When it comes to training, the legs are arguably the most under-trained body part. People often believe that as you are going to keep them covered most of the time, you shouldn’t waste too much time on them. Instead, they spend majority of time and efforts building flashier body parts such as biceps and chest. Apart from creating serious unbalance in the body, skipping leg training can be disastrous in terms of aesthetics as well. Believe me, there is nothing worse than looking at a man with great upper body and chicken legs.
Even, if you aren’t concerned about the aesthetic aspect of bodybuilding (which I suspect you are concerned about), the leg training is very important for your overall bodybuilding gains. The leg training consists of big lifts such as squats and deadlifts. And, these big lifts stimulate muscle gain by heightening the release of growth hormones and testosterone throughout the whole body. Whether you are looking to lose weight or add muscles to your frame, the big lifts are absolutely necessary.
So, here are ten tips that will help you build bigger and stronger legs. These tips range from minor tweaks in some exercises to change in training habits. Incorporate these in your training and build a solid foundation.
Squat, squat and squat
It is one of the most challenging and hardest exercises, but the results it delivers makes doing them worthwhile. No matter what the theories out there claim or your hipster trainer claims. No modern training philosophy or routine can succeed without squats. The squats are arguably the best lower body builder exercise. The machine exercises such as leg extensions and curls can help you isolate the leg muscles and work them to the ground. However, it is the squats that give a kick start in training the leg muscles to failure. It uses almost every leg muscle to work in unison to complete the exercise movement. And, as you aren’t locked into the machine, you will build stability as well. Also, it removes the potential imbalance between the right and left side.
And, for efficiency sake, the squats should be your first choice. The squats engage and work multiple muscles in one move, which cuts the need to do countless exercises to stimulate every muscle in your leg. Start your workout with big squats and soon after, do the isolation exercises to get great results. The squats will leave your legs burning in no time and will jack up your heart rate as well.
Talking about the heart rate, the squats can help you get a good cardio as well. So, not only you would be building powerful and stronger legs, but will also be turning your body into fat torching furnace.
If you feel your legs are your weaker body part or are lagging behind, then prioritize them. Prioritizing means giving leg training preference over other body parts, which means you should do your leg training when you feel you are at your physical peak or can create optimal conditions for better muscle gain. One way to prioritize legs is to train them on Mondays. It is start of the week and your body is well rested after having a day off on Sunday. You will feel fresh and full of energy, which will assist you in giving an extra effort in working legs to failure. Of course, you don’t have to necessarily pick Monday. You can do the leg training on any day following your off day(s). The idea is to come fresh.
Another way to prioritize is to do leg training just before the off day. This will ensure that your leg muscles will get extra time to recover. However, for this arrangement to work, you have to make sure that you are working your legs to complete failure. Otherwise, it is just a waste of a day.
Split them up
This is another way to shore up your legs, if they are lagging behind other body parts. By splitting the leg muscles, you would be able to invest more time and efforts to the individual muscles, which will eventually help you build stronger and powerful legs. Work hamstrings on one day and train quadriceps on the other. Start you hams day with deadlifts and the quads with huge squats. And, train both of these muscles to the ground. However, by splitting the leg muscles, it doesn’t mean you will have to have a separate day for glutes or calves. You can include them in hamstrings and quadriceps days. Another thing you have to keep in mind while scheduling split leg training is the sequence. Never train hamstrings before the quads because the hamstrings are used as supporting muscles in several quadriceps exercises. And, if you have already fatigued the support muscle group, you will never to able to train the main muscle group to failure. Therefore, the quadriceps training should always come before hamstrings day.
Once in a week
While in pursuit to bring your weak legs on par with other body parts, never make the mistake of training them more than once in a week. If you are after maximum muscle gain, then training more than once is strictly off the limits. You feel you have the energy to train them more than once? Or you feel you recover quickly enough to warrant two or more leg training sessions? You aren’t training them hard enough. If you train your legs hard, heavy and with full intensity, you won’t feel the need or inclination to train them again in the week. You need to work them to the ground to get the best possible muscle response. This is because leg muscles are some of the biggest muscles in your body and they need more overload to reach failure. So, make sure you are doing the leg workout with right intensity and you won’t feel the need to train them again in the week.
