The other day I was taking a lady out for a drink here in Uruguay, I must have mentioned something about her looks being easy on the eyes because she responded in kind with a complement of her own, and it wasn’t about me face – I’m sure we can all understand why – it was actually about the girth of me legs. Yes, odd, but let me explain…
She said it’s nice to see someone in shape who also has legs that match the upper body, in her country, she said, all of the guys who workout are top heavy, they’re huge up top and have twigs for legs. And, to be honest, that’s where a lot of guys are. It’s a problem. Unless you’re building your legs you’re not going to have the power or athleticism you want, you’re also not going to look as good as you want to look.
And so, after that night, I got on the horn and asked my buddy Alain to write an article on leg training. Thankfully he obliged.
Alain is a master trainer, the guy really knows his stuff, so pay attention to this article, implement, and take action! We can’t be a tribe of warriors, or “Legendary men”, and have chicken legs damnit! (Read This: 10 Qualities of the Modern Day Warrior)
Alain, take it from here…
Back in 2009 I decided to move my family to Las Vegas to pursue a “career” in mixed martial arts. The plan was simple. I would fly my friend Wes (whom lived in Vegas) out to Florida and we would drive together.
At the time my only focus was getting to Nevada, starting my new job, beginning my MMA training, and situating things to then move my family out there with me.
I know you’re probably wondering what this has to do with leg training, right?
I’ll get to that in just a second.
When Wes arrived in Florida, it was all business. We jumped in my 2007 Toyota Camry and got on the road. We made sure to pack food, drinks, and anything else that might have caused us to take unneeded stops. We made it to Las Vegas in (what I remember to be) like 30 or so hours. We slept a few hours at a hotel along the way and that was pretty much it.
Fast forward a year or so.
Although we enjoyed Vegas, it was time to move back to Florida. As a family we figured that we probably would never make this drive again. With that in mind, we decided we could take our time, see the sights, stop to eat at different restaurants, stay at different hotels in states we’ve never visited, etc.
The trip back to Florida took us almost 3x longer than my trip to Vegas with Wes.
So here is my point.
Both trips got us from point A to point B only one trip took far longer than the other. This is the same outcome you can expect from two different training programs. They’ll both probably get you the results you’re looking for but, one is more direct and will get you those results in less time.
This is especially true when it comes to males who are trying to build their legs. You see, as a male, we have much less androgen receptors in our lower body than we do in our upper body. To put it simply, if you aren’t already genetically blessed with naturally big legs, then achieving that is going to be a challenge.
Notice what I said?
Not “impossible”, not “highly unlikely”, not “unrealistic”, just not easy.
But what if I told you that despite having naturally scrawny legs we could skyrocket our quad and hamstring growth by implementing 3 scientifically proven training techniques that you’ll never hear about in bodybuilding magazines?
What’s the secret? Simple. Take the direct route like Wes and I did instead of the scenic route that I took with my family.
One last thing, though…
All the information you are about to read is 100% completely useless if your nutrition is not in order. I am not going to sit here and say building muscle is 80 percent nutrition and 20 percent work in the gym. They go hand in hand. Building muscle is 100% nutrition and work!
A few basic nutrition points you should know. Without achieving this in your nutrition, forget about any program working, period.
1. Nitrogen Balance: Yes we all know protein is important but, do you actually know why? Simple. It’s what dictates nitrogen balance and without achieving a positive nitrogen balance (synthesizing more protein that we are breaking down), you’ll never build muscle.
2. Energy Balance: To put it simply, the fastest way to build muscle is to consume more energy than you are expending. I don’t care how “great” your diet is. If you’re eating in a deficit or even at maintenance, you’re not maximizing your ability to build muscle.
3. Macronutrient Ratio: Yes we need enough protein and yes we need to eat enough to be in a caloric surplus, but the real dictator of body composition is macronutrient ratio. The amount of carbs, fats, and protein that you are consuming. Achieving a caloric surplus is one thing but doing so using the proper macronutrient breakdown is another. (Try this: The Man Diet)
“The more you know, the more you grow” – IFBB Pro Ben Pakulski
Leg Training Solution #1 – Mechanical Loading
Before we can train any muscle group successfully, we must first understand the function of the muscle itself. The legs are made up of more than one section(s) that should all be trained equally in order to achieve nice fullness.
For the sake of not turning this into a boring anatomy lesson, here is a chart you can use as a reference. We have the glutes, the hamstrings, and the Rectus femoris and Vastus medialis which make up the quads.
Now let’s talk about the functions of each muscle group in the legs.
Seeing the anatomy chart and understanding the functions of each muscle in the legs makes exercise selection obvious. No need to waste time with small and ineffective movements that do nothing but cause a small burn and get you stares in the gym. The goal is essentially to understand the muscle and its mechanics and then find a way to load that function under tension, period. (Read this: 3 Exercises That Boost Hormones and Build Explosive Power)
Leg Training Solution #2 – Training FREAKancy (Frequency)
You ever see those silly Leg Day memes? You know, the ones with funny pictures of a guy in a wheelchair with a caption that says “The Day after Leg Day”.
I’ll admit, some of them are actually quite funny. But let’s be honest. If you’ve been “training legs” for more than 6 months and you’re still getting debilitating soreness, then your leg training probably sucks!
Ever wonder why your biceps no longer get sore? Have you noticed that your chest and back aren’t getting that sore anymore? It’s due to something science calls “The Repeated Bout Effect”.
You see, our body is extremely adaptive so the more we train a muscle group, the more efficient it becomes at recovery and thus eliminating DOMS or at the very least, reducing it significantly.
So if your legs are still getting so sore that it’s hard to get out of bed, it’s not because you’re “killing it” on leg day. It’s because you’re training your legs much too inconsistently.
We are in the year 2014 and if you still believe that overtraining is caused by training a big (or small) muscle group more than once per week, then you, my friend, are stuck in the past with Marty Mcfly.
My advice is simple. If you’re currently training legs 1 time per week, then bump it up to 2. If you’re training them twice per week, then bump it up to 3. Not only will you force your body to recover (adapt and grow) much faster, but protein synthesis will be elevated much more frequently throughout the week. (Try this: How to Build Muscle With Lighter Weights)
More protein synthesis = more muscle mass
Leg Training Solution #3 – Squat…Period!
That is a lie.
Truth be told, to build bigger legs we can simply perform exercises that load the functions of the hamstrings, glutes, and quads, do them 2-3 times per week, and ensure we are progressively overloading the muscle with new stimulus.
However, that’s the scenic route and you’re probably looking for the direct route, right?
Well in that case, then yes, you must squat!
Think about what the squat does and then think about each leg muscle’s major mechanics. Not only is the squat training knee flexion, hip extension, and hip flexion, but it’s allowing you to do these things together while using a significant load. Not to mention, as you strengthen your core (which is also done through squatting), the load you’ll be able to handle becomes much greater. There is no secret as to why the squat is known as the mass builder of all mass builders.
Some experts would even go as far as to argue that one could build impressive legs by doing nothing other than squatting. That’s up for debate but should give you an idea as to how big of a roll this exercise can play in your leg training routine.
If you suffer from skinny leg syndrome like I did and want to build them up as fast as possible, then take the direct route by loading the functions, training them frequently (2-3x per week), and squatting, lots of squatting.
It’s 2014 and quads are the new biceps.
Start implementing these 3 simple but effective techniques and build short worthy legs that you don’t have to be embarrassed about. So get your head out of those bogus magazines and turn your stilts to trunks in less time by training smarter.