The very first and most important analogy that you should contain within your psyche when it comes to training legs is a very simple one; you cannot build a house without a solid foundation. The integrity of your base will form the structure for the mass you intend to accrue in the upper half of your body and because of this, much attention and detail must be applied to your leg training. Leg day is heralded by many to be the most difficult and arduous training day on the weekly calendar. Done right, it hurts, takes a tremendous amount of effort to complete, teeters on the verge of destruction and pain while simultaneously providing a satisfaction unlike any of the other training days on your schedule. There are many different ways to go about training your lower half and the equipment we have here at Brickhouse Gym is certainly conducive to providing you with all that you will ever need. In saying that, there are a few strategies that you may want to keep in mind whether you’re genetically blessed in the leg development department or you’re not and because friends don’t let friends skip leg day, here is what you need to know to keep you coming back for more week after week.
Train the Hamstrings First
One of the very best strategies that you can apply to your leg day training session is to start off by targeting the muscles of the hamstrings first. The benefits of doing this are multiple but perhaps the most important one being the strengthening of your posterior kinetic chain (PKC) as a whole. When most people incur lower back injuries while performing exercises such as the squat or leg press it’s usually due to either poor form or a muscle imbalance which is generally the cause for the poor form. So rather than going right into the big movements, you would use to hit the bigger muscles of the quadriceps first, spend your initial time and energy building up the strength of your hamstrings and glutes first. So perform exercises such as the lying leg curl, seated leg curl, stiff leg deadlifts and the glute-ham raise all in preparation for the bigger stuff that will come later on in the training session while simultaneously building up some much-needed size and depth in those muscle groups. Second, to all of that, you’ll find that having a great pump in your hamstrings and glutes will actually make your squats and leg presses feel even better by providing a cushion-like feeling in that area when you sit down into the exercise. A spring-like sensation will occur making it feel like you can drive up more weight.
Heavy Weight and Lots of Volume
The legs can take a beating and keep on ticking. Your quadriceps, hamstrings and calves can handle a lot of resistance and still perform exceptionally well. What that means is that in order to trigger hypertrophy and add additional growth, you have to hit them hard and heavy and with a lot of volume. A few sets here and there will do you no good if building massive legs is a priority. Instead, you have to take your time and build up the weight you’re using set by set until you reach a point where the load you are using is challenging enough that you can still maintain perfect form while getting anywhere from ten to fifteen reps per working set. Sure, you can work in a rep range lower than this and it will certainly help with strength gains if that is what you’re after, but if the muscle is your priority then a higher rep range with heavier weights is the goal. The number of sets you complete for each exercise will depend on how many feeder sets you deem necessary to fully prepare yourself for the all-out assault on your target muscle group but if you were to ask me what a good number is, I would say at least four to five sets of progressively increasing the weight until you reach the heaviest resistance you’ll be using for your final sets is probably a good place to start.
How often you train your legs will be determined by the needs of your current development. If you already possess a lot of muscle in your lower body, then hitting the legs once per week will suffice. In some cases, if the disparity between your upper and lower body is glaringly obvious, then once every two weeks might be all that you need depending upon what muscles in your upper body are lagging behind and how severe that is. In many instances, however, the once per week scenario is probably enough but if you’ve been doing this and not getting the results you’re after, then start training them twice per week and see what that does. You could train the quads and hamstrings together on one day and then throw in a second session for them at another time of the week by splitting those two muscle groups up and adding them in at the end of one of your other training days. You could also take the approach of training quads in the morning and then hamstrings later on in the day. The point being made here is that there is no one single formula for leg training that will fit everyone’s needs so you have to experiment until you find the one strategy that works for you. I will say though that if calves are a priority for you and you can’t get them to grow, start training them every single day. Some people don’t have to train them hardly at all and they have massive calves. Others will have to smash them every single day to spur on new growth so if you fall into this category, give the daily approach a try for sure.
One thing you have to remember is that the effort you put forth when training legs will transfer into supporting the growth you are also in search of in the upper body. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to train legs the right way and the stress of it all isn’t just focused squarely on the lower body. You still have to hold, position and balance a lot of weight on your shoulders when you squat, you have to hold onto the bar and keep your alignment perfect when performing RDL’s and all of that requires a significant amount of upper body strength and power to uphold. As much as the exercises you select for training the quads, hamstrings and calves are specific to your lower body, a great leg day is comprised of a full-body effort and that is why after you’re done, you feel completely wiped out. The good news though, is that after a session like this, you’ll be able to rest easy and recover in the house that you are building.
Author: Dana Bushell
Gym Star Team Member