Believe it or not, there’s more to leg day then just showing up and doing squats.
While we applaud you for not coming up with an excuse to skip your leg day yet again we want to make sure you get the most out of your training. As a result we’ve put together a list of the top 10 things you should avoid on leg day.
Avoid these pitfalls and you will be well on your way to not only stronger, bigger legs but a better overall physique.
1 – Train the Hard Way
There are some people out there who thrive on leg day. They train their legs with such passion and intensity that they can barely walk out of the gym. These people are extremely dedicated and generally have pretty amazing results – they are to be admired and emulated.
Unfortunately most of us are not like these people. For us, training legs is a pain in the ass – it’s hard, it’s not fun and if you could skip it you probably would. Having said that, we all know how important training legs is not only for a balanced physique but also for maximum testosterone release and overall muscular development.
When you go to the gym on leg day you just need to come to terms with the fact that it’s going to be tough. We all do things we don’t like and for many of us this is one of them. You just need to go in there, give it your all for 1 hour and reap the benefits.
It’s only once a week, surely you can muster up enough strength and energy to get through it!
One way a lot of people make leg day more bearable is to swap out squats for leg presses and extensions. Although all of these exercises work the leg muscles they have very different results in terms of muscle growth.
You see, squats have the best testosterone release of any exercise out there.
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That means not only will they lead to the most leg development but they will also improve your overall muscle growth throughout the body! Now, training squats properly is tough and challenging – particularly when you get into heavier weights and proper form.
However, if you want to reap the benefits and reach your goals faster you need to do them. Even if that means training with a partner on that particularly day it’s worth it to make sure you get it done.
2 – Watch your Feet
The placement of your feet is important in all leg exercises but particularly so in open-chain movements. These movements are ones where your feet are not planted against a solid surface like the floor.
Open-chain movements include leg extensions and various types of leg curls. By turning your feet slightly while performing these exercises you can help emphasize a particularly area of the legs that you want to hit.
However, when performing closed-chain movements like squats and leg presses you need to be careful how you place your feet. If you turn them too far inward or outward you can put a tremendous amount of strain on your knees. Therefore, in order to do these exercises properly you should point your feet out just a little bit. If you take a wider stance you can point them out a bit more.
If you currently turn your feet out a lot you might not feel the strain right away but when you start ramping up the weight you will be setting yourself up for a potentially nasty injury down the road.
3 – Keep your Heels Planted
Whether you are doing squats, legs presses or hack squats – you need to make sure your heels remain planted against a solid surface.
People tend to raise their heels towards the bottom of these movements as a result of poor ankle mobility or bad positioning. Sometimes people feel that their feet are too low on the platform in the case of hack squats and leg presses, as a result they need to compensate by raising their heels and transferring the weight forward.
When you lift your heels off the platform or ground you give yourself a much smaller base of support. This leaves you unbalanced and gives you less control over your reps. It also limits the amount of force you can generate in the lift since you aren’t able to drive from your heels.
Lastly and most importantly, when you lift your heels off the platform you transfer a lot of the strain to your knees. As a result you won’t be able to lift nearly as much and you might end up with an unfortunate injury.
In order to prevent this from happening to you make sure you work on your ankle mobility and place your feet high on the platform.
4 – Watch your Knees
People generally make this mistake while performing squats and leg presses. It’s important because when you let your knees fall inward during one of these movements you are opening yourself up to all kinds of injuries, particularly the dreaded ACL tear.
If this is happening to you it’s likely the result of weak hip abductors and happens when you are moving upward during the squat. If this is happening to you look up some exercises online to stretch out the abductors and strengthen them. If you work a desk job as most of us do the chances are that you are extremely inflexible.
Fortunately thanks to the internet there are tons of free videos online to help improve your flexibility.
5 – Improve your Flexibility
Have you ever seen someone squatting at the gym with a couple of tiny plates underneath their heels?
While this might help deal with flexibility issues in the short-term it actually sets the trainee up for a variety of long-term issues. Generally speaking the reason people squat with their heels on plates is because they don’t have sufficient flexibility in their ankles to allow them to get deep enough in the squat without their heels coming off the ground.
While the plates might help them keep their heels down while they squat it’s really only a temporary solution. Instead, they would be much better off buying a pair of weightlifting shoes as they tend to have better range of motion.
This allows the trainee to get deeper in their squat while keeping their chest upright which avoids putting stress on the back. Lifting shoes also have strong heels which allow you to transfer more force from the ground and move heavier weights more easily.
Another issue with squatting with plates under your feet is that it forces your knees too far forward. As a result the ligaments around the knee take a beating which over time can become serious – not to mention the damage it can do to an existing condition.
Now, people are different when it comes to just how flexible they are and how deep they can squat. As a result, it’s hard to determine the ideal depth you should be squatting down to. Depending on the length of your limbs you might be better off going below parallel or stopping right at parallel.
Studies show that you get most of the benefit of a squat once you reach parallel so if your body allows you to go lower without risking injury then go for it.
However, even if you pull back up at parallel you won’t be missing out on a lot by not going all the way down.
6 – Build Up Those Hamstrings
Ok so lets say you actually made it into the gym on leg day and worked your quads hard – good for you!
Only one problem – you totally neglected your hamstrings. Don’t make the mistake of avoiding them because you can’t see them as easily as your quads or calves. Improving your hamstring strength and size is important not only for your overall leg growth but also for reducing your risk of injury down the road. A lot of trainees end up with hamstring injuries in their career as a result of having underdeveloped hamstrings relative to their quads.
