You’ve heard the saying and have seen the memes online about how ‘friends don’t let friends skip leg day’ and although hilariously dramatic, the message is clear and apt. To a true bodybuilder, there is nothing more frustrating than seeing somebody walking around with a large, powerful, and impressive upper-body, and a set of skinny, scrawny, chicken legs on their lower-bodies. This not only looks ridiculous, but it makes a mockery out of the sport and pastime of bodybuilding to be quite honest. Training your legs is exponentially harder than training pretty much any part of your upper-body, which is why many people generally don’t bother with them. It’s rare you’ll see a bodybuilder literally throw up after benching, yet when it comes to squatting on leg day, throwing up is considered to part of the process. Not only is leg training very physically demanding and painful, it is also very difficult. Adding mass and definition to the different muscle groups of your legs is very difficult and if your legs just don’t seem to want to grow, it can be frustrating and disheartening. If this sounds painfully familiar however, then don’t you worry because below you’ll find a series of tips designed to help you build a set of strong and powerful legs.
Once per week is plenty
When people train their legs, it can be frustrating to train them and find that they are barely growing at all. Some people therefore, will decide to train them two, possibly even three, times per week. Whilst it is true that you can focus on lagging body parts and train them a little extra (more on that later) for the most part, when it comes to leg training, you must give them plenty of time to grow. The largest muscle in the human body for example, the quadriceps, is located on the upper body and as it is so large, it needs a lot of time to recover. If you’ve ever trained legs, you’ll know that you can experience leg DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) for up to one week after training them. You’ll have just got over the pain and discomfort associated with leg DOMS and before you know it it’ll be time to train them again. If you are training hard enough however, once per week is plenty for the legs, as they must have time to recover.
Focus on each muscle group
It’s all well and good to say that you’re training legs and to perform say, one exercise such as hamstring curls for example, but that basically means that it is only your hamstrings that will benefit. To build a set of lean, powerful, and defined legs, you must make sure that you focus on each muscle group. For example, you will need to ensure that your leg training session features your quads, your hamstrings, and your calves. Find exercises that work each specific muscle group and make sure to include them in your training sessions. For example, barbell squats are ideal because they work different parts of the leg at once because they’re compound exercises. Hamstring curls on a machine however, will isolate the hamstrings. Try not to neglect any parts of your legs when training them and you will quickly reap the rewards.
Focus on lagging body parts
If you find that your quads are responding very well to your training, whereas your hamstrings are not, you could throw a few extra hamstring exercises in there a few times in the week to help bring them up. Remember, the key here is to isolate the hamstrings and to focus solely on them as they are lagging and will need to be brought up. If you were to throw an extra leg session in your hamstrings wouldn’t have the time to catch up as other muscle groups will also be growing. Calves are another part of the body that are notoriously difficult to add mass to, so you may wish to throw a few additional calf raises in there during the week.
Get enough rest
Rest and recovery is a vital component of bodybuilding in general, but when it comes to leg training, it is more important than ever. No matter how tempted you may be to throw an additional leg training session in each week, or to go for a leisurely stroll up a steep hill, you should always resist the urge as you need the rest. Not only does this mean you will need a few days off from training, it also means that you will need to ensure you are getting enough sleep at night. We do much of our growing and repairing whilst we sleep, so if you’re only getting five hours per night, those missing two – four hours of sleep that you should be getting, will really become noticeable as you simply won’t have enough time to recover adequately enough.
Get the right nutrients
As you’ve probably figured out by now, one of the keys to a set of large and powerful legs is rest and recovery. In order for the body to recover however, it will need access to proteins, amino acids, and other nutrients required for repair and recovery. This means that you will need to clean up your diet and ensure you are getting the right foods at the right time. Protein is of course essential for muscular growth and repair, but so too are amino acids for energy and cellular repair. You also need healthy fats, complex carbs, and vitamins and minerals for optimal health in general because if your body isn’t healthy, it won’t work correctly and you simply won’t grow as you should. For best results clean up your diet with plenty of wholesome and healthy foods, and use supplements to help make up the rest.