A Guide To Training Legs: Growth & Strength
Legs are the largest skeletal muscle group on the human body.
Meaning naturally, we can build them larger and stronger than any other muscle group.
That being said, legs hold and produce the largest amount of testosterone.
I don't understand why so many people neglect training legs.
The larger and stronger your legs are, increases the growing potential of your other muscle groups.
In other words, more testosterone equals more growing potential.
So let's get into a few exercises, starting with the leg exercise that increases testosterone the most, the barbell back squat.
Barbell Back Squat:
By far the most rewarding leg exercise for overall muscle growth and strength.
This compound exercise activates every muscle group of your leg, with primary movers being your quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings.
Everyone's "perfect form" when squatting is slightly different because everyone's muscle insertions in their legs are different.
But here are some tips everyone can follow to help find your "perfect form."
The process of un-racking the weight should be short and sweet.
Start by aligning your hands equally on each side of the bar.
Find the center of the bar to rest on the trapezius muscles of your back.
After lifting off the rack, it should be a 1, 2 step back into your squatting position.
I prefer to have my feet just outside shoulder width apart, with toes pointed slightly out.
Instead of thinking about bending your knees, think of it more as sitting.
Start by kicking your hips out behind you and follow your hips to the ground.
For the best results, that optimal depth shouldn't be more than 90 degrees if your goal is overall growth and strength. So deeper the better!
When firing back into standing position, majority of the force should be driven through your heels, which is where you'll have the greatest strength output.
If you're leaning too far forward and driving through the balls of your feet, your quadriceps will be doing majority of the work and you'll experience a lack of stability.
So it's important to focus on keeping all of the driving force through your heels.
Now that we've wrapped up the barbell back squat, let's turn our sights to a more isolated exercise, the Romanian Deadlift.
Barbell Romanian Deadlift (RDL):
The Romanian Deadlift does a great job of isolating the glutes and hamstrings.
Starting from the ground up, plant your feet at shoulder width apart with toes pointed straight ahead.
Your grip on the barbell should also be aligned at shoulder width apart.
When properly executing a rep of RDLs, on the barbells way down, the weights should never hit the ground.
Just like the barbell back squat, start by kicking out your hips.
Keep your core tight and back straight, keeping shoulder blades squeezed while following the weight towards the ground.
I recommend keeping your head up looking forward.
By not touching the ground, it keeps constant tension on the glutes and hamstrings.
As demonstrated in the picture to the right, optimal depth is achieved at your hamstrings maximum stretch.
As you can see at the bars optimal depth, my knees are slightly bent to increase the stretch of my hamstring, core is tight, and shoulders are still locked into place.
When firing back into starting position, roll your hips forward, flexing/squeezing your glutes and hamstrings.
This next exercise, like the barbell back squat, recruits every muscle group of the leg and is my favorite leg exercise because of the intense pump it brings.
Walking Dumbbell Lunges:
Walking dumbbell lunges have been a staple in my leg routine for years now.
If you aren't familiar with the exercise, start light and get a feel for it before going up in weight.
Focus on keeping your core tight along with your shoulder blades, keeping your chest out and head up.
Depending on the length of your strides, you'll either predominantly be activating the quads, or both hamstrings and glutes.
The shorter your stride, the more your quads are activated.
The longer your stride, the more your hamstrings and glutes are activated.
In the demonstrating photos, I found a happy medium in my stride where I feel all three muscle groups being activated.
When driving up to take your next step, begin by driving through the heel and rocking into the ball of your lead foot.
This exercise is also great for stability and core muscles, as your body needs to adapt to the extra weight.
Make sure to keep the dumbbells straight down to your sides throughout the exercise.
Bring your trailing knee to just grazing the ground before making the next step.
Depending on the weight I'm using, I usually stay between 20-30 steps per set.
Now that we covered another compound exercise, let's talk about a isolation movement for your quads.
Leg Extension Machine:
The Leg Extension Machine is by design made to isolate your quads.
Adjust the back rest of the seat to where the seat is tight up against the back of your knee.
Then adjust the leg lever to ride along your chins, allowing your tibia slightly under the seat.
This allows you to achieve a larger range of motion, activating more of your quad by increasing your range of motion when going into extension.
For those who don't understand the difference between flexion and extension, I am in flexion in the first photo, and extension in the second.
From flexion, flex your quads into full extension.
To make the most out of the exercise, include static holds when in complete extension.
This will increase nutrients to the muscles with extra blood flow.
Hold the extension for 3 seconds before going for another rep.
Although this is a great exercise for activating your quads, think of it as a complementary exercise to your compound exercises, for example: squats and leg press.
Which leads us to the next exercise, hip sled, or better known as the leg press.
Plate Loaded Leg Press (Hip Sled):
The plate loaded leg press activates the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings just like the barbell back squat.
With the only exception of taking the stability muscle groups out of the exercise.
(Core, Lower Back)
You can change the primary mover muscle group by just changing your foot placement on the platform.
The higher the placement of your feet, more of the hamstrings and glutes are recruited.
The lower the placement of your feet, more of the quadriceps are recruited.
The placement of my feet in the pictures shown is my happy medium where I can feel all the muscle groups activating.
It's also important to note how I'm floating a bit off the seat.
I do this because the seat tends to bend my hips forward.
The goal is to take your hip flexors out of the exercise or you might risk injury in your hips and/or lower back.
When lowering the weight into flexion, make sure your heels stay planted on the platform.
Like explained above, also make sure on the way down your hips stay planted and don't rotate out from under you.
Like the Barbell Back Squat, drive through your heels into extension.
You accumulate the most power when driving through your heels.
I suggest lifting your toes at your deepest flexion to help focus on driving the platform back up through your heels.
Just as switching the height of your feet on the platform recruits different muscles, so does changing the width.
Inside shoulder width puts an emphasis on your quads.
Outside shoulder width puts more emphasis on your adductor/abductor muscles. (Inner and outer thigh)
With another compound exercise explained, let's finish up with another isolated exercise, this time isolating the hamstrings.