I am a 41 year old woman who competes in figure competitions. I have worked really hard on trying to put some size on my legs over the past few years and while I have been able to build them up from the skinny chicken legs they were I continue to struggle on how to put on more size. For a while I did only one leg day per week with real heavy weight. Then I switched to two leg days per week with one day being intense (for example, heavy squats and leg press) and the other day less intense (for example, lunges, step ups). On both days I do leg extensions and hamstring curls. In both instances, I feel like I have not gotten the growth I want. Any suggestions?
Hi, Alexis. I can definitely empathize with your situation. When I first began competing in bodybuilding, my placing in shows was always less than satisfactory. You see, my upper body overpowered my lower body. It was extremely frustrating.
As I recall, I trained my legs the same way I trained my upper body. Unfortunately, they certainly didn’t grow the way my upper body did. Sure, they grew progressively stronger month after month, but their development was always lacking.
I’m sure you’ve figured out by now there isn’t any magic exercise that will cause the leg muscles explode with growth.
In fact, you’ve probably run the gamut experimenting with different weights and rep ranges on leg presses, multiple variations of Squats, Leg Extensions, Leg Curls, Calf Raises, and Stiff-Legged Deadlifts.
Technique Is Key
Low and behold, I later discovered it wasn’t my selection of leg exercises that was the problem. Rather, it was my technique and execution of those exercises that was holding me back.
My research on this subject compelled me to cultivate a very different approach to training which ultimately ended up producing much greater results than before.
When I previously trained legs, I always pushed myself hard. However, I had never considered any additional strategies to increase the stress on the target muscle groups.
As bodybuilders, we tend to focus on using heavy weight for an arbitrary number of low reps, or lighter weight for an arbitrary number of higher reps.
Generally, we tend to focus so much on the weight, we lose sight of the details involved in how we actually perform the reps.
Now I’ll Share Some Of My Favorite Growth Inducing Techniques:
1. Constant Tension: This is where you simply don’t lock out your legs when completing the concentric (standing) portion of the exercise. I find this technique works best on the Leg Presses and certain squat machines like the Body Masters Power Squat Machine.
When you use this technique on a Leg Press, try to focus mostly on the second half of the movement. If you place your feet lower on the platform, you will also nail the ‘teardrop’ (Vastus Medialis) portion of the quadriceps.
For safety reasons I recommend you refrain from using this technique on Freestyle Barbell Squats. Since you have to focus so much on balancing and controlling the weight, it’s difficult to also focus on technique, which could increase the likelihood of injury.
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You can also apply constant tension on Leg Curl and Leg Extension machines. Your goal here is to avoid letting the weight stack to descend and touch the remaining stack.
For example, here is a great tip for Leg Extensions. After you complete a rep, during the eccentric (lowering) portion of the exercise, only let your legs lower until the weight is just about to hit the remaining weighs on the stack.
The same applies on the Leg Curl machine. After you’ve completed the concentric (raising) portion of the exercise, slowly lower the weight. However, do not allow your legs to fully straighten. If so, this will break the constant tension from your hamstrings.
In other words, if you hear that familiar ‘clanking’ sound, it means constant tension has been broken. Therefore, you should only hear it AFTER you’ve completed the very last repetition of your set.
(More in Part 2)
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