Do you want to look good and have great proportions? If the answer is yes then your leg day workout is key to this. Building up the legs gives a much more balanced appearance… nobody wants chickens leg do they?
Apart from aesthetics, developing the leg muscles actually helps to build up your core and upper body too. Many leg exercises involve core stability and it will aid in strengthening your core. It will also help stabilise bigger upper body movements such as bench pressing, shoulder pressing and deadlifts. The reason behind this is that all of these movements require, to some degree, the involvement of the legs to help stabilise the actions. For example, it’s common to push through your legs when you bench press as this helps to exert a greater force on the concentric (extension) phase of the movement.
If you strengthen up your leg muscles this will contribute to greater stability in these types of upper body movements and helps to increase the pace of your upper body development as a whole.
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4 Sets of 10 Reps
As a compound exercise, the barbell squat is always a safe bet as the primary leg day exercise. The barbell squat will recruit much of the leg muscles from the quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves and more. For this reason, it will develop your legs in a balanced way and as it is a multi-joint exercise it will help you to control and stabilise your movements, as you improve your balance, control and strength from this exercise you will be able to transfer tension from one muscle to another with greater control and effect.
3 Sets of 10 Reps
The leg press machine eliminates the use of stabilising muscles – usually the weak link in squats – due to the fixed movement, this means that you can lift heavier in a safe way, maximising muscle growth potential.
The leg press helps you isolate specific muscles, in this case, the quads, hamstrings and glute. By adjusting the position of your feet on the leg press machine you can alter where the tension is emphasised, such as quads of more towards the hamstrings and glutes – it’s a great tool, indeed!
Seated Leg Extensions
3 Sets of 10-15 Reps
IFBB pro bodybuilder Ben Pakulski tends to go for high volume for leg exercises and often utilises higher reps ranges especially leg extension. His reasoning is that the leg muscles undergo high repetitive movement throughout most of the day by simply walking around and remember they do carry your body weight, this is contrary to other muscles, especially in the upper body, that often only get any real form of exertion when you specifically work them out, such as in the gym.
Ben suggests that to get good activation of the leg muscle – in this instance the quads – aim for higher reps, slow the tempo, and feel the burn.
For greater activation of the quad muscle make sure that your foot is aligned so that your toes point straight up not out to either side. This requires you to rotate the leg at hip joint – failure to do this will place greater emphasis on the Vastus Medialis and on the inner thigh – and asides from muscle imbalances, failure to do this could lead to excessive stress on the knee joint as the tension placed on the joint at that angle is unnatural.
Seated Leg Curls
3 Set of 10-15Reps
Leg curls target the three hamstring muscles.
Your calve muscles can also be utilised under leg curls as the gastrocnemius muscle in the calf is a two-joint muscle that runs just above the knee to the heel. Its function is flexion of the foot at the ankle joint and flexion of the leg at the knee joint.
Seated Calf Raises
3 Set of 10-15 Reps
There’s reasoning why the claves exercises are placed towards the end of the workout, as mention previously, the calf muscles (the gastrocnemius specifically) is involved in flexion on the leg. If you happened to place the calf exercises towards the start of the workout they will obviously become fatigued much quicker, as they have undergone greater intensity and stimulation. This will have a negative effect upon the other leg exercises – especially the barbell squat and the leg curls – as the force output will be severely reduced. This will likely lead to less control over the movement and the inability to lift heavy enough weights for optimal growth.
Seated calve raises will target the soleus located underneath your gastrocnemius. The seated calf raise is the most effective exercise to target your soleus due to the position of your knees. The soleus makes up a large proportion of your calves and this exercise will give you width to your lower legs.
Standing Calf Raises
2 Sets of 10-15 Reps
The standing calf raise places greater emphasis onto the gastrocnemius. The most important factor is the knee angle, whether done on a Smith machine or leg press, the leg must remain straight.