Load The Rod and Thrash The Quad
It's leg day. The choice is clear. You either dig in and accept the fact that in order to obtain more thigh size, you'll have to endure some pain, or you wimp out and "take it easy" -- work 'em light -- do a "little bit." Any way you choose to rationalize the latter, it'll still spell the same result. No growth. Yup, you're just going to have to face the consequences. No other bodypart requires you to put out more of an effort than the legs -- attributable to the fact the legs are able to withstand the greatest amount of stress. A successful thigh workout requires a poundage overload that not only will force them to work harder but will also tax the entire adrenal system. Equally distressing is the fact that in order to achieve a pump in the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteus, there's a drain of blood from the rest of your body. This produces that "queasy" feeling in the stomach, so familiar to those who experience the torture of heavy squatting on a regular basis.
Okay, so it's gonna hurt. But leg growth doesn't occur through pain alone. Training smart is just as important as training hard and when it comes to working the legs effectively, you may be shortchanging yourself out of optimum results. This can be the result of following erroneous advice or simply not taking advantage of some little known yet highly efficient strategies.
In order to get the most out of those heart pounding, nausea inducing leg workouts, the following ten tactics will provide a guide towards achieving optimum growth in minimal time.
1) One and a Half Squats.
Start with a slightly lighter weight than you would normally use for squats until you get the hang of this movement. Descend in the normal fashion, but on the way up, stop at the midway point. Hold this position for four seconds. Now, return to the bottom position. Come up through a full range of motion to a standing position. This movement puts tremendous stress on all the muscles of the legs as well as the glutes. As mentioned, you won't be able to use quite as much weight as with standard squatting, but what do you want... to impress the other guys at the gym with how much you can lift, or bigger legs?
2) Use the Leg Extension Sparingly.
No one ever built massive quadriceps from doing leg extensions. Have you ever tried "cheating" your way through a leg workout by utilizing only leg extensions? If so, I'm sure you realize that the results are far from impressive. The leg extension is great as either a "finishing" movement or as a "pre-exhaust" exercise. In order to achieve the best results, leg extensions must be used in conjunction with a compound movement. The main reason for the leg extension's lack of effectiveness is that it's essentially an unnatural movement. Where in life does the leg extend against resistance in that manner? The squat, on the other hand, is the basis for all leg movement.
Don't neglect leg extensions completely. Just keep in mind that they should be an adjunct to some variation of a squat movement and not the major part of any leg session.
3) Partial Reps.
All too often, partial reps get a bad rap. The thinking is that they limit the muscle's range of motion, therefore limiting the muscle to work to its utmost. This would be true if partial reps were all you did, but using them in addition to full range exercises can prove very beneficial. Another advantage to incorporating partial reps, is that they allow you to use heavier weights. This is especially valuable when it comes to leg training. Partial squats with a workload beyond what you usually use, can more intensely work the lower quadriceps as well as get the body accustomed to experiencing the "feel" of more weight. This sends a signal to the brain that it must adjust to a newfound stress. That, in turn, prepares the endocrine system to endure for heavier loads. By performing partial reps with increased poundages, it's possible to increase strength within the full range of motion. This is a good technique to try with the Smith Machine where the depth of the squat can be better gauged by setting the pins so that the knees won't bend past parallel point. Try adding an extra 20% to your squat and knocking out a few sets of "short" squats. What also works well is adding a few partials after completing a regular set when a full range can no longer be completed, but a few "little' ones can. This can provide that "something extra" that'll blow those thighs up like never before!
4) Skip the Knee Wraps.
Unless you're attempting a one rep max (a dubious endeavor, unless competitive powerlifting is your goal), wrapping the knees provides no benefit. It's interesting that so many people look upon knee wraps as "protection" when in fact, wrapping the knees causes compression and consequently, abrasion between the vastus medialis and the patella. True, wraps will allow you to use more weight but once again, what's the goal? Lifting more weight or working the thighs as effectively as possible?
5) Supersetting Stiff Leg Dead Lifts with Leg Curls.
If you're truly serious about hammering those hamstrings, try this merciless superset combination. Perform a set of stiff leg deadlifts with a weight that will bring you close to failure after 10 reps. As soon as the set is completed, go to the leg curl and execute a set of 10 reps. With as little rest as possible, repeat the process. What makes this particular superset so effective is that it works the muscles with contrary motion in that one exercise (dead lifts) causes the hamstring to work from a stretched to a relaxed position whereas the leg curl works the muscles from a relaxed to contracted position. Complete four total sets of this deadly duo and you can expect some soreness in the backs of your legs that might have you walking a little wobbly for a while.
6) Know the Difference Between One Machine and Another.
