Among the bodybuilding enthusiasts, the part of the body that remains least in focus is the legs. Since legs are not visible unless you slip into a swim suit and take the plunge, they are not paid much attention to, which is certainly a mistake. Without a powerful pair of legs, your muscular body is only half-built. Furthermore, a strong pair of legs makes one walk and hold oneself up with greater confidence, and would also make one feel less conscious if one were to don swimming trunks or put on a pair of tight-fit jeans.
Legs are a large muscle group and require a good deal of workout to be built. These are less susceptible to injury because they take on a lot of work during everyday life, which is why it takes high intensity workouts for these muscles to respond. Here are some of the basic and simple exercises for the comprehensive development of leg muscles.
Squats is the best and the most basic exercise for legs and is performed with heavy weights. The exercise is considered to be one of the excellent mass-building exercises for lower body, but it primarily focuses on legs, particularly thigh muscles.
Generally, bodybuilders use Power Rack for squats. Load the barbell on the Power Rack with as much weight as you can comfortably manage, and take the barbell across your shoulders with the rod running behind your neck. Now, take the barbell off the rack and go down into squat position slow and easy. Feel the weight on your thighs throughout and keep your back straight. If you feel excessive strain either on your back or your legs, you must put the barbell back on the rack and decrease the weight before trying again.
It is advisable that you do not go all the way down bending your knees to the fullest but go only slightly lower than the position when your thighs and lower leg are at ninety degrees. This would prevent your knees from taking excess weight and that way you would be able to reduce the possibility of knee injuries.
Once you are in the squatting position, hold it for a second and feel the load on your thighs before standing upright in the original position. Bring yourself up as slowly as you went down.
Squats are a particularly useful exercise because every muscle in the lower body works. Legs take the weight on, abs and lower back provide the stability required, upper-back provides the strength to keep the weight on.
Lying Leg Curl
Lying leg curls are performed on a bench designed for this purpose. Lie on the bench face down, hold the handles, engage your legs with the padded lever provided for the purpose and curl your legs towards your hips slowly. Use only so much as to comfortably perform 8 to 10 repetitions. The exercise is aimed at strengthening hamstrings and must be performed carefully because it is easy to injure them. Hamstrings are posterior thigh muscles and are a major part of your leg muscles. Well-built hamstrings provide an impressive shape to one’s upper legs.
Quadriceps Leg Extension
The quadriceps form the front of the thighs and work together with the hamstrings to make the legs move. Leg extension machine is used for the purpose of performing quadriceps leg extensions. The weight plates are stacked in a rack and are lifted by thick iron wires providing required resistance for the exercise.
The machine is simple to use. Just sit upright on the bench, grab the handles provided, engage your feet in the padded levers attached to the machine for this purpose, and extend your legs straight slowly. Hold your legs in the stretched position for a second or two and then bring them to their original position slowly. Also, make sure that your hold your body upright and do not allow your hips to leave the seat throughout the repetition. Two sets of 8 to 12 repetitions would be sufficient.
Leg press machine is used for this purpose. It requires one to lie on the board provided for the purpose with another sliding board above that where one has to place one’s feet against at shoulder width. The levers are provided on the sides of the lower board to disengage the sliding board. The sliding board has rods to add weight on.
So, add as much weight to the board as you can comfortably work 8 to 12 repetitions with, lie on the lower board, disengage the upper board with your feet placed firmly on it, and let your legs bend at the knees to lower the weight towards your body before pushing it back up slowly. Keep the motion smooth and easy. This is a good exercise for overall growth of your leg muscles.
Calves push-down on machine
Calf muscles are the most neglected group of muscles among the leg muscles. One of the reasons could be that it requires persistent effort to build calf muscles because they are among the most used muscles in everyday life, which makes them strong and difficult to build. They require greater number of repetitions with heavy weights to respond.
You can use the leg press machine to perform calves push-down. Load some weight on the machine, lie on the machine, push the sliding board up with your toes placed at shoulder width at the outer edge of the board, and press it further away with your toes as far as you can with your legs stretched out completely, hold it there for a second or two and then let the sliding board slide back as far as it can with the weight constantly on your toes. Repeat the movement. Two sets of 18 to 25 repetitions would work fine.
Calves push down
The exercise can be performed standing on a stair or a small block to allow the heels to sink below the ground level with your toes on the block. This one is also performed much the same way as on the machine. Stand on the edge of the steps or block and raise your body up as far as you can on your toes and then slowly come back down as far as you can with your heels going below the surface level and then push yourself back up slowly. You would feel the load on your calves. You can also take some weight on your shoulders if you are able to perform 18 to 25 repetitions effortlessly. Two sets would be sufficient.
The abovementioned exercises are some basic exercises for legs. There are many other exercises that are variations of these basic exercises, but it is advisable that those exercises are performed under the supervision of a trainer till the time you have sufficient experience performing them.
Note: This is not a piece of authoritative medical or professional opinion or advice. Exercise of individual discretion is strongly recommended.