Switch and flip
The muscle memory isn’t a myth. It is real and can easily hamper your progress. The muscle memory is often responsible for pushing your body into the plateau phase. So, training them hard enough isn’t sufficient, you have to train them differently. You should switch and flip your workout every now and then. And, you don’t have to make huge changes to your workout to ensure that the muscle recovery doesn’t hamper your muscle gains. You can opt to flip the sequence of the exercises, or you can change the number of repetitions or sets you do for a particular exercise. Also, you can opt to include drop sets, giant sets and supersets in your training regime. And, change your workout once in four weeks. You have to make sure that your muscles don’t get used to the workout. For best results, you have to ensure that your muscles never get comfortable with the workout. In gym, comfort should be the last thing in your mind.
Cardio won’t help
If muscle gain is your training objective, then you should refrain from doing cardio. The cardio exercises such as swimming, running and cycling do engage your leg muscles and arguably makes them stronger. But, the problem is they won’t make your leg muscles bigger. In fact, if you are doing too much cardio activity, you run the risk of losing your muscle mass. These exercises employ your slow twitch muscles and are geared towards increasing stamina and the oxygen capacity of your muscles. These muscles will always be leaner in structure. If you want to look bigger and buffer, you need to engage your fast twitch muscles which have the tendency to get bulkier with right training. And, as the cardio routines rarely engage your fast twitch muscles, there is little gain from them as long as muscle gains are concerned. Only go for cardio, when you are satisfied with the size of your legs.
Don’t forget isolation exercises
Yes, the compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts are very important. But, so are the isolation exercises such as leg extensions and leg curls. Neither of the two should come at the expense of the other. For best possible muscle gains, you have to incorporate the compound as well as isolation exercises in the workout. The big compound exercises will give you muscle mass and the isolation exercises will give your legs much needed definition and shape. And, both are an important aspect of bodybuilding process.
The difference between the isolation exercises and compound exercises isn’t just limited to number of joints involved in the exercise. For the starters, let me clarify that the compound exercises are multi-joint exercises, whereas the isolation exercises are single-joint exercise. These two types of exercises also differ in execution as well. Whereas the compound exercises should have less repetitions and heavy load, the isolation exercises deliver best results when the load is moderate and the repetitions are comparatively higher.
Don’t forget the stabilizer muscles
Often, people get so enamored with building big muscles that they forget to train smaller stabilizer muscles. These muscles found around the hips and other joints are very crucial for overall muscle development and safety reasons. These muscles help prevent injury and ensure correct stability and movement of hips and other muscles while doing major leg exercises. If the stabilizer muscles aren’t well developed, you will find it difficult to move your body in the right way, which can be potentially dangerous and undermine your results. Especially, never forget to train your adductors (inner thigh) and your abductors (outer thigh) as part of your routine. The band and isometric stretching exercises can be very helpful in strengthening the groin area and other stabilizing muscles.
To get the best results, you need to give your body adequate time and resources to achieve a complete muscle recovery. And, if you are going to sleep for four to five hours, you won’t go anywhere. Irrespective of how hard you train in the gym, the lack of rest will always hinder your results. The muscle gain is directly proportional to the amount of sleep you get. There is a reason behind saying that the muscles grow in your sleep.
So, you need to ensure that you have a sleep conductive lifestyle and have habits that will help you get proper sleep. Stop watching late night shows and sport matches. Banish all your gadgets from your bed. It has been found that the light of the tablets and laptops can mess up your sleep cycle.
To get proper sleep, you will also have to refrain from taking your supplements that have caffeine content. The caffeine intake in the evening can delay sleep. It can also affect your ability to get deep and restful REM sleep.
Unless, you are providing your muscles with right fuel, they won’t get any bigger irrespective of your training regime. Within 30 minutes of your workout, you have to supply your muscles with mix of proteins and complex carbohydrates – the proteins to repair the tears developed in the muscle fibers and carbohydrates to make your muscles bigger. The best and quickest way to provide these nutrients to your muscles is to have a good quality whey shake. It should be followed by a short meal with the similar composition of the nutrients.
Overall, make sure you are having five to six meals and consuming enough calories to boost muscle gain. Also, try to eat healthy and clean. Step clear of processed and junk foods. When it comes to beverages, trust only clean water as other options such as sodas, processed juices and alcoholic drinks will only give empty calories devoid of any nutrients. And, try to drink as much water as possible.