To this day, my leg workouts are the most enjoyable because there is no feeling in the world that compares to finishing a tough leg routine...

By: Joe Franco
The Beginning

Over the past 12 years my attitude towards bodybuilding has evolved. I would imagine that I was like most novices when it came to training. My workouts consisted mostly of chest and bicep training. All I wanted to do was to fill out my T-shirts and get noticed. But as I became interested in competing as a bodybuilder I realized that I needed full body development and that my legs were far behind. My brother encouraged me to start squatting if I wanted to compete. He was a competitive bodybuilder and he knew most guys at the amateur level had underdeveloped legs. I then introduced leg training to my workouts and kept it consistent because I didn't want to look like a light bulb. To this day, my leg workouts are the most enjoyable because there is no feeling in the world that compares to finishing a tough leg routine.

Nuts and Bolts

For the following leg routine I like to do 3 sets per exercise. When exercising the legs, I recommend that you stay between 10 - 15 reps for each exercise. The first set is a warm up, and then I pyramid the weight up so that the 10th rep on the last set is to failure. I take a 60 second rest between each set and sometimes longer because the legs can handle heavier weight and need the recuperation time. Always warm up for 5 minutes by riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill. This is done prior to stretching the legs because you want the blood flowing. Make sure you stretch the quads, hams and calves for a couple of minutes to avoid any type of injury.

Intermediate Leg Routine

Quads: Squat, One Leg Squat, Step Lunge
Hams: Stiff Leg Dead-lift, Leg Curl
Calves: Calf Raises

The Exercises

Squatting is my all time favorite exercise. It takes more guts and mind power to keep this movement in your exercise regimen than any other movement. The squat affects your entire body because of the energy expended while holding the weight on your upper back/shoulders. It specifically works the quadriceps (thigh muscles), the gluteus and hamstrings are also involved in the movement. In addition, there are many ways to actually do the exercise. For example, there is the traditional way with a straight bar across the upper back/shoulder area or you can do a front squat with the barbell resting on your upper chest across the shoulders. For beginners, the Smith machine is ideal because it teaches you the correct form and balance. If you don't have access to a barbell, you could use a pair of dumbells instead.

Unfortunately there are not many exercises that work the hamstrings directly. Squatting, lunges and a stiff leg dead lift's all work the hamstrings, but the muscle is not the prime mover during these exercises. The only exercise that directly works the hamstrings is the leg curl. The tempo or speed should be changed from work out to work out. For example, you could perform the movement by lifting the weight for two seconds - pause for one - lower the weight for three seconds. Another tempo could be, lift the weight for one second - hold for two seconds - lower the weight for three seconds. Always remember to have the eccentric portion (lowering the weight) slower than the concentric (the lifting porting). Don't be afraid to use heavy weight, the hamstrings are a big muscle group and need that extra resistance.

Lunges and stiff leg dead lift's are great assistant exercises, especially if you only use dumbells. The two variations of the lunge that I like to do are the step lunge and the pulse lunge (which is like a one legged squat). When you are doing any type of lunge, make sure your body is composed after each rep. The lunge works all the muscles in the legs and is great for developing definition between the quads and hamstrings. The two keys points to remember while performing these exercises are not to let you knee touch the ground and not to let the stepping knee go past your foot. The stiff leg dead lift is an exercise that works the hamstrings and gluteus. Form is very important for this exercise. With your feet closer than shoulder width, hold the weight as if your arms are hooks and lower the weight in front of your body. Make sure that you are looking straight ahead and keep your shoulders still throughout the movement to keep your back flat. As you lift the weight, do not stand straight up because you want to keep the resistance on the hamstrings and gluteus.

The calves are the most neglected body parts. Most people say they don't have the time to exercise them. I think they have to be exercised if you consider yourself to be a true weight lifter. We are perfectionist and we want total body development, right! There are two thoughts when it comes to training the calves. The first is to use a lot of weight and few repetitions and the second is just the opposite, light weight with high repetitions. I believe that both are right, so I think it is best to alternate the two types of training. Since the calves are more difficult to develop and are a small muscle group, I recommend that they should be trained twice a week. The first work out could be the heavy day and the second work out you can increase the repetitions. There are only a few exercises that work the calves, calf raise (done on a step), calf press (done on the leg press) and a seated calf machine. Keep your feet parallel and you will work the entire muscle.

Key Points

1) Each movement is done is a slow and controlled manner.
2) Never sacrifice form to lift heavier weight.
3) Squatting is the best exercise for lower body development, heavy weight is needed because there are multiple muscle groups involved, but remembers to correctly learn the exercise before you squat with heavy weights and use a spotter when needed.
4) Remember to exhale during the exertion part of each movement.
5) Have the same attitude when training your calves just like any other body part.
6) Stretch at the end of the workout.

Leg Training!
fitfranco@aol.com

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