By Ron Harris
Winter is over and the sun is shining bright. It’s time to break out the shorts. That is, unless your legs are so scrawny, you’re more inclined to hide them in long pants even if the mercury hits 90 degrees or more. There’s no reason to settle for sub-par development in your lower body. Try these tips and slap some meat on those legs!
WARM UP PROPERLY
I know it’s customary to warm up on leg day with a couple sets of leg extensions, but that really doesn’t cut it. To properly prepare your entire lower body for an intense workout, meaning the quads, hams, glutes, and calves, do at least 5 minutes of moderate pace cardio on an incline treadmill, stepper, elliptical trainer, or a stationary bike. 10 minutes is better. You want blood flowing and all the connective tissues warm and elastic for the onslaught to come.
USE A FULL ROM
The most common hindrance to leg development is using a shortened, incomplete range of motion in compound movements like squats, leg presses, and hack squats. It’s very tempting to load up stacks of plates and feel like a hero in your gym or on Instagram, meanwhile being in denial of your half reps. You’re only fooling yourself and shortchanging the gains you should be making. If you can’t get proper depth on your reps, take some weight off and go all the way down. You’ll be shocked at how dramatic results will come once you do this.
TRAIN LEGS TWICE A WEEK
Since hamstrings nearly always suffer when legs are trained all in one workout, either have separate days for quads and hams, or perform two workouts with one emphasizing more quads and the other focusing on hamstrings. That side of the thigh should be done first on its emphasized day and its exercises should take up roughly 2/3 of the workout volume.
USE VARIOUS REP RANGES
Legs respond to a wide variety of rep ranges. In fact, you will be missing out on potential gains if you always stick to the same rep scheme. For isolation movements like leg extensions and curls, try 10-12, 12-15, and 15-20. For compound movements, you can go as low as 5 reps and as high as 50 or even 100. John Parrillo’s infamous 100-rep belt squat sets are the stuff of legend for those brave enough to endure them!
Finally, too many trainers avoid the barbell squat, which is by far the most productive exercise you can do for your legs – some would even say for overall muscle growth. If you have a legitimate injury issue in the knees or lower back that precludes you from squatting, that’s one thing. If you’re avoiding them because they’re hard or because you can’t load up 8-12 plates a side like you can on the leg press, you’re just being lazy or foolish. If you can squat, you need to be squatting!
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