Lean, capable legs

Steve Tongue chooses ViPR exercises that give you a great-looking booty AND strong legs that are fit for an active life.

Lean legs and a powerful ‘looking’ booty have become a common goal among the younger generation in particular. Social media channels are often filled with snappy videos of BB hip extensions, hack squats, hamstring curls and many variations of deadlifts and BB squats. It’s great to see resistance training growing a strong following but, as a movement-based trainer, I can’t help putting on my functional training lenses and recognising that not all of these exercises have great carryover into life and sport. It made me think about whether there are other exercises we could utilise that still follow the Loaded Movement Training (LMT) Fundamentals and give us great-looking legs which are strong, functional and capable of tackling life and competitive sport. I picked up my ViPR and my thinking cap and proceeded to set my quads and glutes on metabolic fire.

Loaded Movement Training Fundamentals are part of ViPR’s DNA. Let’s remind ourselves of these basic principles.

Gravity into ground loading

Gravity is constantly loading our bodies and pulling us downward into the ground; as we are mostly standing when we live, work and play, gravity usually pushes vertically through our bodies. In order to remain upright and mobile, we have to push back and we do so in the opposite direction against the ground. This is ground reaction force.


The mass of an object is a measurement of the inertia (ability to start and stop moving) that object has. Practically, this means we must apply force to start an object in motion and we must apply force to stop or change the direction of an object in motion. In the gym, the greater the mass we lift, the more force we need to apply.


Momentum is a measurement of mass in motion or mass x velocity. An object in motion will have a reluctancy to stop: an external force must be applied to stop it. Practically, in the gym, if we want to move efficiently at speed, we tend to use tools with less mass to help us keep control of momentum.

Putting on our functional training lenses, we can assess the functional carryover of an exercise by considering the LMT Fundamentals. Is gravity and ground reaction force being loaded authentically as it would be in life and sport? For example, standing vs lying.

Is mass and momentum being neglected or leveraged effectively in a manner that is authentic to life and sport? For example, static vs dynamic exercise.

Does the movement utilise the whole body in multiple planes of motion as is common in life and sport? For example, fixed weights machines vs freedom of movement.

There is not a right or wrong choice of exercise here but simply a more functional or less functional choice of exercise. Looking at the LMT four quadrant model, we can see that all styles of exercise have their application and we should probably be utilising all four quadrants to get the best physical health and performance from our bodies.

There are indeed common movement patterns we can identify time and time again in real-life, task-driven motion. These movement patterns may include - and are not limited to - single-leg balance, step, squat, hinge, hop and jump. These movement patterns can serve as ingredients in our ViPR recipe for lean and capable legs.

When I think of the term ‘capable legs’, I imagine legs that can reasonably handle any task that general life and competitive sport might require them to do. This thought process leads me to the conclusion that this programme style sits in the remit of ViPR Performance. ViPR Performance is defined as ‘building elite fitness for all levels of competition’. This is the most dynamic style of exercise design and so I have applied appropriate progressions for each of the movement patterns I wanted to work on. The system of progression was based on four steps:

  • Reinforce the movement pattern. This first step looks at exercises which are lower in load, have less movement complexity and create an environment in which the client can focus on the quality of movement, address and correct compensations, and be competent at technique.
  • Increase force. This progression phase is about strength. Here the client may be asked to use a heavier ViPR, adopt a harder loading position of ViPR, move ViPR more quickly or use a grip which creates greater leverage on the body. The aim of these variables is to create more force and, therefore, build more strength into the soft tissues that are most active in the given movement pattern.
  • Increase speed and direction change. This progression is all about improving agility. This phase of progression is about mastering acceleration and deceleration in multiple directions until the movements are quick and competent in three dimensions.
  • Reactivity. This final phase of progression is to test the quality, strength and speed of the movement without the option of rehearsal and in a random and unpredictable pattern. This is where high-quality movement must become autonomous and the mind is focused on the task, not the motion.

Each progression builds into the next and so these progressions should be followed in sequential order. With each progression comes a different style of challenge and so we are testing the robustness of the movement under different circumstances, just as a dynamic sport would do.

With my list of functional leg movement ingredients and a spicy system of progression, I had everything I needed to cook up a tasty workout for some lean, capable legs. Here is what I came up with:

Step patterns:

Step & Tilt. Focus here is on the quality of movement, so ViPR is only partially loading the body. Look for good 90˚ angles of the knees, an upright and long spine, and a consistent, confident foot placement.

Step & Shoulder Carry. This is essentially the same exercise as above but really loading up the weight and building strength into the movement. The offset shoulder carry provides an additional stability challenge.

Multi-Directional Step & Shoulder Carry. Add multi-directional steps to strengthen the hips in all directions. Encourage a spring and return with each step to build power and demand accurate foot placement to reinforce movement quality.

Step & ViPR Catch (BOSU). Drop ViPR into the centre of the BOSU from above; it could fall in any direction. The aim is to catch ViPR as close to the ground as possible, having only taken a single step. This is a fun reaction drill which can be performed alone.

Squat patterns:

Squat & Tilt. Cue good squat mechanics here. Use a high grip on ViPR to encourage a tall position in the trunk.

Squat Front Carry. Keep it simple and load this movement pattern up; aim for greater and greater intensity without a loss of form.

Squat Front Carry Slow/Fast. At this point, the squat pattern should be strong and competent, so it’s time to bring the speed and develop power. Vary the speeds as much as you would like to imitate changes in pace and place varying demands on the soft tissues to increase tissue tolerance.

