Jamie Eason Q&A, January 2008: Training To Build Legs & Break Plateaus.

Jamie is back and will be answering questions relating to fitness, nutrition, modeling and more. Today she answers question about workouts that incorporate running and breaking plateaus.

Dear Jamie,

I am a fairly thin female and would really like to build up some muscles in my legs. I've run marathons in the past but never really had impressive looking legs. Running really relaxes me, so I'd hate to give it up but I feel like a hamster never making any progress, just running on a wheel. Can you suggest a workout that incorporates running, to help achieve my goals?


    Hi April! I struggle with building up my legs as well, but unlike you, I get winded going to the mailbox! Not really, but I can definitely do without running!

    If you want to build up muscle mass in your legs, still incorporating running, then you will need to trade the long distance running for sprints. Sprinting is an explosive movement, which will build up your fast twitch muscle fibers, as opposed to the slow twitch, which you've training through marathon running in the past.

    Related Muscle Fiber Articles:

    If you notice, the physique of a sprinter is typically more muscular and toned than a marathon runner. To incorporate sprints into your workout routine, I would suggest running stadium stairs, sprinting the long distance on a track and walking the short distance, or sprinting for 30 seconds to a minute on a treadmill set to 8 or 9, and then resting for 30 seconds (hold the rails when you jump off and on).

Stadium Stairs.
Video: Windows Media (336 KB) MPEG (798 KB)

    Along with your regular sprinting routine, I would definitely recommend weight training to build up your legs. I personally try and train legs twice a week because they are my toughest body part to build.

I Personally Try And Train Legs Twice A Week. I Personally Try And Train Legs Twice A Week.
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I Personally Try And Train Legs Twice A Week.

    Stick to the staple exercises, such as squats, lunges, leg press and deadlifts. Push yourself to lift on the heavier side and aim for 12 - 15 reps. Keep up this routine of weight training and sprints for a few months and you should begin to see some real progress. Best of luck!

Dear Jamie,

Due to my hectic schedule, full-time job and full-time mom to 2 toddlers, it is nearly impossible for me to get to the gym more than 3 times a week.

For the past 4 months I have been going consistently but I am really getting frustrated with my progress. At about the 2 month mark I was seeing progress, but now that I am at 4, I look back and don't see much change. For the past 4 months I have been training with the push-pull method. Can you please suggest a new plan for just 3 days a week?

Thank you,

    Hi Emma! With all the traveling that I do, I can certainly relate to only being able to train 3 times a week. Just like you, I've often trained using a push/pull split (chest, shoulders and triceps one day; back and biceps the next; and legs on the final day).

    If you have been training in the same manner for 4 months, you have most likely hit a plateau, which is inevitable. We all do it. As if it isn't hard enough just to stay motivated to make it to the gym, we have to know how to use variety to maintain progress as well!

    Related Plateau Busting Articles:

    It is often a good idea to change things up once a month to avoid those plateaus. This does not necessarily mean altering your entire split, but rather varying the sets, reps and rest time. If you have been doing the standards 3 sets of 10 reps, try going heavier for a change and performing less repetitions.

    When exercising to the point of muscle fatigue, most people can complete about six repetitions with 85 percent of maximum resistance. "Maximum resistance" is the most weight you can lift one time, in good form.

Weight Lifted Reps
85% Max

    Most people can complete eight repetitions with 80 percent of maximum resistance, 10 repetitions with 75 percent of maximum resistance, and 12 repetitions with 70 percent of maximum resistance. Try changing the number or reps by going heavier some days with less reps and lighter other days with higher reps.

    Another variable to consider is rest time. Most people rest for 2 - 3 minutes between sets. On your heavier days, rest for 2 minutes, on the lighter days, 30 seconds to a minute. You may be surprised at the difference this makes. Often times we lose track of just how much rest we are actually doing.

Jamie Jamie
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You Might Be Surprised How Much Of A Difference Rest Makes.