I can't figure out why, but people universally neglect to train their legs. It's a funny thing, since proper leg training will dramatically deliver total body results.
Walk into any gym and you'll see the bench press taken, the dumbbells being curled-and an empty squat rack in the corner.
Leg exercises are tough, I won't deny that, but the benefits are more than worth the exertion.
A Case for Your Legs
Your legs are a major muscle group, so it's no surprise that training them will get you big time results. Training your legs will...
Melt fat from your body. As I mentioned above, leg exercises are tough. Your legs are a large part of your body, so each exercise literally moves your whole body. This is precisely why a good leg workout will fire up your metabolism to melt fat away. You'll burn more calories while exercising your legs than any other body part.
Due to the intense nature of a leg workout, your metabolism becomes elevated for more than 24 hours. That means that for an entire day your body continues to burn extra calories without any extra effort on your part. Who wouldn't love that?
Build "functional strength". How often do you use your legs? Most of us depend on our legs constantly throughout the day-so wouldn't it make sense to strengthen our primary mode of transportation? Kind of like putting a super charger on the engine of your car.
Exercising your legs isn't only about increased strength; you'll also improve your coordination and balance. This means that you'll be able to do and experience things that you otherwise would have missed. You only live once, right?
Uncover natural muscle. Let's be honest, trained legs are attractive. I'm not saying that your legs will bulge with muscles (unless we trained you for that), but I am saying that consistently training your legs will uncover your natural musculature.
Many of my training partners discover a whole new level of confidence after getting their legs back into shape. Women especially enjoy the freedom to wear shorts or a skirt without feeling embarrassed to show their legs. Personally, no matter how hard I try to grow calf muscles like Arnold, it just won't happen. My African-American heritage genetically predisposes me to having short calf muscles and long achilles tendon. Which makes me faster. It's a trade off I'll take any day.
Oh, and I should tell you that as you strengthen your legs you'll also reduce the risk of injury to your lower back because you'll actually learn to pick things up off the ground the right way. Again, functional strength.
What Muscles Are Involved In The Legs?
The legs are made up of at least six notable muscles – quadriceps (front leg), gluteus maximus (butt), hamstrings (back leg), calves (back leg), adductors (inside thigh) and abductors (hips). Most of those individual muscles can be broken down into even smaller categories, as each big muscle is made up of at least two or three smaller muscles.
How Should I Train My Legs?
This will depend on how you respond best to training in general. Some will respond better to high volume training, where they do a lot of reps. Others will respond better to simply loading a bar with as much weight as possible and doing a small number of reps.
However, in either case, both high volume AND heavy weight should be used for leg training. Legs generally respond better to being put through a lot of work. One of the best methods for leg training is to do squat sets of 20 reps to really tear down your leg muscles. But at the same time, when you use heavier weight, that tends to put a lot of stress on the Central Nervous System. The more weight you use, the more response you get from your CNS.
The same goes for rest periods. Some will see better results from resting longer, while others may find that the less time they give their legs to recover, the more than can tear them apart. Try training with a mixture of methods, and see what brings the best results.
What I will say is, if possible, split your leg training up into two days. Given the number of muscles you need to work, two days gives you the opportunity to basically cover them all sufficiently. If people try to jam their leg workouts all into one day, they can find that the workout is either too long, or that they don't do enough work for each different muscle group. You may even find, for example, that you fail to pay any attention to glute exercises because you are so focused on your quads. I like to split my leg training into a day of bodyweight training and a day of weight training. Like in my BW44 Program.
Best Leg Exercises
Now that I've convinced you to pay more attention to your legs, here are three of the top exercises you should do. Each of these exercises have dozens of different variations, so have fun and always keep your workouts fresh and challenging.
- The Lunge: Start with your feet together, take a large step forward and bend your knees down into a lunge position. Exhale as you press yourself back up to a standing position, or continue through with your step into another lunge.
- The Squat: Start with your feet shoulder width apart, inhale as you bend your knees, keeping your back straight. Be sure to keep your knees from going past your toes. Exhale as you push back up to a standing position.
- The Dead Lift: Grip the barbell with a mixed grip (one palm faces you, one doesn't). Allow the barbell to hang down in front of you as you stand on the platform with your feet shoulder width apart. Lean forward at your waist, keeping your back flat, and bend your knees, bringing the bar down past them. Exhale as you straighten your legs and lift the bar up. When you are standing upright lean back slightly and squeeze the muscles of your lower back. Hold this contraction for a moment. Inhale and slowly return back down to the starting position.
By no stretch of the imagination are these three the ONLY leg exercises out available. And that's the other great thing about training your legs... you have tons of options and variations.
Think about it. When you perform a squat, you are basically using every single part of your body to perform the exercise. Your ankles will be your base of stability. Every part of your leg will be working during the movement. Your core needs to be tight. Your chest needs to be activated and held upright. Your shoulders are being retracted, your forearms are holding/griping the bar, and your back needs to be kept straight as your main source of support. From head to toe, your body is engaging in order for you to be able to squat.
Working out your legs is going to be hugely beneficial for your entire body. If you haven't heard it already, if you want a big chest or a big upper body, just big muscles in general, you need to train your legs. While most emphasis of leg exercises are placed on the leg muscles, your entire body will be working, breaking down, and needing repairing.
Want to know more about leg exercises and which ones are the best for you? Are you finally ready to get into the best shape of your life? Let me help. I'm taking on a select group of Squad members who want to work with me 1 on 1 in a VERY limited and focused group. No matter your mission, we will achieve it together.