Leg development is an important part of training for a lot of sports enthusiasts, it’s only natural to require a pair of strong legs to take out your competition in high endurance sports competitions.
Today I want to cover some important exercises and training strategies for leg training and enhancing overall size be it your in training for sports, competitive bodybuilding or your just interested in strengthening and toning up or simply interested in adding some muscle to your frame.
No matter what muscle your working, it is always important to thoroughly warm up first, the muscle needs to be warmed up to prevent from incurring any tears and the joints bare a lot of strain on them thus preventing from injury.
Cardiovascular is important such as stationary bike or treadmill, other good exercises to implement before a leg workout that do a good job of warming up the localized area are deep knee bends and lungs. If doing heavy squats and/or deadlifts, it’s always a wise choice to wrap your knee joint for compression thus helping to protect from injury.
The major portion of the thigh that comes into play for the majority of your workout is the quadriceps. Developing the quads takes a lot of energy, for exercises like squats you will need to take longer resting periods between set’s and possibly ‘re-wrapping your knees to make sure that the knees are kept secure.
The back portion of the thigh is the hamstring, this muscle gets worked from exercise like leg curls and stiff leg deadlifts.
The first four exercises I’ll cover work the quads. These exercises take a lot of energy, if you are new to lifting, don’t try to over do it, start out with a light enough weight that you feel comfortable enough with.
You will need to perform these inside of a squat rack, when using a heavier weight or if you are new to squats, I would suggest having a spotter. Some people perform the squats with feet flat on the floor but I prefer using a Wooden block to elevate my heels thus for better stability and it helps to keep my back more vertical helping to take as much tension as possible of my lower back.
Start by resting the bar across your trap muscles (in back of your head) grasp the bar with a wide grip, raise the bar of the rack and step back far enough so that you have enough clearance to prevent from coming in contact with the rack. Stand keeping your feet shoulder width apart looking straight forward and slowly squat down so that your thighs come parallel to the floor, slowly stand back to starting position.
When doing the squats, try to concentrate on squeezing the thigh muscle when raising your self and flexing your quads at the finish position (standing) and like I said earlier, concentrate on looking forward and not to the sides, especially if you’re new to this exercise, you would be surprised at how easy it could be to lose balance. For the squats do 10-12 reps.
This is more of a power move and it’s an excellent one for working the whole body. Again keep the knees wrapped and wear a weight lifting belt for this one. When doing the squats, some gyms might supply a deadlift platform, if not they should have durable rubber matts to protect the floor from getting too much of a beating from the dropping of the weights.
Start out with a shoulder width stance, gripping the bar with a reversal grip, one hand palm forward and the other hand palm back, this helps with keeping a better grip, you can also chalk your hands for a better grip. Get a good grip on the bar, keeping your head up looking forward, raise yourself up just using the power in your legs, not your lower back, when you raise yourself up to standing position, hold for a second flexing the thigh muscles, then lower the weight back to the floor and repeat for about 10-12 reps.
This exercise is another good one for developing the quads, you can point your toes in or out to stress the quads at a different angle. There are different variations to a leg press machine but they all typically have the same function.
Sit back on the seat, raise the platform with your feet and unlock the locking device, slowly lower the weight down as far as what you feel comfortable and slowly press the weight back to starting position squeezing and flexing your quads for a brief second and lower again, leg presses can be done for 10-20 reps.
Leg extensions are a nice exercise for shaping up the quads, hook your ankles in back of the leg apparatus then slowly extend your legs out until your legs are fully extended, if you can’t extend your legs completely, then you are using too much weight, once you have adopted a weight that you can extend your legs completely locked out, hold for a count of two flexing your thighs and then slowly lower and repeat, leg extensions can be performed for 10-20 reps.
The final exercise I’ll be covering is the leg curl, this is a great one for working the hamstrings (the back of the thigh)
Lay face down on the machine, hooking the back of your ankles under the leg apparatus, curl the weight up with your legs, hold for a second and slowly lower until you can feel a good stretch in your hamstrings and repeat, leg curls can be done for 15-20 reps.
If leg training is a new thing for you, you will want to start out with less sets. For someone a little more advanced would choose four of the exercises listed above, three for quads and one for hamstrings doing four to five sets per exercise totaling 16-20 sets total.
If you are new to leg training, start with one exercise for quads, either leg presses or leg extensions and leg curls for hamstrings, start out with 2-3 sets per exercise totaling 4-6 sets total.
I remember back when I started out new to working my legs, I started out with more sets than what I should have done and I paid for it, I couldn’t even walk out of the gym, I literally had to crawl, a lot of the quad work can really be taxing on your muscles, so take it easy and keep on pumping.