But overall, legs still don’t seem to get the same focus at the gym as do showy, attention-grabbing muscles like the pecs, shoulders and arms. There is still a tendency toward developing top heavy physiques designed to look good out on the town.
Legs are tricky muscles to build. Used constantly, legs become accustomed to hard work. They need special attention and a high degree of intensity for them to respond to training and grow big and strong. In spite of its special requirements, leg day just doesn’t get as much attention and devotion as the fabled and revered chest Monday.
But guess what, guys? Ladies love legs, too!
Not only that, but a strong weekly leg-building session improves your upper body muscularity. It tones and strengthens your midsection and contributes to overall fitness.
Not only should you “never skip leg day,” but you should treat leg day like an anabolic artform! Read on for 9 essential tips to build massive wheels.
Warming up is important for training sessions of any kind. Leg day involves heavy weights. and large compound movements put great strain on injury-prone body parts, such as the knees and lumbar spine. Your leg day warm up should consist of two parts. First, you want to get blood flowing into the muscles and get the joints moving. This doesn’t mean you need to spend ages on a treadmill, light jogging should suffice. Kicking your legs back every now and then and throwing knee raises in improves mobility. If you live within walking distance of the gym, leg day is a good day to ditch the car keys and get strolling. A brisk walk of at least 10-15 minutes warms up legs for your workout.
The next part of your warm up involves light stretching and mobility work. Remember, just as you’d never over-rev a cold engine, you should never over-stretch cold muscles. Throw in free standing squats to finish your warm up and you’re ready to go. If you’re prone to knee problems, do a few sets of high rep leg extensions to begin. Warm up time is when you feel your pre-workout supplement begin to take effect flooding your body with energy and enthusiasm. Sheer Strength Pre-Workout is packed with ingredients scientifically proven to boost your workout without you feeling jittery.
Just like a good warm up, proper form should be a mainstay of your workouts — and leg day is not the day to let this lapse! Know your lifts, and understand the techniques well enough to effectively work the target muscles while avoiding injury.
Use weights you can manage and allowing you to employ proper form through a full range of motion. If you have any doubts about your technique, consult a qualified fitness instructor who gives reliable advice and help to tweak your lifting. Another great way to see if you’re doing moves wrong – record yourself on camera from multiple angles.
Always use protection! When doing heavy leg work, use some form of knee strapping. Lightweight supports suffice for lighter work, but when you get to the big weights, consider using proper, powerlifting style knee wraps. Pull them up snugly and they keep knees well supported. A belt is also useful, but some people find them restrictive. Proper lifting shoes supporting the feet are a great idea for leg day.
Always listen to your body; if you feel pain or discomfort, address it right away; ignoring pain leads to excess strain and injury.
Is it your form causing problems? Do you have an injury?
If you’re prone to knee or back injuries, avoid going too low when squatting or lunging; staying parallel to the ground gives you a sufficient range of motion to pack on mass. Similarly, don’t hyperextend your knees at the top, as this leads to excessive strain and injury.
Poor flexibility is one of the most common causes of poor form when doing heavy leg work. The hamstrings, hip extensors and lower back can become stiff and inflexible over time, leading to improper technique and leaving you vulnerable to injury, particularly at the bottom of big lifts. Poor flexibility negatively affects strength. One telltale sign of poor flexibility is feeling your hamstrings take most of the strain during leg press and squats, that signals a need to improve flexibility. If you have trouble with flexibility, develop a good stretching routine. Other activities like yoga also help keep you limber.
Having a strong and stable core is essential for power transfer and injury-free lifting. When you drive with your legs, your energy travels through the core pushing that big bar skywards. A weak core leads to ineffective training and back problems.
While many big leg lifts strengthen the entire core area themselves, you should also work through a well-balanced core training routine once or twice per week. This doesn’t mean doing hundreds of crunches. Focus on working the core from all angles, including isotonic and isometric work. The deep core muscles are most important for power transfer and stability (they’ll also help you keep a trim waistline!). These muscles can be trained via exercises such as the plank and stomach vacuum. A good, solid deadlift sees you well on your way to a strong and rock-solid core. Remember to keep your core rigid during big lifts like squats and lunges. This is vitally important for good technique and avoiding nasty injuries.
To build huge legs, you must lift heavy. Of course, light weights and high reps have their place, but the majority of your leg workouts should comprise heavy lifts. There are two reasons for this:
This tip is simple. Put the big lifts first. Get your warm up done, then strap up and get in the squat rack. Start with a few high rep sets and then work toward some heavy sets in the 4-8 rep range. This is where your gains come from. Squats, leg press and lunges are all round leg builders, so don’t waste your time pre-exhausting yourself. Just get into the hardcore work and boost those anabolic hormones. As mentioned before, if you are prone to knee problems, do a set or two of high rep leg extensions first to get the blood pumping into the supporting muscles.
Your legs are big chunks of muscle moving in all directions, and a good workout reflects that. Don’t just stick with the same stance in the squat rack. Don’t go too extreme, but moving your feet in and out a few inches or turning them out slightly. All of these slight changes hit the big muscles in different ways. Just look at Tom Platz’s legs at the top of this article — that guy had muscles in places never seen before!
Also, make use of alternative exercises, such as the hack squat (pictured). All of these exercises effectively hit the legs from different angles.
When training the hamstrings, use seated and lying leg curls rather than just one. Similarly, when training calves, always mix up seated and standing calf raises to build fuller, more muscular calves.
The mind-muscle connection is critical to all types of training. Know your body, be acutely aware of what muscles you are targeting, and concentrate on them contracting and working through their full range. When working out, picture the blood and oxygen pumping deep into the fibers and your muscles contracting hard. Squeeze at peak contraction and tune into the feeling of the muscle at its most powerful. Sheer NO2 is a great supplement for assisting the essential mind-muscle connection. This highly potent supplement helps the body increase nitric oxide production, dilating blood vessels and sending blood coursing deep into the muscles for mind-boggling pumps and an impactful workout for all parts of the body.
Jonathan Warren is a national level physique competitor and personal trainer with multiple certifications including NASM, NCCPT, and IKFF. His specializations include mobility training and corrective exercise as well as contest preparation.
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