From a technical standpoint, legs are the foundation of any well built body. The more weight your body can support for various lifts is certainly related to the strength of your lower body platform. Yet, plenty of people neglect legs or regulate them to the latter part of the week. It is time to stop treating your wheels like an afterthought and start putting some focus into building power quads, sweeping hamstrings, and killer calves!
What is the best starting point? Squats of course!
As much as exercises like the Leg Press are touted for building legs while saving your back and knees, they really cannot hold a candle to squats. For those who have injury concern the answer is to simply learn how to squat properly. Learning how to do this invaluable exercise correctly will actually help strengthen your entire lower body as you build up the muscles and tissues around the joints. Squats are the absolute best exercise for building strong, powerful legs.
The Big Wheel Workout
First and foremost is learning proper squat technique. Watching videos and asking people whom you see squatting are both excellent ideas. Use light weight and practice until the form feels natural and easy. Don’t worry about adding weight until the form is mastered. Make sure to warm up the legs properly with light cardio and then stretch! Far too many people just walk over to a squat rack and jump right in and then blame squats for an injury.
The basics are a shoulder width stance with the bar resting across your delts and traps. You should pick a spot at eye level and keep your eyes focused there the entire time (to keep your head up). When you squat down it isn’t as much you go straight down but more that you sink your rear back and down. By doing this your knees won’ travel forward as far. You need to keep your back flat and not let your knees travel past your toes (which is done by getting your glutes back).
As you slowly lower down the stopping point is when the thighs are parallel; there is no bouncing at the bottom. Just start exhaling and power straight back up. If balance is a problem try placing a 2.5 or 5lb plate under each heel. You should practice squat form without weight so you can look at your position and then also using just the bar. If you are still having problems try working in a Smith Machine to help regulate the bar movement so you focus on dropping your hips. The movement feels weird at first, but once you begin to master it, things will feel more natural.
Make sure to pyramid up in weight so the final set is the heaviest weight you can handle for the prescribed reps.
- Barbell Squats – 4 to 5 sets for 6 to 10 repetitions
- Stiff-Legged Deadlifts – 3 to 4 sets for 6 to 10 repetitions (use 25lb plates or go off a box for a full stretch)
- Hack Squats – 3 sets for 8 to 12 repetitions
- Lying Leg Curls – 3 sets for 8 to 12 repetitions
- Walking Dumbbell Lunges – 2 sets of 60 steps
The final exercise will really pump the blood into the legs and work the endurance fibers so do not skip out on it! This workout will really get those wheels in shape and have you rolling if you put the effort in!