Tips for Building Massive, Well-Formed Legs
When it comes to bodybuilding, many people focus a great deal of effort on the upper body. There is definitely an appeal to have bulging arms and a chiseled chest, but you can quickly become unbalanced in appearance if you don’t give equal time to your leg development as well. Some even try to justify this lack of training by believing that their cardio exercises on a stair stepper or stationary bike is sufficient leg training.
However, to enhance leg form you have to incorporate lower body workouts that utilize free weights and certain weight machines. Deadlifts and squats are two weight training exercises which should be a part of a total bodybuilding plan. These two exercises not only develop the muscular form and strength of the legs, but they also increase muscle mass in the upper body as well as balance and flexibility.
Here are some workout tips which will help ensure that your legs are just as well developed as your upper body when practicing bodybuilding training.
Leg Development Tip #1 – Squats: Yes or Yes
As we’ve established, squats are a staple exercise for lower body strength and development. The question isn’t “should I do squats?” but rather “how should I do squats?”
Some folks don’t think squats are for them and will look for other means to build leg muscles and you can actually get a good leg workout by doing other leg exercises while skipping squats. However, including squats in your weight training plan with greatly assist in maximizing your overall development.
Others don’t like performing back squats because they tend to lean forward when the weight rests on their shoulders. You can easily remedy this by performing front squats instead. By positioning the weight across the top of your chest and just under your chin, you can lift the weight without worrying about tipping forward. Front squats provide the added benefit of improving posture.
Leg Development Tip #2 – Two or More Days Committed to Legs
A big mistake that many bodybuilders make is only training legs one day per week. Even though better than just using cardio exercises for leg training, focusing attention on the legs only once a week while dedicating the remainder of the week to upper body will eventually lead to the underdevelopment of the lower body. You should keep in mind that the leg muscles are the largest in the body and, therefore, need adequate training for proper size and proportional development.
Therefore, you should commit to at least two leg training days per week. You can either train the entire lower body twice a week or train quads and calves one day and hamstrings and calves another.
Leg Development Tip #3 –Warm-ups and Pre-Exhaustion
Performing warm-ups prior to full tilt leg exercises is vital for preventing injury. As with any muscle group, warm-up exercises are necessary to get the blood flowing and to loosen up stiff muscle fibers and tendons. You should perform around 5 minutes of cardio and then complete several leg isolation and hip mobility exercises beforehand. You know you’re warm enough for your leg workout if you can lower into a full squat position comfortably without using weights.
To better build your quads and especially your VMO (vastus medials obliquus or “tear drop”) muscles, you can perform exercises on the leg extension machine for pre-exhaustion. A variety of research has shown that the pre-exercise leg and knee extensions help greatly with the development of the VMO muscles.
Leg Development Tip #4 – Equal Development of Hamstrings and Thighs
Another common mistake made by bodybuilders (especially newbies) is the training of “mirror” muscles. These are the muscles which we can easily see in the mirror when working out and, therefore, are more impressive to us. Because these muscles and muscle groups can be seen easily, they are often given higher priority during workouts which can lead to underdeveloped antagonistic muscles.
The quads are the largest muscles in the human body and can be developed rather quickly. However, if you don’t give the same attention to your hamstrings, you can easily overdevelop the quads leaving the hamstrings underdeveloped. The result is that your legs look out of balance not to mention you can develop knee problems. Squats pop up again as a go-to leg exercise because they utilize both the quads and hamstrings as do leg presses.
Leg Development Tip #5 – Use a Full Range of Motion
In order to maximize leg muscle development, you should be sure to use a full range of motion when doing leg exercises. When performing squats or other leg exercises, press and retract to full extension which causes the complete length of the muscle fibers to be worked and, therefore, grown and repaired for greater strength and muscle mass.
The only precaution you should be aware of when utilizing a full range of motion is to practice correct technique. During squats, for instance, you can safely drop below parallel as long as you are using proper body mechanics, i.e. keeping your back straight, your head forward, sitting back during the motion, using your hips to provide lift power, etc.
Leg Development Tip #6 – Don’t Forget the Calves
Creating rippling thighs and hamstrings is great, but if you neglect the calves you will end up looking like a chicken on steroids! There’s not much worse than hitting the beach all buff and bulging while sporting toothpicks from the knees down. In order to achieve a well-built body, you need to give attention to your calves as well.
Calve muscles are resilient and can easily be worked hard twice a week since they recover rapidly. When creating your lower body exercise program, be sure to include several different calf exercises to ensure full development. When performing calf exercises, you should utilize a full range of motion just as with the quads and hamstrings.
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