How to Have an Effective Leg Workout

Did you know training legs can benefit your upper body development? DESIblitz has some great leg workouts so you don’t neglect your lower body.

how to have an effective leg workout - feature image

Unless you are a powerlifter one rep maxes are unnecessary

Many constitute a few sets on the assisted leg press, the seated leg curl and leg extensions as a complete leg workout but this could not be further from the truth.

Training legs requires a very unique mentality that can surpass pain barriers and defy what your mind believes your body can achieve.

This pain is certainly worth enduring as the benefits of training your lower body will not just aid in the development of bigger quads but a number of other factors that will contribute to a great physique.

Here is why you should not skip leg day:

Testosterone Boost ~ Studies have shown that performing movements such as squats naturally boosts the levels of testosterone in men meaning training legs will lead to increased overall muscle mass and help burn unwanted body fat.

High Caloric Output ~ Legs are the body’s largest muscle group and training them will result in an extremely high number of calories burned. Working bigger muscles in multijoint exercises will require more exertion from the body compared to exercising smaller muscle groups.

Perfect Cheat Meal Timing ~ Your leg workout should be the time in the week when you expend the most calories so post leg-day would be the most opportune time to have a cheat meal. Your body will be craving calories to refuel so this would be the most guilt free moment to treat yourself.

Start Every Leg Workout with Back Squats

how to have an effective leg workout - back squat

Squats are the foundation movement for big legs and should be a staple in any leg workout.

They should be completed at the beginning of a workout as this is the most taxing exercise and will require you to be at your freshest.

Beginners should be lifting in a relatively high rep range (8-12) for numerous sets in order to achieve good form before attempting heavier lifts.

If you feel you you’ve nailed squat form try your hand at pyramid sets which are where you start off with a low weight and complete a high number of reps and gradually increase to heavy weight for fewer reps.

For example:

  • Set 1: The Bar (20kg) x 12 reps
  • Set 2: 40kg x 10 reps
  • Set 3: 60 kg x 8 reps
  • Set 4: 80kg x 6 reps
  • Set 5: 100kg x 4 reps
  • Set 5: 120kg x 2 reps

They are a great way to perform squats as it incorporates warm up sets, includes a high amount of volume (reps and sets) and allow you to generate maximum power on the ultimate set to test your strength.

They are an easy way to assess progression and as you get stronger the amount you “pyramid up” in weight will increase.

You may be thinking where is the one rep max on this routine? Unless you are a powerlifter one rep maxes are unnecessary as they will not yield significant gains in muscle mass.

Progress is not solely defined by how much weight you can push for one rep; it can be determined in other ways including how many reps you can lift a certain weight for.

Undertaking one rep maxes week after week will eventually lead to fatigue and stagnation thus lifting in a 2 or 3 max rep range is safer and will allow for better recovery.

Don’t be a half-repper on the incline leg press  

how to have an effective leg workout - incline leg press

Half-repping on the incline leg press is a common sight in most gyms.

Stacking eight plates on each side of the leg press and then not completing a full range of motion on each rep will more likely lead to knee capitulation as opposed to quad development.

Come all the way down on each rep; for those with long limbs your knees should be reaching your ears before pushing the weight back up.

Furthermore, although it may be excruciatingly painful, try not to lock out your knees at the end of reps as this will relieve tension on the quads. Persevere through the burn.

Another issue when it comes to the incline leg press is where to place your feet. Altering feet position will result in more tension placed on different areas of the quads.

Having a wider position (feet placed far apart) will put emphasis on the inner quads whereas a narrow position (feet very close together) will place significant strain on the outer quad.

When squatting it is likely you’ll have slightly wider than shoulder width stance. Therefore, when it comes to the leg press a shoulder width and then a narrow feet position should be taken in order to focus on the remaining areas of the quad that need to be targeted.

Don’t forget about those hamstrings

how to have an effective leg workout - stiff legged deadlife

Stiff legged deadlifts are an excellent way to target the hamstrings.

Unlike the conventional deadlift or Romanian deadlift; the stiff legged deadlift requires no bending of the knees.

Lower the bar whilst keeping your legs straight and when you start to feel a stretch in your hamstrings drive through your heels and pull using your hamstrings and glutes to return to the starting position.

Don’t let the bar touch the floor when performing this exercise as it will relieve tension on the muscle groups in use.

Leg Extensions and Leg Curls

how to have an effective leg workout - leg extension

Consider leg extensions and leg curls the equivalent of training your biceps after back or triceps after chest.

They are the isolation movements to be done after the completion of compound movements (exercises that require the use of more than one joint e.g. Squat and Leg Press).

Many correlate leg extensions with knee pain but this will only occur if low reps are attempted.

Controlled sets of eight to twelve quality reps will not result in injury, pump a significant amount of blood to your legs and ensure the contraction of any missed muscle fibres in the quads and hamstrings.

The forgotten muscle group

how to have an effective leg workout - calf raises on incline leg press

The calf raise machine is often the dustiest machine in a gymnasium.

Admittedly, calves are one of the most difficult places to build mass and genetics play a huge factor in determining just how big they will grow but that should not detract you from training them properly.

Many use a weight plated calf raise machine, do standing calf raises or do a few sets at the bottom of the seated leg press.

However, the best calf contraction DESIblitz has found is on the incline leg press mentioned above.

Place your feet at the bottom of the machine, with just the balls of your feet and your toes remaining on the contraption and perform a calf raise; the stretch in the calf is like no other.

If following these steps doesn’t result in you hobbling out of the gym after leg day then you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough.

Amo is a history graduate with a fondness for nerd culture, sport, video games, YouTube, podcasts and mosh pits: "Knowing is not enough, we must APPLY. Willing is not enough, we must DO."

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