There is only one thing that a fitness enthusiast or a complete bodybuilder strives for and that is a perfect physique. Some bodybuilders create a timetable of their training habits or workouts like chest and biceps on Monday and cardio on Tuesday while others focus on specific exercise like heavy deadlifts and squats. Some lifters train only their upper body and leave the legs out. The big question is: are there any principles that can be followed to build strong legs? The truth is that there are several options available but the most recommended are as follows:
Weekly Leg Workouts – At least two workouts
It is really amazing to see how bodybuilders and lifters including professionals split their upper body into parts and nominate workouts for each part like a day for exercising arms etc. But in all this, most people forget about their legs. Leg training can be quite hard work and you need to also work on your feet as well so that they are not sore the next day.
One of the best leg workout routine as pointed out by professional lifters like Layne Norton is the Smolov squat routine. This squat workout involves a minimum of 3 leg workouts each week. This workout can be implemented by focusing one workout on quads and another workout on hamstrings. You can also workout both quads and hamstrings together.
Hamstrings and Quads should have same number of workouts
Hamstrings are considered to be antagonists to quads. Trainers have often been seen emphasizing on mirror muscles vis-à-vis muscles like biceps or back muscles etc. These muscles cannot be seen in the mirror. The thigh muscles also fall in the non-mirror muscles category.
Although, the quads are bigger than hamstrings, the need to train of them equally is important. The hamstrings and especially glutes are used in several quadriceps workouts like leg presses and squats. This ensures that the hip extension is complete. This also helps in protecting the knee joint when you are performing quad exercises.
Use A Full Range of motion
Why is it important to use a full range of motion? Have you ever asked yourself how deep you need to go when you squat? The answer is that you need to go as deep as possible. You need to refine your technique by focusing on ankle mobility, the hip, and increasing flexibility. In order to do this, you need to perform full reps using lighter weight initially followed by deep squats that will help you go hard.
One of the important things to remember is not to squat below parallel as it can put a lot of stress on your patellofemoral joint.
Do I need Squats?
The truth is that you can perform effective leg exercises without having to do squats. On the contrary, if you are looking to maximise your development throughout the body including legs then performing free weight squat is recommended. It is recommended over the Smith machine for one reason – you need to squat safely and get good depth as well, which is not possible with the Smith Machine.
Do you need to perform several sets of multiple exercises or multiple sets of a single exercise? Do you need to overtrain? The rule of the thumb is that you should not perform any more than 3-4 exercises for your quadriceps and 2-3 exercises for your hamstrings. You can consider rep ranges from 4-20 repetitions for all the exercises that you have scheduled in your routine. Warm-up sets are absolutely essential and do as many as possible. For example: you might require at least 4 warm-up sets before you begin your squats. This will also help you save energy for squats.
Pre-exhaust or Warm-up
A good warm-up session will help prevent any injuries during workouts. A 5-minute cardio can help increase circulation and is considered a good warm-up exercise. Although it is not necessary, you can use the leg extension machine as well as a pre-exhaust technique. It is good for the quads and even helps focus on the development of vastus medials obliquus (VMO) also known as the tear drop muscle.
Don’t Leave Out the Calves
You can’t leave out the calves! Calf training should be similar to that of thigh training and should include:
Perform 2-3 calf exercises in each workout session and emphasise on positions-of-flexion like: mid-range position, contracted, and stretch positions.
Perform workouts at least twice a week
Workout using full range-of-motion and ensure there is continuous tension on your calf muscles