and the abdominals engaged. The knees should not go forward beyond the toes.
- Arms may be raised forward to help with balance.
A reasonable goal is 4 sets of 12. To add difficulty, small free weights may be held in each hand.
Squat Modification 1: A person who is unable to keep his or her back straight may try squatting against the wall.
- Position the body in a full squatting position with the back flat against the wall.
- Raise the body by straightening the legs and sliding the back up against the wall.
- Lower the body using the same method.
Squat Modification 2: This version uses a chair.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart in front of the chair.
- Cross arms across the chest, grabbing opposite shoulders with opposite hands.
- Exhale and sit back, moving toward the chair until the thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Pause for a moment, and then rise slowly while keeping the core body engaged and back straight.
If the chair feels too far down, place pillows on the seat until it is a comfortable height.
Thigh and Hip Strengthening Seated Leg Raises
This exercise strengthens the muscles in the front of the thigh, the quadriceps.
- Sit in a chair with the knees bent, feet dangling above the ground. Add pillows to the seat of the chair if necessary.
- Holding onto the sides of the chair for stability, slowly extend left leg until it is nearly parallel to the floor. Try to keep the leg as straight as possible without locking the knee.
- Pause briefly holding the leg straight, and then return back to the starting position.
Repeat with the right leg. Perform 3 sets of 12 repetitions on each side.
Side-lying Leg Raise
This strengthening exercise mainly targets the muscles on the outside of the hip.
- Lie on the left side of the body and bend the left knee so that the left foot is behind the body.
- Slowly raise the right leg until it makes a 45-degree angle with the rest of the body, keeping it as straight as possible.
- Pause with leg raised 45 degrees, and then start a controlled lowering to the starting position.
- At its lowest position, the right leg should be parallel to the floor—not resting on the floor—if possible.
Repeat the leg raise 8 to 12 times on each side, performing 3 sets. If this exercise seems too easy, add light ankle weights.
There are countless wrestling fans, including myself and probably half of the readers in the B/R wrestling section, who tried at least once to apply, or to be on the receiving end, of the famous figure four leglock—just to see if it was actually painful. Trust me, the classic submission move actually hurts.
In the first part of a series of articles exploring some of the most iconic moves in the business, I would like to present you the history of the figure four leglock or simply the figure four. I don’t think it will be necessary to explain the mechanics of the move, since all wrestling fans have already seen it in action. So, what I propose is to explore the wrestlers who used the move to make it so famous.
When a wrestling fan hears or reads the words “figure four”, the name of Ric Flair usually comes to mind first. There are even some who think he invented the move, but it’s not the case. He made it famous, but he didn’t invent it.
According to various sources, including a Buddy Rogers biography, the original “Nature Boy” is the one credited as the inventor of the figure four.
The move was used for the first time somewhere in the late ’50s or in the early ’60s. Rogers used it for sure as early as in 1961, to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title against The Sheik, according to his matches results. However, according to his 1957 matches results, he won many matches via submission during this year so we can assume it was with the figure-four leglock.
If the original “Nature Boy” can be credited as the inventor of the move, the other “Nature Boy” made it famous and viewed by a larger audience. Not only did Flair adopt Buddy Rogers’ nickname and style, but he also adopted his finishing move as a tribute to his childhood hero.
Buddy Rogers applying the figure four leg lock
That being said, Ric Flair is not the only one to have adopted the figure four from Buddy Rogers.
Johnny Valentine, who often teamed up with Rogers, used the move on several occasions and he probably inspired his son, Greg “The Hammer”, to do the same.
In fact, “The Hammer” was the most notable wrestler to use the maneuver in the WWF back in the ’80s. He even added a painful modification, by using his plastic shin guard rotated to cover his calf in order to add even more pressure on his opponents’ legs.
Tito Santana also used the move in many matches. He even won the first match in WrestleMania history against The Executioner with the maneuver. It was not Santana’s prime signature move but, as one of the greatest technicians ever, he mastered it to use it as one of his many ways to win his matches.
In the middle of the 1990s, Bret Hart added a vicious twist to the move when he had his heel run. When he had his opponent prone in the ring, he dragged him in a corner to get the ring post between the legs; he then went outside the ring and applied the maneuver with the steel post in the middle of the legs for more leverage.
That variant of the maneuver didn’t win him any regular matches since it was not applied within the ring. It was mostly used to hurt his opponents and to generate even more heat.
In the second part of the 1990s, Shawn Michaels came with his own touch by doing a modified figure four. Instead of starting with a spinning toe hold, the move starts like a Sharpshooter (probably as wink to Bret Hart).
Other notable wrestlers who used the submission move regularly as their finisher were Jeff Jarrett and Jack Brisco. There’s also Triple H who used it on some occasions. In Japan, the legendary Great Muta added it to his already impressive regular moveset.
There is finally one more wrestler who made the move famous in the 1960s, when it was still a novelty. It was Dick “The Destroyer” Beyer who offered $1,000 to anyone able to break the hold.
