I don't know one person who doesn't want to be in shape.
Yet so many people neglect training their legs because they don't see it as a necessity. In fact, I bet if we polled people who go to the gym, it would be safe to say that if there's one day people will be okay to skip at the gym it would be leg day. This is especially true with you men!
People want a strong core with a six-pack, women want sexy shoulders and men want bulging biceps. But what most people don’t realize is that the body has a way of staying in balance or equilibrium. If you neglect your legs, other parts of the body will hesitate to grow.
Another “pro” to go to the gym RIGHT NOW and blast your legs is the fact that many of the largest muscles in your body are in your legs (as well as your glutes). If you want to increase your metabolism - burn more calories - and thus burn more fat, you will never skip a leg training day again! You will work them hard and happily and without complaints! So here are a few tips when training legs…
Do big, compound, multi-joint movements. Deadlifts and squats are two of the best exercises for your core. Yes, if you want a strong core and six pack, not to mention all the other benefits, you will do deadlifts and squats. Check out this article I wrote for tips on how to do them correctly.
Target The Hamstrings. If you play sports, run and/or want to avoid injury in everyday life you will do hamstring isolation exercises. More than 90% of people I see are quad dominant. This means that they’re quadriceps muscles are stronger than their hamstrings muscles. This is not good. Women, especially, have greater chance of injury, primarily in the knees, because of this quad dominance.
I prefer lying hamstring curls but uni-lateral standing or kneeling curls will help at the beginning. If you feel that one side is stronger, do that leg second then go back and repeat the non-dominant leg. Do sets in this style until your legs are equal in strength. I want you to keep your toes pointed away from your body while you do the movement. This is the proper position of the feet and it makes it more difficult. You can vary between pointing the toes straight down as well as straight down & out or straight down & in. This will target the different individual muscles of the hamstring group.
Avoid The Leg Extension Machine. Like I said before most people are “quad dominant”. Isolating the quadriceps is unnecessary. Not to mention the fact that the machine actually can injure the knee joint and it's very easy to hurt your knee while actually doing the motion. Your quadriceps will get enough work from step-ups, lunges, squats and other knee dominant exercises. This actual machine was designed for bodybuilders who need to specifically target their quads for posing on stage. Unless you are going on a stage in a bikini or a speedo to be judged, I think it is best to avoid this machine.
Just Because You Run Does Not Mean You Can Skip Leg Day. As I’ve stated in some of my past articles sprints trump long distance cardio. Regardless of which one you are doing, proper leg strength training will help you run optimally. This is true even more so for you long-distance runners out there. Runners need to especially target the hamstrings & glutes in exercises like RDL’s, kettlebell swings, deadlifts & hamstring curls.
Here's a sample workout that'll only take 30 minutes and it will leave your legs feeling mighty toasty:
*Do 1st set of “A” exercises at 60% as a warm-up.
A1: Front Foot Elevated Split Squats (10 reps)
A2: Lying Hamstring Curls-Toes Plantar Flexed (10 reps)
*Do both A exercises back to back for 4 sets with 45 seconds rest in between each set. Rest 2 minutes after finishing all 4 sets.
B1: Step up (10 reps)
B2: Stability Ball/Bench Hip Extension (10 reps)
**Do both B exercises back to back for 4 sets with 45 seconds rest in between each set. Rest 2 minutes after finishing all 4 sets.
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About Phil Gephart:
Phil Gephart is a certified personal trainer with a Master's Degree (MS) in Exercise Science with a focus in Coaching & Athletic Administration, received in 2009 from Concordia University in beautiful Irvine, California. Phil’s passion for fitness is reflected in his involvement in sports throughout his life—in high school, he played basketball, baseball and soccer, in college he continued playing basketball and soccer. Phil also played basketball professionally for five years.
Phil Gephart is currently a professor in the exercise science department at Concordia University, where he teaches an Advanced Personal Training course to undergraduate students.