Thick, muscular legs are the hallmark of a great, well-developed physique. Unfortunately, many bodybuilders never maximize their leg muscles, simply because they are forever shortchanging their leg workouts. In this article we’ll discuss the most frequent leg-training blunders and ways to correct each of them so that you can finally make real progress in your leg training. Read on!
Everybody wants big and strong legs yet very few are willing to put in the required amount of effort to make that dream reality. For example, the average gym-goer tends to skip leg day for the smallest of reasons such as a bad mood; in fact, it seems that there is always a reason to be found to skip the most dreaded workout of the week.
And even when it happens, it usually comes down to a tedious, dispassionate routine with short sets and half-assed reps, which is definitely not the way to gain real strength in the lower body (which is an incredibly worthy goal in itself) and make heads turn with stellar quads and calves. The time has come to ask yourself: do you want those strong legs or not?
If yes, get ready to revitalize your leg training routine. First of all, check out these major leg-training mistakes and make sure to steer clear of them in the future!
Neglecting the squat
The first rule in the book of leg workouts says that you should always do your squats. If you’re avoiding this classic compound exercise and thinking you can easily replace it with other lower body moves, you’re seriously wrong. If your legs aren’t strong – it’s because you don’t squat. Or in some cases, you don’t squat heavy enough. There is simply no substitute for barbell back squats, so don’t shy away from this great exercise! Start off light, and make your form impeccable. Keep your reps in the 8-12 rep range and slowly progress with the weight. Make squats a staple in your routine and you’ll be amazed by the results.
No full range of motion
Squatting already? That’s superb. But here comes the difficult question: are you squatting with a full range of motion? Study after study shows that full squats are far superior to parallel or half squats because the full range of motion promotes balanced and superior muscle and strength development. Partial and quarter squats have their place in strength training, but only when it’s on purpose. In all other occasions, you need to squat deep – as deep as you can! This will not only strengthen your whole legs and increase your flexibility, but it will actually protect and strengthen your knees, contrary to the popular belief.
Long, slow cardio
It’s amazing how many people are still stuck doing long-duration, low-intensity cardiovascular exercise while expecting to achieve maximal strengthening benefits from the time they put into their workouts. With slow-go cardio, this is simply impossible. In fact, a couple of studies found that combined strength and endurance training can suppress some of the adaptations to strength training. Long, slow cardio means minimal fat loss and zero prolonged metabolic benefits. It consumes too much of your time and it’s boring as heck. Yet, you do need your cardio to develop endurance and stamina, and enhance your muscle building. So how to do it smartly?
The answer lies in HIIT, or high intensity interval training. HIIT will give you a pretty damn intense cardiovascular workout while preserving, if not promoting, muscle mass and strength. HIIT describes any workout that alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of less-intense activity or even complete rest.
No progressive overload
Of all the concepts and practices that are involved in the exercise arena, progressive overload is one of the most important ones. Without progressive overload, your body will not adapt and will never get bigger or stronger beyond a certain point. When you impose stress on your body, it will eventually adapt and change to better handle that stress in the future.
So if you keep going to the gym and doing the same exercise for the same length of time, using the same weight for the same number of reps, you won’t make any significant progress happen. Your body won’t learn to push itself and you’ll be robbed of the gains you could have made. The whole point of lifting is to continue progressing, which means once your body adapts to your usual number of sets and reps, you need to change, or better said upgrade the stressor by increasing the load or increasing the number of sets and reps.
Lack of protein
The right nutrition and supplementation can help you thrive, rather than survive during leg day. Learning how to fuel up in order to give your maximum and boost your gains will help you immensely in the long run. Carefully crafting your pre- and post-workout nutrition is essential to lower-body training, so if you want to enhance your performance and results, start by looking at what and when you eat.
The most basic mistake lifters make is not getting enough protein, which is the single most important macronutrient you need to build mass and strength. Your protein should come from a low-fat, complete protein source such as meat, dairy products, soy or quinoa. If you’re a strength athlete, you’ll need at least 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight to facilitate muscle growth.
Now that we’ve tackled these 5 big no-no’s of lower body training, it’s time to hit the gym and assault those leg muscles! Good luck!