How to Do Leg Day Like a Pro Soccer Player

The Editors of GQ

GQ staff writer Clay Skipper has attempted to stop an NHL slap shot, score a free kick against an MLS goalie, and beat an NBA player in a three-point contest. But in the latest episode of Above Average Joe, Skipper has a (slightly) easier task: emulating the leg workout of a professional athlete.

With the help of New York Red Bulls strength and conditioning coach Adam Rotchstein, Skipper targets the four pillars of leg day: power, strength, stability, and mobility. Address each of them, and you won’t necessarily be destined for the pros, but you will see some gains. You’ll also be sore afterwards. Here’s the complete breakdown of a professional's leg day.

POWER EXERCISES

Jump squats

Three sets, five reps

The good news about power exercises is you can do them anywhere, sans equipment. Start with jump squats. Put your hands on your hips, squat down, keep your chest back, and jump up. It’s hard to look good while doing it, as Skipper notes, and that’s okay. No one is watching except the dog.

Counter-movement jumps

Three sets, five reps

From there, it’s onto counter-movement jumps—essentially a two-footed jump as high as you can from a squat position while reaching with one arm, like you’re trying to dunk a basketball. As Rotchstein notes, you're aiming to get, from compressed to extended as fast as possible, driving your arms up, developing both strength and responsiveness.

Strength

Split squats

3-4 sets, 6-8 reps per leg

The next exercises are about strengthening your quads and glutes. Holding dumbbells, drop your back knee straight to the ground—without touching—while keeping your chest up and your head in a neutral position. Push up through the heel of your lead leg.

Lateral squats

3 sets, 8 reps per leg

Lateral squats are intended to improve your groin strength, which you will never appreciate until you watch some other guy pull his groin. With a kettlebell or another weight, take a wide stance, toes facing forward, and squat into one leg while keeping the opposite leg straight—you don't want it to bend much, if at all. As with two-legged squats, you're pushing up through your heel, while letting your inner leg and ass muscles do a lot of the lifting. If you want to dial up the difficulty, you can try full-on lateral lunges, stepping your weighted (non-straight) leg back into a standing position, then out again for the squat.

Stability

Double-leg Romanian deadlifts

3-4 sets, 6-8 reps per leg

Romanian deadlifts (or RDLs) can be done single-leg style or double-leg style. If you’re a beginner, opt for double-leg and nail the form so you don't blow out your back. Basically, grab your dumbbells, and “take a bow,” says Rotchstein. You're not bending your knees much—this isn't a squat. Instead, poke your ass backwards, with your back straight, and squeeze your glutes and hamstrings to get back to a standing position.

Single-leg Romanian deadlifts

3-4 sets, 6-8 reps per leg

Oh, you want more? For single-leg RDLs, balance on one leg, bend at the waist, and let your other leg—keep it straight—raise behind you as you bend down. That back leg should be aligned with your back, making a clean line. “You’re going to feel this a lot in your glutes and hamstring,” Rotchstein says. “This is the movement that is going to create a lot of soreness, especially if you’re not used to doing it.” First-timers, test-drive it without weights to make sure you've got the form down, and come back to a full standing position. Add weights once you've got your balance figured out. And for a whole other layer of difficulty, don't put any weight on your back leg as you return to standing position.

Calf raises

2-3 sets, 12 reps each

It’s not about knocking out reps as quickly as possible—you want to pause at the top of each rep for two seconds, then slowly lower down to the floor for four seconds. Pause with your feet on the floor for two seconds, then repeat.

Mobility

Reverse leg curls

3 sets, 8 reps

A roller is helpful here, but if you don’t have one, a towel on a slick floor will suffice. To execute a reverse leg curl, lay flat on your back, drive your elbows into the ground, lift your hips up, engage your core, and flex your glutes. You’re going to push your roller or towel out and back, hinging only at the knees, while keeping your hips raised and your core locked. The burn you feel is your hamstrings crying.

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Above Average Joe

GQ staffer Clay Skipper took a couple pucks to the body—and some big falls on the ice—for our new video series “Above Average Joe.”

Originally Appeared on GQ