This leads me to the counters, and to the reasons why the figure four leg lock is so popular and reached the legendary status. There are not many ways to counter the move, especially when it’s well applied in the middle of the ring. There is the “reversal” move in which the recipient rotate to get both wrestlers on their belly, in order to reverse the pressure.
However, the reversal is far from easy when the hold is well applied and it can be reversed back to normal.
What makes the move so famous is probably because it’s mostly used by heel wrestlers, and it can give a great show when the recipient sells the move well. When a babyfaces struggles to get out of the hold, the fans usually become crazy and it makes them getting on their feet to cheer loudly for their favorite to escape.
It adds some extra interaction between the audience and the wrestlers, and this it what makes pro wrestling great—with no need for pyros or huge titantron. It’s basic but it works.
The hold was obviously used in countless World Heavyweight Title matches, and it made new champions on many occasions. I could mention hundreds of classic matches in which it was applied, but I’ll only go with a few.
The first match that comes to my mind is the WrestleMania VIII encounter between Ric Flair and Randy Savage. In that bout, Flair lost the WWF Title despite a vintage application of the move on Savage who struggled like an entrapped animal for several minutes before escaping.
Even with outside help from Mr. Perfect to add more pressure on Macho Man’s leg, it was not enough, but it gave a great spectacle.
A second great example is the rematch between Flair and Savage. This time, after a long valiant effort to resist, Savage ultimately fainted for the three-count to lose the WWF Championship. It took Mr. Perfect and Razor Ramon to assist Flair for the victory, but it was a classic example of the application of the figure four leglock.
The third match I found is a 1961 classic in which Buddy Rogers refuses to release the hold, and in which he shown his genuine heel colors by continuing the attack on his opponent’s leg after the bell.
As you could see, the figure four is a spectacular submission move and an intense way to end a match. So, it’s no wonder why it became a classic wrestling maneuver and why it will always its place in a ring.
Seasons are in flux and you may find yourself swept away by all of the change surrounding you. That’s why it’s an ideal time of year to launch a grounding self-care practice. We’re excited to bring you our Yoga Pose series to inspire you to root and rise. Check back each week for a new yoga pose to aspire to!
Figure 4 Pose
Alias: Standing Galavasana (“Galava” is a sage in Yogic history)
What’s up with Figure 4?
This week we’re stepping up the challenge with Figure 4 pose. In Figure 4, you’ll combine the body position you learned last week practicing Utkatasana/Chair Pose and the balance you learned during the first week with Vrksasana/Tree Pose to open up your hips. Learning to find physical balance can help you find balance in other aspects of your life.
Benefits of Figure 4 Pose:
- Strengthen quadriceps, ankle and foot muscles
- Tone the core
- Stretch the outer hip and glute muscles
- Relieve lower back tension
- Practice balance and concentration—great for helping you find balance in other aspects of your life
Getting into the posture:
- First come into chair pose. To do this, start standing with feet brought together to touch.
- Rock your weight mostly to the back part of the feet.
- Pick one, unmoving point to focus on (drsti in Sanskrit).
- Shift your weight back, bend the knees and bring your hips down as if sitting into a chair.
- Check to make sure you can see your toes. Move your knees back until you can see the toes. This will help protect the lower back.
- Shift weight into the right foot and begin to lift the left knee up.
- Cross left ankle over right thigh, slightly above the knee (avoid placing ankle directly on the knee).
- Bring hands to heart (prayer pose). Keep the back straight and core engaged as you slightly hinge at the hips. Hips move slightly back before settling.
- Balance & breathe. Stay in pose for 15 seconds–1 minute.
- To exit the pose, place left foot back on floor.
- Stand up and release arms down to your sides.
- Repeat as desired to develop balance, strength and release tight hips (especially important if you spend a lot of time sitting or if you are an athlete).
Tips for success:
- Bring your weight back to help maintain balance.
- Strengthen through the standing leg so it stays more straightly aligned (you don’t want the hip to jut too far out to the side!).
- Keep the neck straight in line with the spine (neither too far forward nor too far back).
- Stand near a wall or railing and use the support to help with balance.
- Practice the pose lying down (Reclining Figure 4 pose/supta eka pada galavasana).
- Lie on your back. Brings knees toward chest. Cross left ankle over right knee. Loop your hands behind the right thigh and gently pull the legs closer to your chest to feel the stretch in the outer left hip. Keep left toes lightly flexed toward the face to protect the knee.
- Advanced practitioners:
- Bring your fingers to rest on the ground and feel a deeper stretch through the hip.
- Hold the standing ankle with both hands for an additional balance challenge.
Contraindications (i.e., things to keep in mind):
- If you have a history of touchy knees or ankles, try practicing Figure 4 lying down.
- Lower back pain: If the pose begins to irritate your low back, check to make sure the belly is pulled in and you are using your abdominal muscles. If that does not immediately alleviate the pressure, come out of the pose and try the reclined variation.
