Leg Training (Part 1)
by: Jeff Schwartzer
This is going to be part one in a six part series pertaining to resistance training. Part one will be leg training, followed by five remaining parts containing back, chest, shoulders, arms, and abs. As with every program, perform them no more than two times in a row before making changes.
The human body has an amazing way of adjusting to everything that is thrown its way. You may discover a workout routine that works wonders for you for a number of workouts, but then the body seems to stop responding. This is because the body has adapted to that one particular style of training and now things must be altered in order to keep getting a positive response. Changes to a routine are plentiful, so no need to worry. I see day after day, year after year, people in the gym performing the same routine over and over again and wonder why they just don't seem to change.
Men are guilty of always trying to lift as much as humanly possible and believe that this is the end all to be all in muscular gains. Heavy weight training is simply one method of intensity. Other methods which I will discuss include, giant sets, super sets, altering repetition speed and number, along with resting time between sets.
Leg training is going to be the most difficult sessionof all the body parts to train.
(For the sake of this article, legs will be explained as if all parts will be trained in the same day.)
It is highly recommend that before training legs you have a LIGHT meal one to two hours before beginning. I stress the word light because anything heavy will more than certain find its way back up and on the gym floor. Not a pleasant feeling. I don't recommend shakes at this time because of the amount of liquid that you ingest with each. They more often than not will upset your stomach midway through the workout. You will have to experiment your food intake and find what combination is best for you. Leg training can be broken down into two separate days with quads on one day and hamstrings on another. If time does not allow for this, training the entire lower body in one day will work out just fine. If this is the case, hamstrings should always be performed before quads because of the amount of energy required when training quads. When quads are performed first, little energy is left to complete the workout. My personal routine consists of hamstrings firsts, followed by supersetting calves and glutes, and finishing with quads. Having calves and glutes in the middle allows me to lower the intensity slightly and recuperate some of my energy stores.
|** Once you are at the gym, begin warming up by performing 5-10 minutes of cardio to increase blood flow throughout the legs and circulatory system.**
Hamstrings are first so it's off to the leg room. Perform 3-4 sets of each exercise unless otherwise specified. Lyine leg curls are first although, as stated above, always shake the order of exercises up. If performing leg curls first this week, put them second or last the next leg workout. If you must perform leg curls first each workout, change the rep scheme from high repetitions, light weight one week and low repetitions, heavy weight the next. Pyramiding your repetitions is always a great idea because it allows the body to adapt to each exericse with a lighter weight at the beginning, while increasing the weight and lowerin the repetitions with each successive set. Pyramiding also incorporates lowering the weight and increasing the repetitions on the last set. An example would be a repetition scheme of 15, 12, 10, 12-15. Remember, this is only one example. Repetitions can go as low as six and as high as you can humanly handle (I'll go as high as 50! ouch). Personally, I always allow the workout to dictate itself as I go along. If I'm full of energy and strength, I may drop the repetitions in the last set instead of increasing them. While performing this particular exercise, make sure to squeeze the hamstrings at the top of each repetition. Always control the weight throughout the entire range of motion. Never let the weight drop without applying resistance.
Next on the order of exercises is stiff-legged deadlifts. While performing this exercise, the back must be flexed in order to prevent any injury to it. Grab a barbell with a shoulder-width grip. While keeping the legs straight, feet slightly closer than shoulder-width apart and knees flexed, bend at the waist while keeping the spine erect (do not round the back). Lower the bar as far as your comfort level allows. When reaching that level, begin to bring the bar back up while still maintaining your erect posture. I like to only bring the bar as high as the top of my kneecap before lowering the bar again. This helps keep constant tension on the hamstrings. Pyramid the weight in this exercise too aiming for repetitions within the 10-20 range.
The final exercise is standing one-leg curls. Performed standing up support the non-training leg against the pad of the machine while curling the working leg up where the back of the foot comes close to the glutes. Squeeze the hamstrings at the top of the exercise and lower the weight with complete control before beginning again. Pyramid the weight here too and aim for repetitions in the 8-15 range.
Now that hamstrings are complete, move onto glutes and claves. Supersetting these two muscle groups is great for time management. They don't require an extraordinary amount of energy allowing you to regroup slightly from the hamstring work and prime yourself for quadriceps at the end. Calves training should consist of 2-3 exercises while glutes require 1-2. The first exercise for claves if standing calf raise. I've always preferred higher repetitions (25-50) on calves for that is what worked wonders for me. Although experiement with lower repetitions and find what best suits you. When performing calf exercises keep the knee slightly bent in order to place more tension on the calf muscle. Foot placement is slightly closer than shoulder-width with roughly half of the foot in contact with the step. When beginning, lower the heel to get a complete stretch of the calf before raising the heel up above the platform step. Raise the foot high enough to get a contraction of the calf while keeping the ball of the foot in contact with the platform. Do not come too high up where only the toes are in contact. This causes unnecessary stress to the bottom of the foot and achilles tendon. Keep the repetitions in the 25-40 range. If you find it difficult to reach your set goal in one time, rest five seconds and go back and keep moving until you reach your set goal.