Squat & Ball Strike. This drill is mostly reliant on a partner to throw and catch a ball, although it might work with a light ball against a wall if you are accurate. The ball really focuses the mind on the task and so, as a coach, you’re assessing to see how well the quality of the squat pattern is maintained.

Hinge patterns:

ViPR Hinge Alignment. This drill uses ViPR as a splint to reinforce the look and feel of a healthy hinge pattern. Contact of the pelvis, thoracic spine and back of the head should be maintained throughout the hinge. A mirror or video may be useful tools for coach feedback here.

ViPR Thread the Needle. This classic ViPR move is superb for dynamically loading a hinge pattern. Be sure to assess the quality of the spine position at the bottom of the hinge – it should match the movement in progression one.

Multi-Directional ViPR Hinge. The hinge pattern is challenged in multiple directions and foot positions to replicate the variation in an uncontrolled competitive environment.

ViPR Hinge Reactive Feet. This drill uses random markers that must be stepped on upon cue. Every step must initiate a hinge pattern and then a return to neutral feet. The video example demos with reactive lights but any floor markers can be used and called out.

Hop patterns:

ViPR Supported Hop. Using ViPR to assist with balance and to take some bodyweight, practise good hopping form. Try to encourage landing on the ball of the foot as lightly as possible. Try to aim for a consistent landing target.

ViPR Hop & Reach. Take several small hops and then drop into a deep, single-leg squat while reaching away with ViPR. From the bottom position, spring back to small hops. This builds single-leg strength and challenges stability of single-leg landing position.

Multi-Directional ViPR Hop & Reach. Single-leg landings can happen in any direction during dynamic play and sport; here, use a rehearsed pattern of directions to allow familiarity with good landing form in all directions.

ViPR Hop Balloon Juggle. This is fun, can be done alone and encourages task-driven, reactive, multi-directional single-leg landings. It's tough but funny.

Jump patterns:

ViPR Supported Jump. Use ViPR for support and a reference point for accurate foot landing position. Heavy ViPRs work best because they are more stable and sturdy in supporting you. Posture of the spine should be maintained and light landings on the balls of the feet should be observed.

ViPR Jump & Overhead Reach. The reach adds to the task-driven aspect of the jump motion without taking the mind off good landing form. In life and sport, we only usually jump to get something/somewhere or both.

ViPR Jump & Multi-Directional Reach. Reaching in various directions challenges landing positions and mechanics. This is a chance to rehearse good landings in a non-pressured situation.

ViPR Jump and BOSU Landing. The client should have consistently good landing mechanics and familiarity with the BOSU before attempting this. The BOSU makes every landing unstable and reactive – a challenging environment but great for building resilient landings.

Single-leg balance patterns:

ViPR Supported Single Leg Reach. Try to achieve maximum reach and a controlled return to start. One leg should be off the ground at all times and movement should be smooth and flowing when competent.

ViPR Single Leg Balance with Knee Hold. The movement is now tested by adding load, with the pause and pose demanding balance and stability both statically and dynamically.

ViPR Single Leg Balance Multi-Directional Reach. Lateral and rotational reaches will really test balance and build strength into the arch of the foot. Use a rehearsed pattern to allow for motor learning and tissue resilience to build up.

ViPR Single Leg Balance Pop & Catch. When throwing and catching ViPR, there will always be subtle variations in its flight path and so this will vary the forces in the standing leg trying to stay stable. It builds power and stability simultaneously.

Resisted locomotion patterns:

ViPR Sagittal Flip. Focus on quick feet and small steps, changing direction as quickly as possible. This can be fun to do against the clock and is best performed with a heavy ViPR.

ViPR Run with Drag. Focus is on speed of running and direction change; you can vary the length of the run to make it relevant to the client. This is best performed as a partner or team challenge.

ViPR Run/Drag Multi Directional. Explore running forwards, backwards and sideways with ViPR to challenge speed in all directions. This could be done as a rehearsed pattern or to a coach’s directional cue.

ViPR Run/Drag with Reactive Direction Change. This drill is all about speed of reaction. A cone is cued at random and can be reached by running in any direction. Introducing greater numbers of cones increases complexity and intensity of the drill.

These drills will not only give you stronger legs but will work on many different components of your fitness, giving you functional legs that are ready to take on the world. What I have tried to do here is inspire some training drills for you to build on. I would encourage you to consider how you might adapt these drills to make them even more specific to your clients’ goals. Can you develop even more loading variations, regressions and progressions to really challenge yourself and your clientele?

These drills are not conventional and you will stand out in the gym throwing down some of these moves. Embrace the different and share the benefit of your knowledge with those around you. At ViPR, we would love to see the drills you're performing and creating posted on social media. Please film and share your ViPR fun – tag @viprglobal #loadedmovementtraining – and help make functional leg training and loaded movement training (LMT) a social media trend for lean, capable legs.

Stephen Tongue is Head of Education for ViPR and was first introduced to and trained on ViPR by inventor Michol Dalcourt back in 2011. Stephen’s passion for movement training and success as a Freelance Personal Trainer and Presenter led to him joining the ViPR Master Trainer Team at FitPro back in 2013. Stephen has remained a part of the team until this day as well as picking up Master trainer positions with other big fitness brands such as TRX, PowerPlate and MyZone. Stephen has regularly created content throughout his career for national and industry magazines, news bulletins, blogs and social media. His enthusiasm for ViPR training throughout his career has always kept him close to FitPro and he is instrumental in ViPR’s progress and vision.