Nice work! Remember that learning to balance your body and your priorities (work, friends, family, hobbies) can lead to a greater feeling of openness and release. Please feel free to comment below and let us know your favorite yoga pose or how you experienced this one.
*The term asana means “posture/pose” in the physical yoga practice.
Natalie Sober is a yoga enthusiast who is inspired to share her knowledge. Natalie completed her first RYT-200 hour yoga teacher training course in Telkot, Nepal, in the Sanatan style of yoga. She is currently pursuing her second RYT-200 certification in the Power Vinyasa style. She also happens to be the newest member of Pharmaca’s marketing department.
*Please consult your physician before beginning this series or any exercise program. As always, your body is the best teacher so listen to the cues it gives regarding whether or not a pose is a good idea.
The wrestler stands over the opponent who is lying on the mat face up and grasps a leg of the opponent. The wrestler then does a spinning toe hold and grasps the other leg, crossing them into a “4” (hence the name) as he does so and falls to the mat, applying pressure to the opponent’s crossed legs with his own. While the hold applies pressure to the knee, it actually can be very painful to the shin of the victim. While the move is primarily a submission move, if the opponent has his shoulders on the mat, the referee can make a three count for a pinfall. If the referee is distracted, heel wrestlers may grab onto the ropes while executing the move to gain leverage and inflict more pain. This variation is the most famous version, made famous by Ric Flair and innovated by Buddy Rogers, and is also the finisher of choice for several legends like Greg Valentine, Dusty Rhodes, The Miz, AJ Styles, Jeff Jarrett, Tito Santana and a bridging variation by Charlotte (which she calls the Figure 8). A modified variation exists more recently used by Shawn Michaels where the wrestler takes one of the opponent’s legs, turns 90 degrees, then grabs the opponent’s other leg and crosses it with the other, puts one foot in between and the other on the other leg, and then bridges over. With enough strength and willpower, the wrestler on defense can flip himself (and also their opponent) over onto their belly, which is said to reverse the pressure to the one who initially had the hold locked in. This counter to the figure four is often called a modified Indian deathlock or sometimes referred to as a sharpshooter variant.
Haas of Pain
This modified inverted reverse figure-four leglock variation sees the wrestler cross one leg of an opponent over the and stand on the crossed leg, then take hold of the free leg and lay down on his back, raising the opponent’s legs up into the air and causing pain to their legs and lower back. The name is derived from Charlie and Russ, the Haas Brothers, who innovated this move.
Inverted figure-four ankle lock
This submission hold involves a combination of the figure-four leglock and the ankle lock. However, instead of locking the opponents legs in a “4” shape, the attacking wrestler crosses one of the opponent’s legs over to the other leg. Then the attacking wrestler grapevines the other leg and performs an ankle lock submission hold.
Inverted figure-four leglock
The wrestler stands over a prone opponent and takes hold of a leg of the opponent. The wrestler then does a spinning toe hold and grasps the other leg, crossing them into a “4” as they do so and falls back to the mat, applying pressure to the opponent’s crossed legs with his own.
Inverted three-quarter figure-four leglock
The opponent is lying face down on the ground. The wrestler kneels over the opponent’s thighs with his left leg between the opponent’s leg, then bends his opponent’s left leg around his left thigh. After that he places the opponent’s right leg over the opponent’s left ankle and puts his own right leg under the opponent’s left ankle. Finally, he puts both of his feet over the opponent’s right foot and presses on it.
Kneeling figure-four leglock
The opponent is down on their back with the wrestler standing over one of their legs. The wrestler applies a spinning toehold, crosses the opponent’s legs and kneels on them.
Modified figure-four leglock
This version is a variant which sees the opponent face up with the wrestler grabbing the opponent’s legs, puts his own leg through it and twists them as if doing a sharpshooter, but instead puts his other leg on the foot of the opponent nearest to him, drops down to the mat and applies pressure.
Reverse figure-four leglock
The wrestler using this move stands over the opponent with the opponent face up and grasps a leg of the opponent. The wrestler then turns 90 degrees and grasps the other leg, crossing them as he does so and falls to the mat, applying pressure to the opponent’s crossed legs with his own.
Ringpost figure-four leglock
Sometimes called the ‘Flying Figure-Four’, the opponent is either downed or standing next to one of the ring corner posts. The wrestler exits the ring to the outside and drags the opponent by the legs towards the ringpost, so that the post is between the opponent’s legs (similar to when somebody ‘crotches’ their opponent with the ringpost). The executor then stands next to the ring apron, on the outside of the turnbuckle/ropes and applies the figure four leglock with the ringpost between the opponent’s legs. The performer of the hold then falls back while grabbing the opponent’s legs/feet, hanging upside down from the ring apron. The ringpost assists the move, creating more damage and leverage to the opponent’s knee. The move was innovated by Bret Hart.
Standing figure-four leglock
The opponent is down on their back with the wrestler standing over one of their legs with one foot placed on either side of the leg. The wrestler plants his foot in the knee of the opponents other leg and then bends that leg at the knee over the top of the first leg forming the figure four. The wrestler then bridges back.