Legs and Abs
We’ve all seen the guys who skip leg day in the gym. Not to generalize here but they talk more than they work out and can often be found doing bicep curls near a mirror.
If a person’s body composition goals are purely for aesthetic purposes, that’s fine with me, but a large part of aesthetics is balance. The guy who looks super buff from the waist up, but may as well be a marathon runner from the waist down is doing himself an injustice.
Not only should this guy work on his legs to balance out this odd appearance, but strong legs can help nearly every other area get more defined. This applies especially to the abdominal muscles.
Don’t get me wrong, abs can come from an exercise routine involving very little leg work, but they will be hard-gained, and they might even adversely affect the lower back in time to come, because the muscle hasn’t grown evenly and tension sets in.
Now…I’m not saying you’re this guy (or girl), but maybe I can offer some advice to improve your leg day, and get more out of your abs – and the rest of your muscle groups.
Legs and Fat
Building your legs will help your whole body in terms of strength, but they provide another service free of charge: Fat-Burning.
Growing denser or bigger muscle anywhere will help burn calories at rest, but your legs are like a nuclear power plant. Quads, glutes and hamstrings are groups of very big muscles; they are your biggest, in fact.
You can put pounds of compact muscle on your legs and rear just by following a decent resistance regime. Good luck getting the same results from your biceps.
Big leg muscles means big fat-burning engines. And what exactly is the best way to cut your definition around your muscles, particularly abdominal muscles? Answer = burning fat.
Getting the Most from your Legs
Like I said, you might be completely on the money where your legs are concerned. If so, read on anyway, you might read something you didn’t know. If you are someone who skips leg day every so often (we all have), then carry on reading. If you are someone who looks like they are made from two different people, read as if your life depended on it.
Ignore those guys that say it’s all about free weights and machines are crap. Free weights should be a mainstay in everyone’s program, but machines absolutely have a role to play.
A squat machine for example (or leg press machine – same thing) allows you to push to your limit with very low risk of injury or damage to property. With free weights, you always need some energy in reserve for balance and re-placing the bar. With a machine you can go to failure.
This is important for improving max-lift strength and mass building. Also, with machines you can rattle off awesome drops sets, especially on the ones with pin selectors.
More Reps in a Set
Top bodybuilders agree that the studies suggest hypertrophy is optimal when you do between 8 to 12 reps per set, provided you are using enough weight that you have to push hard on the last 2 or 3.
The same bodybuilders might argue that legs are a bit different. Studies suggest that the big leg muscle gains come from higher rep sets, especially dead lifts and squats. From 15 to 20 reps seems to be better. Be warned, if you sacrifice some weight to achieve this then it defeats the purpose a little.
If it sounds like I’m saying “just do more” – it’s because I am.
Compound Sets and Supersets
Muscle mass comes quicker when you bolt alternating sets together with no break between them except the time it takes to reposition. A great one is the leg press followed by leg extension set (you could argue it’s a superset or compound set).
The reason I say stick to the machines is that a free weight bar (especially across the shoulders) can get out of your control when you reach the fatigue level that you will in a superset.
Range of Motion
This is so important. People often try and squat a bigger weight but sacrifice depth of the squat in doing so.
Even if you have to take some weight off to complete a set, make sure you are squatting deep. Your muscles will grow over their full length if you do this.
How deep? – So that your thighs (yes the top, not the hamstrings) are at least parallel with the floor, that’s how deep. The same goes for a leg press machine, except your thighs will be parallel with the pushing platform.
Don’t spend 2 hours in the gym on leg day having a 5 minute chat between sets. Get in there and get it done. 45 minutes should do it.
Keeping the intensity up and minimizing recovery period will improve recovery speed and burn more fat.
Summary of Exercise Tips
Okay, so don’t forget the following next time you are at the gym and it’s Leg Day:
- Machines – for max effort at high safety
- Higher rep sets – for growth
- Compound sets and Supersets – for bigger gains
- Go Deep – big range of motion for growth along the whole muscle
- Go Hard – high intensity yields better gains
Legs and Food
Leg day is extremely important to get right nutrition-wise. Carbs, fats and protein all play an integral role in building muscle mass.
Do NOT skip meals to burn more fat – this is not how it works. You need to feed your muscles for them to grow and become 24 hour fat-burning engines.
Don’t skip Leg Day!!!