Are you making the most of your leg workout? Seriously, do you really know what you’re doing or are you just going through the motions?
Fitness experts have found that far too many exercisers slap together a few random lower body exercises, then sweat it out without any real method to their madness.
They do lunges... they do squats... without knowing what makes an exercise routine effective!
“The thigh is complex. It’s not just one muscle,” Brad Schoenfeld, the author of the best-selling Look Great Naked (Prentice Hall Press), tells us. “You have to target all areas properly without overlapping exercises.
"The exercises need to work together to maximally tone the thighs. This is one of the biggest training mistakes people make. They do three different leg exercises but only work one muscle.”
“What happens is that you’re basically working the legs using the same type of movement. They’re all terrific exercises. You just don’t want to do them in the same workout because the exercises overlap each other.
"For optimal leg development, you have to work the leg from different angles. This gives symmetry and also reduces the potential for over training the legs.”
That’s not the only no-no when it comes working the thighs.
Schoenfeld says there’s plenty of room for error when you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s why he’s here to set the record straight.
Here’s his expert advice for great-looking legs:
Don’t lock your knees when training your thighs. All too often, we completely straighten the legs at the end of a rep. Not only does this take stimulation away from the thigh muscles but it also places a great deal of stress directly on the joints.
Do stop just short of lockout, keeping continuous tension on your thighs at all time. There should always be a slight bend in your knees on completion of each move.
Don’t over-exaggerate foot position when training your thighs. In an effort to work various aspects of the frontal thigh, it is common to turn the feet in or out during exercise performance. However, the benefits of this practice are rather subtle and the overall effect will be limited. You should avoid exaggerating these foot positions as it can cause damage to the knee. This is especially important during closed chain movements where the feet are immobile (such as the squat, leg press, etc.).
Do keep your feet turned slightly outward during all closed-chain movements (such as the squat and leg press. Doing this allows the patella (knee cap) to move in its natural arc, maintaining the integrity of the joint. If you choose to experiment with different foot positions, do so only in open chain movements, (such as leg extension) and make sure to stay in a comfortable range.
In combination with healthy eating and cardio exercise, you can achieve lean, muscular legs. Schoenfeld suggests doing the following workout one to three times a week with at least 48 hours rest between. Perform 12 to 15 reps of the Step Up. Without resting, perform 12 to 15 reps of the Seated Leg Lift. Then move onto the Side Lunge without any rest.
Once you’ve completed all three exercises, rest for one minute and perform the entire set again. Then rest another minute and perform a final superset.
Begin by grasping a pair of dumbbells or other weights and allow them to hang at your sides. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart facing a flat bench or step. Pushing off your right leg, step up with your left foot and follow with your right foot so that both feet are flat on the bench. Step back down in the same order, first with your left foot and then with your right, returning to the start position.
Seated Single Leg Lift
Begin by attaching a leg weight to your right ankle (this exercise is still effective even without the weight). Sit on the floor, leaning back slightly and supporting your weight with your hands. Bend your left knee and keep the left foot planted on the floor. Straighten your right leg and let it hang down a few inches from the ground. Slowly raise your right leg upward as far as comfortably possible. Contract your right quad and then change direction, returning to the start position. After performing the desired number of reps, repeat the process on your left.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Grasp two dumbbells and hold one in front and one in back of your body. Keeping your left leg straight, slowly bend your right knee out to the side until your right thigh is parallel with the floor. Then, slowly rise back up and repeat this process immediately on your left.