Women in particularly tend to have weak hamstrings relative to their quads so they need to make sure they put extra focus on building them up in order to avoid an ACL or hamstring injury.
The ideal ratio for quad to hamstring strength is about 3:2. You might be wondering how the hell you figure out if you’ve achieved that.
Well, the weight you are able to handle for 10 reps on leg curls should be about 60-70% of what you can handle for 10 reps of leg extensions. Therefore if you can handle 120 pounds for leg extensions you should be able to do 80 pounds on leg curls.
Now, you do get quite a bit of hamstring work from doing squats – particularly at the bottom of the movement. However, this varies from person to person. For some people this might be sufficient to maintain that 3:2 ratio but others might require additional work.
To play it safe you should add in a couple pure-hamstring exercises to make sure they get the work they need.
7 – Keep Your Back Straight
Rounding your back while squatting is the cardinal sin of leg day. It’s one of the first things you learn NOT to do yet many people have a hard time keeping their backs straight particularly at the bottom of the lift.
To make matters worse, beginners in particularly have a hard time figuring out whether or not they have actually rounded their backs. To make sure you stay safe while performing any variation of the squat you want to make sure your back is in a neutral position.
When you round your back you put a ton of pressure on your disks. While you might not feel it right away the damage can build up over time until suddenly you find yourself with a brutal injury. These injuries are very painful and expensive to fix – not to mention it will keep you out of the gym for a LONG time. Even with top-notch medical care you will never quite be the same as you were before the injury.
With all that in mind you can probably see that it’s beneficial to get someone (preferably who knows what the hell they are talking about) to watch your form and determine if you are rounding your back.
Some people think they can avoid these risks by using a machine but we’ve got some bad news – that’s not the case at all. If your back or glutes comes off the pad you will actually be transferring a lot of the strain to your disks.
Therefore you should stop the movement as soon as you feel separation between your back and the pad in order to avoid any injury or damage accumulation.
8 – Don’t Look Up
The risks associated with rounding your back are well-documented and as a result there are a variety of ways people go about avoiding it. One piece of advice that gets thrown around a lot is to look up while you are performing a squat.
That forces your chest out and keeps your back in a neutral position. Unfortunately while it may reduce the chance of a lower back injury looking up opens you up to a number of other injuries.
When you look up while squatting you are actually messing up your spinal alignment and putting a lot of pressure on the disks in your upper spine. It can also mess up your balance which can lead to losing control of the bar, falling over and generally looking like an idiot.
Similarly you shouldn’t be turning your head from one side to another while performing the lift as this can put you at risk of injury. The safest way to go about it is to keep your head in a neutral, forward-looking position.
This keeps the disks in your upper back safe.
9 – Don’t Mix Cardio with Leg Workouts
Whether you are performing an intense leg workout or cardio you are using the same fuel source – glycogen stored in the muscles.
Depending on which exercise you perform first you can deplete these stores rather quickly leaving you with minimal energy to get through the rest of the exercises. Remember, the lower body muscles are pretty big – you have the quad muscles, glutes, hamstrings and calves. As a result when the muscles get depleted it takes a lot of carbs and time to get them fully replenished again.
If you go on a long bike ride on saturday with plan to hit legs on sunday your workout will suffer. You’re better off leaving a few days in between intense cardio and leg day so that your glycogen stores will be depleted and you will be better equipped to get through the workout.
Similarly, if you just performed a difficult leg session it’s probably not the best time to do cardio. If the muscles are pumped up and filled with lactic acid you will have a hard time getting in much of a workout.
While light cardio like walking can help blood flow into the legs we don’t recommend turning it into a HIIT cardio session.
10 – Train Legs Early in the Week
Chances are during the week you spend a lot of time sitting around either in class or at work. As a result your legs have plenty of time to rest. Contrast that with the weekend where you might go out dancing, hiking, skiing, etc.
Those are all activities that incorporate a lot of leg work – so keep your leg training sessions early in the week so your weekend activities don’t suffer!
11 – Maximise the results from your hard work
Imagine spending hours on gruelling leg workouts every single week and not see any results despite putting in your maximum effort.
Sounds bad doesn’t it?
What would you think if I told you that most guys that are training hard in the gym aren’t maximising the results they could be getting from their hard work?
Well, unfortunately it’s the truth. And the reason is simple. Your testosterone levels aren’t at their highest natural level.
Everybody knows that testosterone is the building blocks for your muscle. So naturally you’re going to want to keep them at their highest level. That’s where natural testosterone boosters step in.
But these products are not created equal. You have to make sure that your supplement contains only proven ingredients that actually work.
We spent over 2 months researching all these different ingredients. Reading our report will save you hundreds of dollars. But you have to check it out now. Some big companies think we are exposing the industry with this report. So we might have to take it down soon.
You can read our report on testosterone boosters here.
Look, training legs isn’t easy. There’s a lot that goes into a successful leg training program. It’s no surprise that so many people avoid it altogether and instead do extra bench press and curls.
Having said that if you take the time to learn how to do legs properly and execute a solid routine you will be well rewarded. Leg workouts release the most testosterone in your body which means all of your other workouts will benefit.
Additionally having well-developed legs are essential for building a rounded physique. Nothing looks worse than a guy with a huge body and skinny little legs.
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