Learn to love your leg workouts.

June 15, 2018

Love to training your chest and arms, but find yourself struggling to find the same passion for training your legs? You’re not alone, but a change in mindset could soon make you stand out from the crowd with an impressive physique.

We all love to experience the pump in our biceps as we curl the weights up, or that feeling when you’ve just benched your max on the bench press. This is in part because we constantly see such muscle groups, and often get complimented by them both in and out of the gym. A few months of dedicated training can make a big difference to the size and shape of your upper body muscles. But then again, they are, in comparison, much smaller than the muscles of the legs, and are not in nearly as much use or deal with as much resistance as the legs do on a daily basis. I mean, could your arms carry your bodyweight around all day without breaking a sweat? It’s going to take more than a few extra sets and reps to see a big change in your leg workouts.

rob riches leg workout circuit

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Do The Prime Movers First

Given that the legs are made up of some of the biggest muscles in the body, you may want to get the biggest exercises done early on in the workout, when your energy and muscular strength are fresh and at their highest. Muscles respond to stimuli, and the bigger the stimulus, the bigger the change that needs to occur, which in this example is hypotrophy ~ muscle growth. The bigger the resistance is against the muscle, the greater need for the muscle to grow in order to be more efficient at moving the same weight. Focus on exercises like the barbell squat, leg presses, hack squats, and even walking lunges. Then proceed on to some of the smaller movements (usually single-joint, isolation) that require less effort than the bigger movements (multi-joint, compound)

 

Presses and Extensions

You should be including both press-type movements and extension/flexing-type movements within your leg routines. Pressing movements, such as a leg press or hack squat, require a lot of force and energy from the muscle, and are some of the best movements for overall growth. Remember that you can perform the same exercise in a variety of different ways, with each change affecting how the muscles are worked, and the changes that need to occur. for example, a leg press can be performed with slight changes in the foot position on the foot plate (higher and lower), as well as width (wider and narrower). You can also change the angle of your foot position (slightly inwards or slightly outwards), as well as performing it unilaterally (one leg at a time). You’ve also got a variety of shocking principles that can also be used within your working set (drop-set. rest-pause, circuit). Make use of at least one of them during each leg workout.

Extensions and curls, should be performed after the heavy press movements (if your goal is for increased muscle size). Such movements often isolate a specific muscle, and force the range of motion, meaning it’s less overall effort than, say  a barbell squat, but you’ll still have adequate energy to commit to the set for it to be beneficial. Remember to make use of the variations and shocking principles as mentioned above.

It’s Not Always About The Weight

Weight training for any goal (strength, power, size, even weight loss), requires a force against the muscle, in which it becomes more efficient at moving under pressure by becoming stronger and bigger. This doesn’t mean that every workout and every set should be up against the heaviest weight you can just about manage. Within 90% of my workouts, I will use a heavy resistance on most exercises that will push my muscles to their threshold. The other 10% I will focus more on volume training and intensity, and use less weight than I do within my usual workouts. The result is that not only am I giving my tendons and ligaments a break from the high stresses of heavy lighting, but I’m also putting my body out of its comfort zone by forcing it to focus on muscular endurance as opposed to just power. It”s within these workouts that I’ll use a number of different training methods and techniques, as opposed to out right weight. Give your muscles a break from the max every now and then, and see how different your muscles feel when faced with a change of tempo and intensity.

 

High-Volume Circuits

The majority of all my training sessions are composed of straight sets, meaning I’ll focus on one exercise for the desired number of sets and reps, pushing my muscles to their absolute limit within that one movement. This works best for my body type, and my goal of muscular size and density. There are several muscle groups in which I find respond better to circuit training with high volume sets and reps. These muscles are the abdominals, forearms, and calves.

By performing several calf exercises (as shown below), one after the other, and with rep ranges from 15-20 repetitions (still using as heavy weight as I can manage), I find they are more receptive to better growth and development than if trained as single, straight-set exercises. This is in part because of the higher mixture of red, slow-twitch muscle fibers (higher endurance than white, slow-twitch fibers, which are anaerobic) , and partly because calves are left towards the end of a leg workout, so combining them all within 1 circuit keeps the intensity high, and the time to perform them all as short as possible.

rob riches hamstring curl exercise

Exercise 1

BARBELL SQUATS
5 sets of 15,12,12,10,8 reps

Exercise 2

VERTICAL LEG PRESS
4 sets of 12,10,10,8 reps

Exercise 3

HACK SQUATS
3 sets of 12,10,8 reps

Exercise 4

LYING HAMSTRING CURL
3 sets of 12,12,10 reps

Exercise 5

LEG EXTENSIONS
3 sets of 15,12,12 reps

Exercise 6

SEATED CALF RAISES 3 sets of 20-15 Reps
DONKEY CALF RAISES 3 sets of 20-15 Reps
TIBIALIS MACHINE 3 sets of 20-15 Reps

(Perform calf routine as a superset circuit)