It's that time of the week again. The time wished we could just fast forward until the end of the session. That's right, its leg day. Just the thought of kicking off the week with a few gut-wrenching sets of squats, leg presses and stiff-legged deadlifts is usually enough to send most guys running for the locker room. Why? Because building a solid set of legs is hard, for one. It takes time, not to mention a heck of a lot of effort.
While having a V-tapered upper body is desirable, it shouldn't extend all the way down to your feet. How wants to look like the Tasmanian devil come to life? It you're neglecting your legs, you're making a big mistake.
A well-developed set of wheels is beneficial for the entire body. "That's the foundation of the house," says Jim Wright, Ph.D., science editor of Flex magazine. "You can't build a big house on a foundation of matchsticks. Everything you do derives forcefully from you legs."
When training your legs, you're basically working half your body in one session. Training your leg muscles doesn't only work your lower half; it actually works your entire body, increases your heartbeat and gets your blood flowing to help burn fat and work your cardiovascular system.
Working out your legs is also crucial to maintain a nice symmetry, which is simply the proper balance between the size of each and every one of your body's muscles. (In layman terms, it means you won't look like a Popsicle, with a muscular upper body and chicken legs).
Before we go into the details of each leg exercise, it's important for you to know which muscles are involved in your leg muscles consist of the gluteus (buttocks), the quadriceps (front of the upper legs), the hamstrings (back of the upper legs), and the calves (back of the lower leg).
To improve a particular body part, you have to cut back on training the rest of the body. It's an approach called priority training. "The single most important factor is to make legs your top priority," says Wright. "You want to be able to put 100 percent into building them." Setting aside Monday's for leg training after a weekend of rest not only gives your legs priority, it also ensures they'll be fresh.
- Slow and Steady Makes You Big
In the past, we've said there's no faster way to build muscle than by lifting heavy weight. That statement still holds true. But if you aren't using proper form, it doesn't matter how heavy you life. "Check your ego at the door," says Wright. "It's about mastering the mental process. The weight will come after that."
Unless you're a power-lifter, the point isn't to see how many plates you can pile on to the leg press. It's to put the maximum amount of stress on the muscles you're training. If you're lowering or pushing the weight too fast, you're not putting continuous tension on the muscle throughout the movement. Use a full range of motion on each movement, and concentrate on the feeling in the muscle by stretching on the way down and flexing on the way up.
While I do provide a guideline for reps and sets, don't worry about reaching the assigned numbers at first. Concentrate on forma and tempo. If your form begins to break, you're might as well stop. Your not getting anything done except increasing the risk of injury. Once you become comfortable with the exercises and your limits, start shooting for the prescribed reps.
If you've always thought that a mass-building program for legs had to include squats, think again. While we'll never diminish the importance of the squat as one of the greatest exercises you can do, there are ways to beef up your legs without it.
Whether you're a first-timer at the gym, an occasional leg lifter or an experienced veteran, try out a once-a-week program. Give it a minimum of six weeks, but for best results, shoot for two months.
To view an example of a workout like this <click here>
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