Leg day is dreaded by many and skipped by some. But for those that go the distance, they are not sorry. Proper leg development keeps your physique in balance, your body in healthy working order, and your athletic performance enhanced. Housing some of the largest muscles in the body, it's important to train legs properly for a multitude of reasons - from purely physical to knee health to fat-burning. Here are some quick tips, featuring the multi-talented Will Ferrel, on how to make your next leg day as effective as possible.... and quite possibly less painful the next day!
Inflexible muscles are a precursor to injury. Why?... because the nature of muscle growth is to add stress, and adding stress to a mechanism that is not prepared can cause damage. I like to do 5-10 minutes of cardio - treadmill or bike - before I lift in order to get my body warmed up. Then, I like to stretch the individual body part after I complete a set with a quick, informal stretch against a wall or machine. Stretching not only helps keep you warmed up throughout your workout but also helps remove lactic acid buildup in your muscles which contributes to soreness the next day.
A lot of builders would rather load on more weight than complete an exercise within its full range of motion. Many choose to stop short when squatting, for instance, because they are carrying too much weight or maybe even because their muscles are feeling tight. Choose a full range of motion over weight. You will develop better technique, better-looking muscles, and stronger ligaments and tendons.
WORK ON YOUR BALANCE
The typical quad-to-hamstring strength ratio is 2-to-1. This means your quads are naturally going to harness more power. However, letting this ratio get out of control, means another part of your body is going to pick up the slack. Sadly, the first in line are the knees. Often the next casualty is the lower back. Make sure your hamstrings are getting enough of a workout on leg day. Don't exhaust yourself with quads so much that they're an afterthought. If you can't seem to make it work, do hamstrings on another day.
WORK TO FAILURE
Everyone's had a leg day that leads to devastating soreness. And most of us have had to work hard, REALLY HARD, to lose the chicken legs we were born with. But don't let this history stop you the next leg day. Sometimes the fear of pain can put a mental stop on progress. You hold back on that last set because last time you tried to challenge your body, it punished you. Don't listen. Instead, work on techniques to minimize muscle soreness and injury so you can feel confident that your body can take the abuse next time you're at the gym. Don't hold back, work to failure on that last set. Eventually, your body will give in, and the win will be sweet.
Your body needs rest to regroup, recharge, and repair. I'm not just talking about your body - your mind too. Resting your muscles as well as your willpower and your resolve is key to progress of any kind. Not only does rest help muscles grow, it keeps your immune system strong, and it keeps your mind sharp. Make sure you're giving each muscles group, as well as your self in general, enough time to bounce back from daily stress.
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