Guys, Here Is What You Need To Know To Build Respectable Legs
by: Joe "The Wheels" Hartman
Day in and day out you go to the gym. It is like eating to you. You hit every upper body muscle that exist. Then comes leg day and you choose today to be rest day. Tisk! Tisk!
We have all seen him! You know, that guy who has the incredible chest with bulging shoulders and arms that look like his muscles are about to pop out. Yup! He is the guy many in the gym envy. Yet, you wonder to yourself, “Why is he always in sweat-pants?”. Then, finally the day comes where you see him in shorts and you answer your own question; he skipped leg day. Skipping leg day is a big no-no, yet so many guys skip it. They skip it because they do not know where to start, feel that is not what the ladies like, or simply are lazy and lack the motivation. I am here to tell you it will not be easy but if you want to build legs, that will get people talking, keep reading!
Basic 101: Biggest Muscle of The Body
The leg muscles are the biggest muscles in our body. They are comprised of the upper and lower legs. The upper legs consist of the quadriceps, also known as “quads”, and hamstrings, also known as “hammies”. The lower legs consist of multiple muscles such as the calf muscle and Achilles tendon just to name a few. The “quads” consist of 4 muscles and they are the strongest of the entire leg muscle group. The “hammies” consist of 3 muscles that are behind the thigh. With so many muscle groups in the legs, one can understand why people skip leg day. To develop them seems like a weeks worth of working out. However, while building respectable legs is not easy, it is simple enough once you understand what needs to be done. Beyond the strength capacity of the legs, the leg muscles assist in many other internal matters. For example, working out your legs increases testosterone levels. High testosterone levels are the ticket to bigger gains and a leaner body because they are a steroid type of hormone. In addition to this anabolic health reason, having a nice set of “wheels” gets you a ton of respect because…well, it is impressive.
As you begin to think about putting your leg workout together, there are a few exercises that are paramount to growing your legs. Your workouts must have SQUATS in one workout and DEADLIFTS in the other. The reason these two exercises are not to be done in the same session is because they are very exhausting compound exercises. Both of them tax the body and stress it out enormously. This is not to say you should never do both in one workout but certainly they should not be done together if you are a beginner. These two exercises are considered THE KINGs of leg exercises. Some folks will debate that only one of the exercises is the true king. You can decide for yourself if one or the other or both are king! The squat is an exercise where the bar sits on your upper, mid, or lower traps and with your legs shoulder width apart you descend parallel to the floor. As you come back up, you push through your heels and that counts as one repetition. Do this just 10 times and you will understand why I do not recommend doing deadlifts too. The deadlift is the opposite of the squat. Whereas the squat you descend towards the floor, the deadlift requires you to pull the bar from a "dead" stand still position. With your feet shoulder width apart and hands just outside of your legs with one in a prone position (palm facing you) and one in a supinated position (palm facing away from you), you lift the bar off of the ground by pushing through your heels. Both of these exercises will quickly consume a lot of calories because of the amount of muscles it utilizes to be performed. Both will have you breathing heavy too!
Together “Full” or Separate “Split”
Since your legs consist of front (quadriceps) and back (hamstrings), you can opt for two ways of working them out. One way is to combine your leg workout with quads and hammies in the same session, which is considered a full leg workout. Another way is to split your workout with quads being targeted one day as a full workout and hammies another day as a full workout. There are some benefits and downfalls to doing them together.
- Saves you time which allows you to workout your entire legs during one workout
- Focus is on your entire legs for full balance
- Cannot really focus on “weak points” of your legs
- Cannot increase strength as compared to doing separated because as the workout gets going you will get tired
As you can see, there are some real good benefits of working out your legs together. This is a great idea for someone who is just beginning. As mentioned previously, splitting your leg workout is another way to do it. Be warned, however, splitting your leg muscles means you are working out your legs 2x per week and that in itself is very exhausting. None-the-less, just like working them out together, splitting offers some benefits and downfalls.
- Focus on specific weak points of your legs
- One full session is dedicated for full exhaustion
- Requires you to stay dedicated so you don’t skip the second leg session
- Can quickly create an imbalance
Deciding which type of leg workout to do, together or split, is going to be dependent on your goals and the time you have available to workout. Give them both a try and see what works best for you.
Big Legs or Power Legs
Just because you want bigger legs does not mean you are going to be lifting like a powerlifter. Your repetitions (reps) will range from 8-12 reps with 3-4 sets. Sometimes, you may decide to do a 5th set because you are feeling good. That is ok from time to time. Just remember, balance is the key to your leg growth. The 8-12 rep range allows for hypertrophy. Hypertrophy simply means muscle building. Power lifters, on the other hand, do very low reps with very heavy weight and long rest periods in between. This is not what you are after unless there is a specific training goal you are targeting. Your goal is to do volume workouts. That means you should be doing sets (4) and reps (8-12). Additionally, your volume will be accomplished by the use of multiple exercises. You already know the importance of starting with one of king's; squats or deadlifts. The remaining part of your workout should consist of some of these exercises: leg presses, heels high leg presses, hack squats, reverse hack squats, front barbell squats, sumo squats, sumo deadlifts, barbell lunges, DB lunges, leg curls, seated leg curls, leg extensions, one legged barbell squat, and DB one legged squat. There are a ton more that can be thrown in here but this list will suffice to get you started.
Road Map to Success
You are probably now intimated to do a leg workout and will continue skipping leg day (hopefully this does not happen to you!) or you are feeling like king kong and ready for the road map to bigger legs. Below, I will give you two types of workouts you can follow. One workout will be quads and hamstrings together aka full leg workout. The other workout will be split leg workout. Choose one and get started on your road to success for bigger wheels.