There’s a fine line between overtraining your legs and not training them hard enough. And not surprisingly, most of us fall into one of the two camps. First you have the guy who spends 45 minutes doing squats at the power rack before moving on to the rest of his hard-hitting, 90-minute quad workout. Then you have someone who thinks a sufficient lower-body routine consists of a machine-only session in which he hardly breaks a sweat.
“Most guys don’t realize that their leg training should probably be more middle of the road,” says Hollywood-based trainer Gunnar Peterson, CSCS. “They either try to do a pro bodybuilder workout once a week and end up hobbled like James Caan in Misery or do a leg extension/curl combo every three days and think they’ve trained legs. But you really should find a middle ground between the two so you train your legs with decent intensity twice a week.
Multi-Joint Moves Are Key
Following a split that has you train legs one day a week would cripple you with 20 sets at maximum weight and keep you from progressing the way you could.” Peterson has nothing against extensions and curls, but a solid leg routine needs to be centered around multi-joint moves such as lunges, squats or step-ups. These exercises not only hit the quads and hamstrings but also the glutes, a bodypart seldom discussed among men unless it concerns those of the opposite sex. “The glutes are one of the biggest muscle groups in the body and to not train them is irresponsible,” Peterson says. “Read a women’s magazine — that’s the other team’s playbook. Women look at your glutes long before they notice your guns. Plus, training the glutes revs up your metabolism by stimulating such large muscles.”
Hitting All the Angles
All bodyparts should be trained from a variety of angles to maximize musclefiber recruitment. This advice becomes even more important with legs since your quads are composed of four different muscles, the hamstrings are made up of three and a slew of fibers “come in from the north, south, east and west” to form your glutes, Peterson says. “It’s not just about squatting and driving up,” he explains. “You can tweak your stance, and you can change where the load is by doing front squats, back squats and one-leg movements. A lot of people just do it by rote or don’t do it at all.”
Engaging Your Core
The routine Peterson designed hits all the major leg musculature via traditional squatting moves performed in novel fashion. A good dose of core work is involved, too, and the reason is simple: You can’t build strong legs with intense workouts without a sturdy core, and many guys are weak in this area. “You’ve got to shore up the weakness,” Peterson says. “I know it doesn’t sound fun, but it’s crucial to maximizing the effectiveness of your workouts, regardless of what muscles you’re training.