The leg muscles are one of the most commonly overlooked areas during a typical training session. Some weight trainers seem to believe that a well-toned and muscular lower body does not command as much attention as having a large chest and six pack abs. However, the reality is that an underdeveloped lower body (calves, glutes, quads, and hamstrings) would look out of proportion alongside an upper body that receives a more extensive training effort. In order to build a fully proportional physique, it is important to include a proper leg workout within the overall framework of your weekly training sessions.
There is a variety of different ways to perform a leg workout and integrate it into your training schedule. Some lifters choose to operate a split-type routine, where the upper body is trained one day followed by lower body training the day after. Others will make use of compound push-pull movements (i.e. bench press followed by dead lifts). Whichever option you choose to pursue, several basic exercises should always be included in a leg training routine in order to promote optimal muscle gain.
One of the fundamental leg training exercises recommended by professional bodybuilders and physical therapists alike is the squat. The basic exercise is simple in its form, but may require a considerable amount of time to master, and is performed by loading a weighted barbell onto your back and lowering your body into a squatting position until your upper legs are parallel with the floor. The weight is then pushed back into a standing position using the quadriceps and glute muscles to explosively hoist it back into its original position. Performing squats on a regular basis will help to develop muscle mass in legs in a direct and effective way. They should be included in most leg workout sessions.
Another excellent free weight exercise for developing the legs is the dead lift. To perform a deadlift, load up a barbell and place it on the floor. Keep your legs at shoulder width and bend over to grip the bar around its center, making sure to keep your back straight. Proceed to stand up with the weight in your grip. This will require significant effort from your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and lower back muscles. Once you have achieved a standing position, slowly lower the weight back to the floor and repeat the movement. Deadlifts, alongside squats, are one of the best exercises for an effective leg workout.
Because squats and deadlifts do not thoroughly engage the calves, it is important to include one or two calf training exercises in your leg workout as well. The calf raise is a basic lower leg training exercise that is performed by loading a barbell onto your back and keeping your feet at shoulder-width. Afterwards, slowly raise your feet onto your tip toes and lower again. This movement constitutes one rep, and each set of calf raises should include multiple reps for increased effectiveness.
Other exercises that can be included within a typical leg workout include walking lunges, leg presses, and leg extensions. Walking lunges are performed with free weights, while leg presses and leg extensions are performed with gym equipment. Additionally, there are many variations on squats and deadlifts that can be experimented with in order to target specific areas of each individual leg muscle. However, beginners should focus on basic compound movements during the initial leg training phase. When a reasonable amount of lower body strength and mass has been gained, isolation movements should be integrated into the training routine.
By combining proper nutrition with an effective total body training routine, you will be able to develop a body built with a proportional distribution of muscle mass in the upper and lower body muscles. A leg workout with the above-mentioned exercises will be straining and intense, but the results will be well worth the effort.
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