Very often bodybuilders will use a "shotgun" approach to leg training, in that they'll implement a variety of exercises in an effort to hit the muscles from every possible angle. But if a specific exercise isn't targeting the area that you're looking to work, it can wind up being nothing more than exhaustive wasted effort. For example, the Hack Squat machine and the Leg Press may appear to be similar versions of a "squat like" movement but they're extremely dissimilar in function. The Hack Machine will put exceptional stress on the lower quadricep and inadvertently, the knees. The leg press allows for a much deeper bend in the legs which hits the glutes to a greater degree. (Which in many ways, is much better than those "butt blaster" machines specifically designed to target the glutes).
If you have bad knees--stay away from the Hack. If your glutes are growing more than you would like--go with the hack and avoid the leg press.
7) Static Lunges.
When you think of a lunge, you probably think of stepping in, or back into the lunged position. Why not stay in the lunge and work one side at a time? Stretch into position, making sure that the front knee doesn't extend too far over the shin. Now, remaining in that position, "dip" down until the rear knee just touches the floor. Continue with this mini knee bend movement and soon it will feel as if your legs are on fire! Talk about a vicious pump! Repeat with the opposite leg outstretched. This can be done with either a barbell across the shoulders or with a dumbbell in each hand. For an additional stretch, elevate the rear foot on a bench.
8) 20 Rep Squats.
Also referred to as "breathing" squats, 20 rep squats are thought by many to be the most "anabolic" of all exercises. Most people think of high reps as a defining technique, but when it comes to squats, make no mistake--the stress to the quads can get mighty intense by the time you hit that fifteenth rep! High rep squatting is also excellent for inducing the natural release of growth hormone.
Take as long as you need between sets. You may also need to take in a few deep gulps of air in between reps. (hence the term "breathing" squats) This is a movement that should be performed as the sole leg exercise. Six sets of twenty reps with a moderate weight is a lot tougher than it sounds. No doubt about it. These are hard. But they work.
9) Use a Variety of Squat Stances.
A narrow stance will delegate the majority of the strain on the frontal quads (the vastus laterals and the rectus femoris). A wide stance will incorporate the abductors and the sartorius, which provides that "sweep" to the inner thigh. Experiment with different widths and see what works best for you.
10) Train Hard, or Don't Bother.
When it comes to training legs, if you're not feeling up to a hard workout, don't go to the gym. I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard someone say that they didn't have the energy to work legs, and worked another bodypart instead. Do that enough and you'll wind up working legs half as much as the should. Stay consistent. Keep a regular rotation of training each bodypart once a week and stick with it. If you need an extra day of rest--take it. But come back the next day and hit those legs with a vengeance!
Follow these ten tips and you'll soon be on your way to stronger, beefier thighs. Some of these suggestions sound difficult? Damn straight! Hey, I only said that they'd help. I never said it was going to be easy. Then again...easy isn't synonymous with successful leg training. It's still gonna hurt, but at least you'll have something to show for your effort.
Leg day is near. Will you ignore the challenge? Or will you do whatever it takes? The choice is clear.
Build Melon Sized Deltoids -- While Hardly Moving a Muscle
Everybody has a favorite bodypart that they love to show off. Short sleeves allow the world to see a muscular pair of arms. If someone has a great pair of legs, there's a good chance you'll see them wearing short pants, long after the weather starts turning cold. Good abs? Open up that shirt! But even while fully clothed, nothing depicts the image of masculine muscularity more than a broad set of shoulders. Without that classic "V" shape that a well built set of delts provide, the other bodyparts will fail to impress. It all starts at the shoulders.
As imperative as the shoulders may be to a bodybuilder's overall appearance, they are an often misunderstood bodypart. Often neglected, and more often--overtrained.
It's critical to realize that the deltoids come into play in almost every upper body exercise. When working the pecs, either with bench presses, flyes, or cable crossovers, you're also stressing the anterior deltoids. While hitting the back, the posterior delts get a workout as well. If you train shoulders the day after training chest or back, chances are that the shoulders may not be completely recuperated. If you wait too long, you'll have to hold off for a while before you hit either chest or back again which can throw off your whole schedule. Compounding the problem is the fact that many bodybuilders will train the shoulders using similar movements to those used while exercising the chest and back. Performing seated dumbell presses the day after doing incline bench presses is hammering many of the same muscles, most notably the front delts, which absorb the majority of stress in both movements. The problem here is twofold. One--the muscles in question become overtaxed which will inhibit growth. Two--this over-exertion disallows the proper stimulation for the areas of the delts that need to be stressed -- mainly, the lateral head.
The key to sensational shoulders is one of illusion. If the shoulder cap is well defined, it will look larger, and, consequently, more impressive than if they were merely a little bigger, yet smooth. By adding just a half an inch onto the lateral head of each deltoid, the "width" of the shoulders will appear to increase dramatically. Incidentally, wide shoulders will also make the waist appear slimmer, further enhancing the complete package.
So how do we properly stimulate deltoid growth while simultaneously avoiding overtraining? The answer may be in not doing much at all. Much movement that is. The deltoids are, for the most part, a small muscle group, made up primarily of slow twitch, red muscle fibers. That means that their growth will be limited in terms of overall size. When it comes to building bulging, round delts with deep separation, this muscle group responds extremely well to partial movements and static holds. And the emphasis should be towards targeting the lateral head and bringing out the detail.
