We did the Bicep, we even did the traps. It’s about time we had an article dedicated to the most commonly undertrained muscle in a bodybuilders body aka, the legs.
It sickens me how many athletes fail to train their legs. I’ve heard all the excuses!
“I don’t plan on wearing shorts!” “I just care about a big chest and arms, my legs aren’t small!” Yes, they are small. Let’s be realistic here. It doesn’t matter if you are a boxer, martial artist, a power lifter, bodybuilder, soccer player, American football player, whatever you do, hell, even baseball, the legs are usually where you get your power.
A lot of guys say claim that you don’t get compliments for having big legs, which is completely untrue. I’ve had LOADS of compliments on my legs. Male and female. alike, saying “Wow! Your legs are big.” The men usually also comment with “I wish my leg were half the size of yours!” From the women I usually hear, “Your legs are impressive.” “Don’t usually see many guys with big legs.”
This is exactly my point. Training your legs can actually INCREASE the rest of your body mass. You get a HUGE hormonal response from doing heavy ass squats. Put that in with the fact the more muscle you have. The easier it is to be “leaner” and you have absolutely no reason whatsoever to NOT train those legs!
So this is for all the “chicken legs” out there.
I know for many It’s one of those body parts you dread training at the gym since you know that if you want them to grow, especially if they’re a weak body part, that you’re gonna have to go balls to the wall with your training.
Building huge legs is by no means easy. While some people have genetically large quads and calves, others are not as fortunate and, as stated earlier, a lot of guys commonly don’t train them because, as people in my gym say, “It’s not fun to train legs!” That’s when I look at them and ask them if they know that squats cause your body to release growth hormone, helping other body parts that they’re working 5 days a week to grow. Then I get the question, “Well, I heard squats were bad for your knees. Isn’t that true?” and I just laugh.
One of the funniest things is, every professional FEMALE athlete or female who takes her training seriously always does the squat and loves the squat. So much for the “tough male” attitude, eh?
This article is written to discuss the largest muscle group and one of the most vital muscle groups that bodybuilders train. “How do I grow tree trunks for legs?” you may now be asking. Well, not to worry, since I’m here to help those wheels grow. I will be providing every bit of information I’ve had given to me, along with personal experience with myself and 1000s of athletes.
First, let’s go over the important exercises for quadriceps, hamstring, and calf hypertrophy while providing insights and important links for how to do them and then I will give some good sample routines and advanced techniques commonly used.
Quadriceps – Other names include thighs and quads. There are four heads, the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, and the vastus medialis. It is located on the front of your upper leg above the knee.
Barbell Squat – This is the king of all leg exercises. Hello, I’m going to go one further and say it is the KING of all exercises.
Squats are essential for leg growth. If you aren’t squatting and you don’t have a disability or valid reason for not squatting, you shouldn’t even be training in the gym.
There are so many types of squats you can do, including the hack squats and front squats, but the one most commonly used and best for gains, in my honest opinion, is the good old conventional barbell squat.
***Some tips for squatting – 1) Keep the bar aligned with your heels throughout the movement. 2) Push up with your heels, not with your toes. This is one of the most common causes for injury!. 3) Don’t let your knees travel past your toes, this is the WORST thing you can do, pretend like you’re sitting in a chair almost to stop this from happening. 4) For greater emphasis in the outer quads use a narrower stance. To place more emphasis on the inner quads use a wider, sumo-like stance.
Leg Press – Many people try to compare this to the squat and use it as a substitute, which is wrong since squatting is much more important. There is literally nothing that can beat the squat for leg growth. However, the leg press is definitely a great exercise to use in your routine after squats and to SUPPLEMENT squats to really blast those quadriceps. On this exercise to place greater emphasis on the quads, position your feet about shoulder width apart on the lower portion of the sled you are pushing. For greater emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes, position your feet higher up with your legs farther apart.
Lunges – Another great exercise that works the entire upper legs (quads, hamstrings, and glutes), but mostly the quads is the lunge. Be careful not to let your knees go past your toes on this exercise for safety. Note that you can do lunges with a barbell or dumbbells.
Leg Extension’s, however, are something I’d stay away from, personally.
Why? Because it’s lack of “bang for your buck,” we talk about this often. It’s a high risk exercise with little reward. Power lifters, Football players, soccer players, martial artists, ANY athlete does NOT need to do and will NOT benefit from this exercise. I know plenty of competitive bodybuilders who DO NOT use it. In fact, all of my athletes refuse to use this exercise. Do so at your own risk.
Hamstrings – This muscle group is located on the upper leg in the back opposite of the quadriceps. There are four heads of the hamstring.
Stiff Legged Deadlift – This is a great compound movement to really hit your hamstrings hard. You can do these with a mixed grip or regular grip, whichever you prefer and be sure to keep the bar close to your legs for the entire movement. (I can’t stress this enough!) Also, keep your head up for the the entire exercise. Theres nothing worse then someone pulling his head all the way back or throwing it back and forward during the lift, this does nothing but increase the chance of an injury. DO NOT DO IT!
Leg Curl – The leg curl is a favorite exercise among many people because it really targets the hamstrings.
Calves – The calf muscles are located under your knee on the back of your legs. Many people like to train calves with lighter weight and higher reps, but it’s all up to you and what works best for you personally. The calves are pretty much divided up into two parts, the larger part is the gastrocnemius and the smaller outer part is the soleus.
Personally I’d recommend trying a bit of both ways. I’ve done up to 30reps with a heavy weight and found GREAT increases in size. But I know other athletes who do 5/6reps for 4/5 sets with as heavy a weight as possible and they’ve added good mass. So check out what works for you.
Standing Calf Raises-This is the most popular calf exercise among bodybuilders since it’s relatively simple. You can do these with dumbbells in your hands as well if you don’t have access to a lever machine, but try doing them on a step for greater range of motion with the dumbbells. Go slow and concentrate on working those calves. You can also do these with one leg. (Big fan of one legged movements for the calf)
Calf Press on Leg Press Machine – This one is another popular exercise you will see many people in your gym doing. Be sure not to bend your knees so you’re completely pressing with your toes, working those calf muscles.
Donkey Calf Raises – These are not as popular as the first two but will definitely give your calves one heck of a workout. The problem is having the equipment and technique to do them properly. But if you can, you certainly should be.
How would I train legs? Personally, I like to train legs 2 to 3 times per week. As many of you know I’m by no means a believer of the “train one muscle group per week”
Now go out there and get those legs growing!