1. Emphasize functional, multi-joint exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, and step-ups which target the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Isolation moves such as leg extensions and hamstring curls are good for improving definition and definitely hold a place in your leg routines. However, they should not comprise the bulk of your workout. In addition, you should train each leg muscle group from various angles for maximum muscle fiber recruitment.
2. Strengthen your core. Squats, lunges, and deadlifts all require core stability. The core is extensive including the rectus abdominis, obliques, back extensors, the lower head of the latisimus dorsi, (wings of the back), small spinal muscles, transverse abdominis, and glutes. These muscles work together to stabilize the body in space and in motion and to absorb shock during joint movement. Your body consists of a chain of intricate systems, and your core is the center of the muscular system. It controls your balance and keeps you on your feet.
3. Spend time pre and post workout foam rolling and using active release techniques. Doing so prior to your workout can aid in the prevention of injury. If you have any muscular imbalances, your body will constantly be compensating for your problem areas throughout the workout. I prepare my body for a workout session by using a foam roller on my calves and the outside of the IT band. I prefer the weight of a 10lb medicine ball for my adductors and the small Lacrosse Ball for treating specific glute and hip areas which affect my lower back. The small area of the Lacrosse Ball really allows the user to pinpoint the pain and release trigger points. When used before and after training, the Lacrosse Ball aids in preventing soreness as well.
This workout combines multi-joint exercises with isolation movements. Give it a try on your next leg day. However, be sure to adjust and modify according to your fitness level. Many of these exercises require a certain degree of core strength and muscle endurance.
- Squats on Smith Machine or Squat Bar: 4 sets X 12-15 reps If you are uncomfortable with using the squat rack, try the Smith Machine. When doing squats, you do not want all your mental focus to be on the weight on your back. This can affect your ability to engage the proper muscles. The Smith Machine offers a more comfortable alternative.
- Smith Machine Sumo Squats: 4 sets X 15 reps Use a wide stance.
- Leg Press: 3 sets X 20 reps
- Smith Machine Split Bulgarian Squat/Single Leg Squat: 3 set X 12 reps
Hex Bar Deadlift (targets more quadriceps but engages less lower back, if you have back issues) OR Barbell or Smith Machine Stiff-Legged Deadlift (uses more hamstrings and glutes): 3 sets X 10-12 reps
- Prone Hamstring Curls: 4 sets X 12-15 reps
- Hip/Glute Thrusts on the hamstring machine: 4 sets X 15 reps
Cable Glute Kickbacks: 3 sets X 15 reps
Finisher: Weighted Tire Pushes Or Plate Pushes (not shown) Stay low to the ground. Strongly engage your abdominal muscles. Make your legs and glutes do the majority of the work and not your arms.