The next exercise is seated calf raises. Foot placement is the same as on standing calf raises. Knees should be place sucurely under the pads to support the weight. Maintain same range of motion and aim for repetitions in the 20-35 range.
Finish off claves with calf raises on a hack squat machine. Depending on the style of machine, you will either be facing towards or away from the machine. Perform this exercise as you did the two previous and aim for repetitions in the 20-30 range.
Glutes are a vital muscle when performing most leg exercises, so they should be neglected. And besides, everyone likes a tight butt. The two exercises described here are one-legged kickbacks and one-legged leg press. One-legged
kickbacks can be done on a multi-hip machine located within most gyms. The pad is placed on the back of the leg to offer resistance. Begin by moving your leg behind you by pivoting through the hip while contracting the glute. Focus on using the glutes and not the hamstrings to perform this exercise. After performing 15-20 repetitions, switch legs to complete both sides.
The second exercise is one-legged leg presses. Repetitions should also be in the 15-20 range. Lay on a leg press in the same fashion you would if performing the traditional way with both legs at the same time. Here though, your foot will be slightly more towards center to assist in proper balance and prevent any undue stress to the knee. Lower the weight slowly until your quadricep comes in contact with the abdomen, then push with the heel of the foot and raise the weight to the starting position. Perform each desired repetition for each leg before moving on to the other leg. Focus on using the glutes and not the quadriceps when performing this exercise. Now on to the last of the muscle groups of the legs, the quadriceps. These muscles are the most taxing to the body and require a good deal of energy. Get ready because the fun is about to begin. If the below program doesn't get your legs to respond, I don't know what will.
Begin the workout with leg extensions. This will prime the muscles for the multi-joint exercises about to come. Make sure the seat pad is in the position that puts your knees in line with the moving part (the pivot point) of the machine. Control the weight on both phases of the exercise while squeezing the quadriceps at the top of each repetition. Perform repetitions in the 12-30 range.
Squats are considered by many the king of all quad exercises. Incorporate them into at least every other workout. When performing squats with free-weights or on the Smith-machine always maintain proper technique. When performed incorrectly, the low back and knees can be jeopardized. The bar should sit atop the traps while grasping the bar with both hands well outside the shoulders. When beginning the repetition, bend the knees and lower body down to where the quadriceps are parallel or lower to the ground. The back should be arched while the abs are tight. Breath in on the lowering phase of the movement and exhale on the up phase. Perform repetitions in the 8-15 range.
|Next is a list of exercises from which you will choose 3.
(When doing your workout it's best to rotate the order or pick other exercises to prevent staleness within the workout.)
Hack squats are a variation of the squat but can still be added on the same workout. After desired weight is selected, grasp handles to unlock as you raise the weight. Back should be against the pad with the back slightly arched and abs tight. Feet placement can vary in order to hit different areas of the legs. Wide-stance works inner thigh while close-stance emphasizes the outer thigh. Feet up high on the platform work the upper thigh, while feet low on the platform work the lower part of the quadriceps. Once again lower the body until the quadriceps are parallel or lower than the ground. Repetitions should fall in the range of 8-20.
Leg press can be performed with the multiple foot placement as the hack squat and targets the same areas. While seated in the leg press, keep hips tightly in the base of the machine. Lower the machine until the quadriceps touch or near the upper body. Repetitions should range in the 15-50 range.
Last but not least is lunges. This exercise can be performed with dumbbells, barbells, or the Smith machine. When using a barbell or dumbbells, lunges can be performed in a walking fashion down a strip of gym floor or in place stepping forward and then returning to the starting position. With the Smith machine, one leg performs all repetitions in a pulsing fashion completing all required repetitions before switching to the other leg. Proper execution of the exercise consists of stepping forward with one leg far enough to allow the knee of the forward leg to be directly over the ankle. The back leg should also be bent where as the knee approaches the ground, but does not come in contact with it. The hips should be directly under the torso with low back arched and abs tight. After lowering body, push up and forward bringing back leg together with forward leg. Repeat with other leg whereas this completes one repetition. Aim for 10-20 repetitions for each leg.
Now that you've gotten through the workout, pat yourself on the back because you did a great job. Getting through a tough leg workout makes all other workouts pale in comparison. Don't forget to replenish your fluids during and after the workout and get a post-workout 100% Whey Gen shake, followed by a nutritionally balanced meal about an hour after that. Best of luck and remember, sculpting the body is a marathon, not a race.
"Best of luck with your new training program and any questions can be directed through this web site to me and I will do my best to assist you in any way possible."
|Sincerely, Jeff Schwartzer