The following routine is designed especially for that purpose. Some of these movements may seem odd at first, but stick with them. After a while, you may want to experiment on your own to find the range of motion that provides the best results. Once you learn to control the "lack" of movement, you'll start seeing striations throughout the entire shoulder region that you didn't even know you had.
1) THE SUPERSET WARM UP
Don't dismiss warming up the shoulders as a perfunctory endeavor. Shoulder injury is the number one debilitation commonplace to bodybuilders. Almost all shoulder damage can be avoided by properly warming up. The good news is that the shoulders pump easily. It doesn't take too many sets to get a "burn" going. In this phase of the routine, work the exercise in its full range of motion and stick with a weight that's light enough to complete at least 15 reps. Yeah, I know that seems like it's on the high side, but again, these are slow twitch muscles we're working with and we're looking to get as much blood into the area as quickly as possible. (This also acts to "pre-exhaust" the muscles which is an extremely effective technique for instilling intensity without overtraining.)
Begin with seated rotating dumbell presses. This will be a full range of motion. Begin with holding the dumbells with your palms facing your chest. As you slowly raise the weight straight overhead, twist your hands so that the palms will be facing forward by the time they're in the extended position. Pay special attention not to let the bells collide at the top of the motion. Keep them shoulder width apart. At the top of the movement, with elbows unlocked, "force" the elbows outward and backward. This "non-movement" will add stress to the delts. Slowly return to the beginning position. Due to the potential strain on the rotator cuff, it is crucial to use a light weight for this movement. It's better to go too light than to go too heavy. You can always add more reps.
Immediately following the seated presses, stand up and with the same dumbells, perform a set of upright rows. A mistake a lot of people make when doing this exercise is that they try to get too much "height." This puts undue stress on the wrists while accomplishing little in terms of muscle growth. Raise the bells just up to the upper chest. Make sure the bells stay approximately 6" in front of the torso. Keep this movement strict without using momentum of any kind. No "swinging!" One way to assure against cheating is to pay attention to keeping your knees locked. This will prevent that little "jump" you so often see people employing while executing upright rows.
Rest long enough in order to complete this superset one more time. Now, you're ready for the hard part.
2) STATIC LATERAL RAISES
Using a weight slightly lighter than you're used to using for lateral raises, perform a lateral raise but STOP when your arms are parallel to the floor. Keep a slight bend in the elbows. Hold this position for a count of eight, then slowly lower the dumbells to the side. Now you know why a light weight is necessary! Shoot for 3 sets of 10 reps of these lateral "holds." Prepare to be humbled by the fact that not moving a light weight can get pretty painful!
3) "W" PRESSES
Lift a pair of dumbells overhead in the standard fashion, palms facing each other. Now w-i-d-e-n your arms so that your hands are further out to the sides, simulating the look a of a "W". Do so a few short pumps and then hold the position for 10 seconds. Repeat the short pumps until you feel as if you're being stabbed in the shoulders with a hot knife. Resist the urge to whimper like a schoolgirl. (It's only pain.)
4) MINI PRESSES BEHIND THE NECK
Some people have a problem with presses behind the neck but if they don't cause you discomfort, they can be the greatest movement for increasing shoulder width. This variation is particularly punishing--and effective. Begin a press in the normal fashion but at the halfway point between the starting position and the extended position, stop and hold the weight. Now, while the bar is in that position, perform some "mini" partial presses, moving the bar just a few inches. Now complete the press but on the descent, repeat the hold at the halfway point. More "partials", then back to the start. Three sets should be plenty as long as you keep the rest periods between sets under two minutes. Once again, reps in the range of 10 to 15 is the theme. These are murder! But they work.
You're almost out of the woods. Just one more movement and you'll be cooked.
5) LEANING CABLE CONTRACTIONS
This is similar to a lateral raise with a cable but with a few variations. For one, keep the cable behind your back instead of in front of you. With your free hand, hold on to the supporting bar and "lean" your torso away from the rack. Raise the cable just a few inches and hold it. After about four seconds, you'll feel quite a bit of tension in the medial delt. At this point, continue on up and complete the raise. When the delt feels as if it's completely fried, tag on a few "cheating" lifts to properly insure a total thrashing! Just two sets with each arm should be plenty.
As you can see, this routine doesn't involve a lot of exercises or a lot of sets. A good majority of the working sets doesn't involve much movement! Yet, it targets exactly what you want to hit. The end result will be wider, shapelier shoulders.
Now give the shoulders a good stretch in all directions.
Broad, square shoulders are the hallmark of a great physique. Give this routine a try for a couple of weeks and see for yourself what a difference it can make. When your shoulders look better--everything looks better. You won't even have to take your shirt off for people to notice. But you're gonna look great in a tank top.
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