So the next in my training tips series features another crucial part to train – legs. Avoided by gym goers up and down the country generally because it’s hard work and can make you feel a bit sick – the leg workout is probably the most important of the week. Important because you use masses of energy that torches fat ,there’s loads of muscle recruitment and because of this hormones essential for toning and growth are released throughout the body. Yes training legs effectively can influence and change the shape of your entire body so without further ado here are my top ten tips for training your wheels , pins or whatever else you call your legs.
1) Do squats and deadlifts – simple really they are exercises that recruit massive amounts of muscle, are multi joint movements( compound) and are most likely to cause the ‘new born foal’ sensation as you walk to your car. Any leg workout that doesn’t include one or both of this is like putting a grand on Norwich to win the league – pointless.
2) The leg press machine is not an adequate substitute for the squat – unless you are injured or have some mechanical reason that prevents you from squatting properly. Gym inductions often start novices out on these machines during inductions as it’s easier than teaching people to squat – however the reality is that all of the stability is provided by the machine and you can load up your lower back problems quicker than an employee who missed health and safety box lifting technique day. Far better to learn an exercise properly than perform an inadequate inferior exercise repeatedly.
3) Add dynamic movement to your leg workout – when I PT I often throw in a few sets of plyometric jumps to really fire up the legs. It’s all very well standing there with your nice shapely pins but what can you do with them – being functional and having the ability to jump out of the way of a moving train are things that a leg extension and hamstring curl just aren’t going to give you. Add power and diversity to your leg workouts with jumping squats and kettle bell swings done properly.
4) Train legs hard and heavy – chances are you work out at a fairly moderate comfortable pace working with a weight you have lifted for weeks ,months even years. This is boring and going through the motions – if you always do what you’ve always done – you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Play around with your reps ,sets and weights – always make sure you are safe and have a spotter who knows what he/she is doing before you load up 8 plates each side.
5) Talking of which – proper range of motion or don’t bother. I’ve lost count of the amount of mainly dudes who load up the bar and then proceed to ‘ squat’ with a 6 degree bend in the leg. Waste of time and potential neck, back shoulder injury ahoy as well as everyone thinking you’re an idiot. Ego at the door please.
6) If your head is forward then you will tilt forwards – this is a basic rule of exercise. Chin up – core tight – tight glutes – rules for life.
7) Split your leg training days up – into hamstrings and quads. It makes sense to do this because often without realising it a standard leg workout will focus more on one than the other leading to imbalances and problems. By specifically targeting areas you won’t worry about whether you’ve hit this muscle head or that one because your workouts will be balanced.
8) Calves are good to do either In between sets or on a training day of their own. Not twenty minutes tagged onto the end of your workout. Calves are often the most stubborn and resilient muscles as they just get through so much work everyday carrying your ass around – you standing on the edge of a step with a four kilo dumbbell rocking up and down isn’t going to achieve zip.
9) If the squat rack is occupied by someone doing anything other than squatting e.g bicep curling. European law dictates that this person is no longer covered by the Human rights act and may be forcibly ejected from the premises( this unfortunately may not be true). Please don’t be this guy / girl.
10) Stretch and foam roll your legs – because it’s good for you . Ok.