Legs are the hardest day for me, and that is often true of any bodybuilder. Your legs are the biggest and strongest part of your body, and working them out is painful and exhausting. I also have knee problems and an I.T. Band injury that is aggravated when I go deep on any kind of squat, lunge or leg press, and that makes it more difficult. Legs are too often ignored or glossed over by the casual bodybuilder as they aren’t what guy’s identify with when you think of a muscular build… nobody says “Man, that guy has some jacked legs!”. Working legs, and especially doing squats, has major mass boosting effects. For starters, the squat is the king of all weightlifting movements, involving several major muscle groups. Doing them correctly increases your overall size and power and has a direct impact on your core and stabilizer muscle strength. It also induces a natural surge of testosterone and human growth hormone production. It’s also one of the exercises few people do correctly.
Smith Machine Squats– 4 sets x 6 reps: On this particular routine I was using a smith press (rack machine you see in the pictures) because I was doing very heavy weight, wanted to change up from regular free squats and wanted to place my feet farther forward than a free squat would allow to work the quads harder than the glutes. Start with a loaded bar resting across your shoulders, behind your head. Place your feet about should width apart, parallel to one another. Look upward or forward as you tighten your core from bellybutton to spine. Keeping your back flat, descend in a controlled manner until your upper legs are parallel with the floor. Do not allow your knees to go forward past your toes. Imagine trying to sit backward onto an invisible chair. Don’t rock forward on the balls of your feet… keep back and push from your heels. Explode from the bottom back up to a standing position.
Smith press squat at the top…
… and bottom. Keep back on your heels and sit back into it.
Leg Press– 4 sets x 6 reps: On a leg press machine, lie on the angled seat with your back flat against the pad. Place your feet father apart than you did with your squat, and angle your toes outward slightly. Slowly control the weight on the way down until your knees almost touch your chest, then explode upward. Try not to lock your knees, but keep a slight bend at the top to keep the tension on the muscle.
Stiff Legged Deadlifts– 4 sets x 6 reps: This is a tricky exercise to do properly, but is a killer for developing your hamstrings. On a deadlift platform (raised platform with bar rack at just below waist level), load a straight bar with weights. Grip the bar at just wider than shoulder width. You can use an alternating hand grip here (one over one under) if it helps hold the weight, or wrist straps if it’s really heavy. Lift the weight and step back, standing straight up. Slowly bend over until your upper body is parallel to the floor, never bending your knees. Keep your shoulders back by squeezing your shoulder blades together, and keep your back perfectly flat. Do not arch your back forward or backward, nor allow your shoulders to round. Straighten back up to a standing position. Again, your knees never bend in this movement.
Leg Extensions– 4 sets x 6 reps: On a leg extension machine, adjust the seat so the pads of the extension are just above the tops of your feet, right on the flat part of your ankle. Grip the side handle tightly and keep your back flat against the seat back. Lift the extension pad until your legs are straight out in front of you. Slowly lower the pad back without allowing the weight to touch the top of the weight stack.
Leg Curls– 4 sets x 6 reps: On a leg curl machine, adjust the pad to the back of your ankle. Keep your back from arching as you raise the pad up toward your rear end and slowly lower back.
3 Way Calf Raises– 2 sets x 15-20 reps: Using either a standing or seated calf raising machine, position the balls of your feet on the step, first with feet parallel. Do 15-20 reps. Switch your feet to toes pointing inward, do 15-20 reps. Now switch to toes pointing outward, do 15-20 reps. Do two sets for each foot position. There is no need to lower your heels much past the level of the step… that is hard on your achilles tendon and it’s the contraction when you are on your toes that is the important part of the movement.
I skip abs on leg day.
Make sure you do a good, long stretch after this routine if you don’t want to need help getting off the couch for the next few days.
Tomorrow: Shoulder and Arms
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930 New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550
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