Legs can be bodybuilders’ and gym junkies’ favorite or least favorite body part to train. It’s a love/hate relationship! There is no in between. Many people skip training legs often because they feel it hurts too much or it’s too difficult to grow their legs.
I have heard countless times people tell me, “I train my legs but they are small because they struggle to grow”. This is the worst excuse anyone can give, not just for lacking proper leg development, but for training any muscle group in general that is lacking progress. If you’re training your body parts correctly and providing your body with adequate nutrients that is needed to allow for growth and repair of muscle fibers, you should have no difficulty in obtaining the size you desire.
When I first started training, I didn’t have much of an idea as to what exercise to perform for certain muscle groups or even how to perform these exercise correctly. Instead, I did what most people do in the gym, and tried to stick to the basic exercises while lifting at the highest amount of weight possible. This was the first mistake I made myself, along with many other avid gym goers, for my first year or two.
After trial and error of finding out what exercise do what and what routines help the most to provide that growth in my legs that I wanted, I was able to figure out exactly what exercises help and exactly what ways to perform these exercises in order to achieve the legs I have today, through the three top exercises: squats, leg press and extensions.
Squats For Massive Legs
We have heard it over and over again that squats are the absolute best exercise for gaining leg size. This is completely true. However, the issue that most people have with squats is that they focus purely on going as heavy as possible while completely disregarding form and failure to activate the quads, glutes and hamstrings while performing this exercise.
It’s best that when performing a squat, you set up the rack in a safe position in which if you fail at any point, the rack will catch the bar and prevent any injury – this is a safety precaution that many people completely overlook. The safety bar is also the best way to help with leg growth because you can set it at a low enough height that will allow you to perform reps at the greatest depth possible without worry of dropping the bar on yourself.
The reason why I stress about going down in the squat position as far as possible, at least to 90 degrees/parallel, is because when you train a muscle fiber, you want to get the maximum range of motion, ROM, in order to achieve a full stretch in your muscle fibers. It is also best to perform slow, controlled reps with light to moderate weight, while pausing on the way down before immediately standing back up.
Always try to eliminate any inertia while performing any exercise in general, for this will allow the body to lift the true weight you are using, and not only partial weight.
Presses For Massive Legs
The leg press is the next biggest and most common leg exercise that many people perform regularly for training legs. However, with this exercise, many people do not understand the many different ways in which the leg press can be utilized to train every part of the upper legs, from quads, to hamstrings, and even glutes. Most people believe that simply because the leg press machine states/shows a diagram saying this exercise works your hamstrings, that this is all it will do for you and that the leg press is a hamstring exercise.
Ignore these images posted on the machines. Instead, know that leg press work entirely based off of two major factors:
1) Achieve the full range of motion by allowing the weights to slowly come all the way down in such a way that your knees begin to come towards your face and your feet will begin to pull in closer to your glutes. Once you have allowed the weight to come down all the way, do not immediately try and push the weight back up as fast as possible, instead, you want to pause at the bottom of each repetition for a second or two, followed by slowly pushing the weight back up to the top before repeating for the next repetition.
2) The second major factor that comes into play with the leg press machine, is your foot position on the machine itself. The way in which your feet are placed on the machine for leg press will determine exactly which parts of your legs will be worked for each rep. If you place your legs in the middle of the machine, about 6-12” apart from one another, you will begin to work both your quads and your hamstrings, but with most of your focus straining on your inner quads and hamstrings.
However, if you move your feet wider to the outside, the focus will be placed on the outer quads and hamstrings. If you raise your foot position higher up on the machine, you will focus on your hamstrings. To train your quads, bring your foot position to about and inch or two inches from the bottom of the press, about shoulder width apart with your toes pointed slightly outwards. Slowly bring your legs all the way down to get the contraction of your quads while also making sure your glutes do not come off of the seat.
You also do not need to lockout each rep, and instead, I recommend stopping a few inches before your legs lock out in order to keep the tension on your quads.
Extensions For Massive Legs
This exercise is very common for people to perform, but I will give you some tips to help improve your training. Try pointing your toes out for each rep and hold at the top of each rep to help work your upper quads. This should be a steady motion with each rep, and you want to allow your toes to go back to starting, relaxed position at the bottom of each rep, before repeating the next rep and pointing the toes out again while lifting the weight up for the extension. This is one of my top exercises to help shape and give definition in my upper legs.
Next time you step in the gym to train your legs, try out these few tips and you will surely notice a large difference in the way you train your legs from here on out. These are the best small pieces of advice I can offer to anyone wanting to add greater growth and definition to his/her legs in the gym.