It's always the perfect time to focus on building stronger, leaner legs. Not only will your legs be in eye-catching shape come shorts weather, you’ll also enhance coordination and improve athletic performance. Here are ten tips for making it happen.
#1: Prioritize Compound Lifts–Squats, DLs, Etc.
The multi-joint lifts of squats, deadlifts, lunges, and step-ups are the biggest “bang for your buck” exercises because they recruit the largest musculature at once. This makes them both metabolically challenging and effective for developing muscle. The compound lifts are also highly functional, improving running and jumping ability, while simultaneously reducing injury risk and pain.
#2: Include Heavy Lifting Phases
Lifting loads in the 80 to 90 percent of the 1RM range (4 to 8 reps) will overload your muscles so you get stronger and more athletic. You’ll also elevate body composition hormones like growth hormone and testosterone for greater musculature in the lower body.
#3: Squat Low
Deep squats in which you go all the way down to the point where the hamstring covers the calf are essential because they are a fundamental movement in human life and they improve balance and flexibility in the lower body. They also maximize muscle cross-sectional area of the hamstrings and quads for greater definition.
Deadlifts are one your best bets to get great legs because they hit the entire posterior chain (calves, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back) as well as the quads, and abs. Start with hex bar squats if you’re a beginner, and as you progress, don’t forget to include single leg deadlifts, Romanian deads, and conventional clean-style deadlifts for structural balance and an amazing lower body.
#5: Get Leaner Legs With German Body Comp—Forget “Spot Training”
Despite much debunking, people still believe in “spot” training for problem body parts. Don’t. It doesn’t work. What everyday folks don’t realize is that the “problem” is too much body fat. The best way to get rid of body fat is to train the whole body, while fixing nutrition.
Training-wise, leaner legs will come from a German Body Composition-type workout that uses compound lifts with short rest and high volume. The goal is to produce significant peripheral lactic acid buildup, which will cause a lot of growth hormone to be released for greater fat burning.
#6: Do Sprints Or Strongman
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll build better looking’ legs from distance running. Endurance exercise trains efficiency, which is the opposite of what needs to happen if you want to build muscle or lose body fat. Interval training, on the other hand, will help you build muscle, and it preferentially increases the size and strength of the powerful, fast-twitch fibers. Try repeated sprints or strongman exercises such as sled training or tire flips.
#7:Do Single-Leg Training
Unilateral exercises such as split squats and step-ups are not as sexy as the squat and deadlift, but being able to perform them will set you up for superior numbers in the big lifts. They equalize strength on both sides of the body and target specific muscles in the lower body that aren’t effectively trained with bilateral lifts.
#8: Build A Bulletproof Back—Good Mornings & Back Extensions
A weak lower back will limit the adaptations you can get from your training. Not only will you develop pain, you won’t be able to load the go-to exercises effectively. Avoid the problem by building a bulletproof back with good mornings, back extensions, and reverse hypers—you’ll get better abs too!
#9: Vary Your Lifting Speed—Always Count Tempo
Tempo refers to the speed with which you perform the up and down phase of your exercises. Training with a longer eccentric (down) motion is an efficient way to develop strength in squats, deadlifts, and lower back exercises. Advanced trainees can benefit from faster tempos that recruit higher threshold type 2 fibers for greater growth and power. This is one reason athletes who jump and sprint tend to have great legs.
#10: Grow Your Calves with Seated & Standing Raises
Great calves will get you a lot of attention. Calf training can seem complicated because you have to train both the gastrocnemius, which is mostly fast-twitch and best activated when standing, and the soleus, which sits under the gastrocnemius and is composed of more slow-twitch fibers. The simple way to do this is to perform both standing and seated calf raises. Add bottom-range reps to promote flexibility in which you perform just the range from the bottom stretched position to the point where the feet are parallel to the floor.