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Have you ever heard of the phrase “Turnip thighs?” It’s generally used to describe big quads that are heavily developed on the top, but with little development around the knee. This is actually a pretty common sight among many an aspiring bodybuilder, and is most often the result of a poor range of motion – half range squats and half range leg presses.
I often see young guys in the gym with 500 lbs. on a squat bar and 1000 lbs. on a leg press, only to witness them move the weight little more than a few inches. By cutting the weight in half, and using a full range of motion, trainers would see twice the development, and it would be more complete throughout the entirety of the thigh.
Much of the thickness right above the knee is the result of a highly developed vastus medialis, or “tear drop” muscle. Modern day warriors like Jay Cutler, Kai Green, and Ben Pakulski all have exceptional vastus medialis development, and one thing all of these men have in common is that they always squat deep! Usually below parallel.
Ok, so if this is an area of your physique that is lacking, here are some leg exercises that perhaps can kickstart some new growth.
This is an exercise that you rarely see performed anymore. However, it is one of the best there is for scorching the lower area of the thigh.
Take a shoulder width stance with toes straight-ahead or pointed slightly outward. Grasp onto a bar or machine at hip level with one arm and hold a weight plate across your chest with the other (if resistance is needed at all). Begin by bending at the knees, while allowing your body to fall backward. Keep your hips and waist straight as your knees come forward and your heels rise off the ground. Lower your body to the point where the knees almost touch the floor (how close you get to the floor will depend on each individual’s knee flexibility). You should feel a powerful stretch through the entire quad. Using thigh strength only, push yourself back to the starting position.
Perform leg extensions as you normally would, but as you near the top of your concentric contraction, turn your feet outward. Squeeze hard at the peak of the movement. EMG studies have shown that this turning outward of the feet can stimulate greater electrical activity in the vastus medialis than normal extensions, which in turn may lead to greater growth in that muscle. I feel this exercise is especially effective done one leg at a time.
World-renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin loves to use this exercise with many of his Olympic athletes to increase lateral knee stability and to balance the strength between the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis. For bodybuilders its major benefit is that it gives the teardrop a tremendous workout!
Squat down slowly to a point just below parallel, and then push yourself up only ¼ of the way. Slowly and under full control, return back to the bottom squat position, and then fire yourself up to the top. That counts as a single rep. As you can see, this will overload the bottom position of the squat, which will effectively annihilate the vastus medialis, as it is this muscle that is responsible (along with the hamstrings) for getting you “out of the basement.” This technique also works rather nicely for leg presses and hack squats as well.
So, instead of shedding tears over your terrible teardrop, give these exercises a try, while making sure you use a full range of motion on all squatting and leg pressing movements. Perhaps this combination is just what you need to go from terrible to terrific!
Eric Broser is a lifetime Drug Free Pro Bodybuilder and has been involved in the health and fitness industry in just about every facet for over 24 years. He has penned over 200 articles on training/supplements/nutrition, and has authored four books on the subject of rapid and effective physique transformation. Eric is the pioneer of the world-renown POWER, REP RANGE, SHOCK training method and is one of the most sought after personal trainers/contest preparation coaches in the field by athletes, bodybuilders and members of the entertainment industry.