Thursday, April 26, 2012


Finally!  (I wrote this post like a month and a half ago...)  Here it is, my leg training how-to!

The human leg is a remarkable system--each muscle is incredibly strong on its own, and together they can exert and withstand astounding forces.  Did you know that the striking force of a runner, or even a walker, approaches multiple times the runner's bodyweight?  Because of this, it is essential to overload the legs when looking for hypertrophy.  This does not necessarily mean training super heavy, although because the quadriceps are so strong it is often necessary; as I've mentioned previously, the weight used is only one component of the overload perceived by your muscle, so don't just throw plates on without thinking.  Proper form and the proper use of training principles are crucial in every aspect of your development--never sacrifice form for weight!  I don't know how many times I've listened to someone go on and on about "throwing 225 on and just repping" (or some variation of that) while I stealth-examined their puny chicken legs.  The weight doesn't do you any good if you can't use it correctly.  Train intelligently always!  For my post on training too heavy and range of motion, read this.

*A note on leg training specificity:
As most day-to-day activities depend heavily on the outer quad (vastus lateralis), it is extremely important to "rebalance" the knee by developing the inner quad and hamstring.  Runners often have knee pain directly caused by muscular imbalances.  When I was in my anorexic cardio bunny phase and running daily, my knees hurt quite a bit.  Because running is a very explosive exercise, similar to plyometrics, the tendons become supple and flexible in order to allow for maximal explosivity and "retraction" (or return to stasis) during exercise.  Additionally, running is a largely outer quad dependent movement and because of the added tendon flexibility, the more-developed lateralis will actually cause outward tracking in the knee joint during running, resulting in pain.  The lateralis is literally overpowering the rest of the leg and pulling the kneecap outwards each time it contracts, i.e. when striking.  Weight training not only aids in rebalancing but also stiffens the tendons, minimizing the tracking effect from that end as well.  Now most people who would describe themselves as runners probably do some other training as well and are already working to minimize things like this.  But the lesson is still important (finally getting back on topic): your outer quad needs somewhat less help than the rest of your leg.  Because of this, it is very important to incorporate exercises that target specific areas of the leg, not just the leg as a whole.  A great example would be to incorporate leg extensions (inner quad) as well as leg press (outer quad).  Specificity!

Do as I say and as I do!

Front Squats:
Position the bar on your deltoids--if it hurts, try using a tissue to mop up those tears.  Squat down as if to sit; think about elongating the spine and keeping the back straight.  Keep the pressure on the rear to middle of your feet in order to maintain maximum tension on the quadriceps.  Explode upwards from parallel--do not lock out (why lose tension?).  As during all leg exercises, adopt a neutral stance: toes pointed slightly outward, roughly shoulder-width apart (front squats are ideally performed with a somewhat "narrower" stance, but still nothing too extreme).

Smith Squats:
See above, most squats are the same so you can interchange them to a certain degree.  I included these in the video in order to show proper form on a squat with the weight to the posterior (versus to the anterior as with front squats).

Sissy Squats:
Keep your torso as straight as possible and lower your knees towards the floor in an arc-type movement.  Press through the toes, keeping the chest up and torso straight.  These are similar to leg extensions but because they are not an open-kinetic chain exercise, the strength curve is slightly different.  This makes sissy squats an ideal "lower quad" builder because the stress emphasis in placed on the quad at the knee, forcing a deep, loaded stretch in the lower portion of the leg.

Leg Extensions:
This exercise needs to be performed with some precision.  Overly explosive movements will only aggravate the knees--rather, maintain a slow, smooth movement throughout your entire set.  Keep the toes flexed towards the knee and pointed slightly outward--I do not recommend extreme toe positions in any variation!  The toes must be flexed towards the knee!  Lazy toes, i.e. toes migrating inwards, indicates that the outer quad is taking over (see my note on specificity above).

Remember, one all-out set per exercise will do you more good than the alternative! 

1 comment:

  1. Inspiring work! Keep the videos coming! :)