This article will teach you how to build the body you want, one muscle group at a time. If you ever happen to chance upon an old episode of the Baywatch series that dates back to circa 1990s, you’ll notice something unusual: There’s David Hasselhoff all artificially bronzed, bare chested, arms wrapped around a blonde babe, portraying the very picture of a red blooded Man of Action. Then the camera pans down to his __what’s that __chicken legs?! You see? That’s the problem with David and probably millions of other guys. They all focus on the stuff they can see in the mirror or are usually on display: Wide shoulders, big biceps, flat abs. And getting these things seems like a straightforward proposition, so they press and curl and crunch, and follow that with more pressing, more curling, and more crunching. And still their muscle goals remain as elusive as a trip to the Moon. Why? You may not believe this, but research has conclusively proved that the quest for big biceps and a flat gut actually begin with building powerful legs. Running, Jumping, hitting, throwing, and heavy lifting all start with the muscles in your hips, thighs, and lower legs. When those muscles grow bigger and stronger \, they allow your torso muscles to grow, which provides the structure for the arm and shoulder muscles you really want.
BEGINNER IF YOU’RE NEW TOWEIGHT LIFTING OR ARE RETURNING TO IT AFTER A LONG LAYOFF, CONSIDER YOURSELF A BEGINNER, Do the five beginner exercises for 4 weeks. Week 1-2: 2 sets of 10-12 repetitions of each Week 3-4 : 2 or 3 sets of 8-10
DUMBBELL SOLIT SQUAT Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them at your sides. Stand in a staggered stance with your left foot about 4 feet in front of your fight. Lower your body until your left knee is bent 90 degress and your right knee nearly touches the floor. Your left lower leg should be perpendicular to the floor, and your torso should remain upright. Push yourself back up to the starting position as quickly as you can. Finish all of your repetitions, then repeat the exercise with your right foot in front of your felt.
LEG PRESS Position yourself in a leg-press machine with your back against the pad and your feet about 4 inches apart on the platform. Unlock the platform and slowly lower the weight until your kness are bent 90 degrees. Pause, then push the weight back up to the starting position.
STACH-GRIP ROMANIAN DEADLIFT Grab a barbell with an overhand trip that’s as wide as comfortably possible. Hold the bar down at arm’s length in front of you. Your feet should be hip width apart and your knees slightly bent. Keep your lower back slightly arched and bend slowly at the hips as far as you can without losing the arch. Don’t change the angle of your knees, and keep the bar chose to your body throughout the entire move. Pause, then lift your torso back to the starting position.
LYING LEG CURL Lie facedown on a leg-curl machine with the pads against you lower legs, above you heels and below your calf muscles. Without raising your body off the pad, bend your legs at the knees and pull the weight toward you as far as you can. Pause, then slowly return to the starting position.
BEGINNER AL TERNATING SEATED CALF RAISE Place a step in front of a bench of a bench, grab a pair of dumbbells, and sit down. Set the balls of both feet on the step, and place one dumbbell on each knee. Lower both heels as far as you can without touching the floor. Push off the ball of your left foot and lift your left heel as high as high as you can. As you lower your left heel to the starting position, raise your right heel. Alternate until you finish the set.
INTERMEDIATE/ADVANCED AN INTERMEDIATE HAS BEEN LIFETING FOR AT LEAST 6 MONTHS TO A YEAR, HAS TRIED SEVERAL DIFFERENT WORKOUT PROGRAMMES, AND HAS SEEN GAINS IN STRENGTH AND MUSCLE MASS. An intermediate should do the five intermediate/advanced exercises for 4 weeks. Weeks 1-2: 2 sets of 8-10 Weeks 3-4: 2 or 3 sets of 6-8 AN ADVANCED LIFTER HAS BEEN LIFTING CONSISTERNTLY FOR MORE THAN A YEAR, HAS SEEN CONSIDERABLE GAINS IN TRENGTH AND SIZE, IS PROFICIENT AT SQUATS AND SEVERAL VARIETIES OF DEADLITS, AND CAN DO AT LEAST FIVE PULLUPS. Do the five intermediate/advanced exercises shown here for 4 weeks. Weeks 1-2: 2 sets of 6-8, after warm up. Weeks 3-4: 2 or 3 sets of 4-6, after warm up.
BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT Hold a barbell with an overhand grip so that it rests comfortably on your upper back (not on you neck ) and stand about 3 feet in front of a bench. Place your left foot behind you on the bench so that only your instep is resting on it. Lower your body until your right knee is bent 90 degrees and your left knee nearly touches the floor. Your right lower leg should be perpendicular to the floor, and your torso should remain upright. Push yourself back to the starting position as quickly as you can. Finish all of your repetitions, then repeat the lift, this time with your right foot resting on the bench while your left leg does the work.
BARBELL SQUAT Hold a barbell with an overhand grip so that it rests comfortably on your upper back (not on your neck ). Set your feet shoulder-width apart, and keep your knees slightly bent,. Back straight, and eyes focused straight ahead. Slowly lower your body as if you were sitting back into a chair, keeping your back in its natural alignment and your lower legs nearly perpendicular to the floor. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, pause, and then return to starting position.
GOOD MORNING Start in the same position as for the barbell squat. Slowly bend forward at the hips as you lower your chest as far as you can go while maintaining the natural arch in your lower back, or until your upper body is parallel to the floor. Keep your head up and maintain about the same angle of your knees. Life your upper body back to the starting position.
SINGLE-LEG CURL Life in a leg-curl machine with the pads against your lower legs above your heels and below your calf muscles. Without raising your body off the pad off the pad, bend your left leg at the knee and pull the weight toward you as far as you can. Your right leg should remain in the starting position. Pause, then slowly return to the starting position. Finish the set, then repeat with your right leg.
SINGLE-LEG STANDING CALF RAISE Grab a dumbbell in your left hand and stand on a step or a block. Put your right hand on something for balance__ a wall or a weight stack, for instance. Cross your tight foot behind your left ankle and balance yourself on the ball of your left foot. Lower your left heel as far as you can, pause, then lift it as high as you can. Finish the set with your left leg, then repeat with your right while holding the dumbbell in you right hand.
A little gravity and a lot of repetition make for some major body toning. Your body is an instrument, capable of creating art, music, muscle. This workout is a take off from the 1997 innovative off Broadway percussion and dance show, Stomp. It is based on gravity, body resistance and a few simple props instead of traditional weights or gym machines. Not only can you do it just about anywhere, but plyometrics (explosive, controlled jumps) help build the power you need for sports like climbing, cycling, tennis, in line skating, and skiing. These moves shape both small and large muscle groups for the kind of dramatic definition you see on professional dancers. For the plyometrics, start small, were well cushioned sneakers and work on a padded or carpeted surface. Start with a five minute warm up of easy jogging in place. Try to make as little noise as possible when you land, rolling through the foot (toe-ball-heel) to spare your joints, avoid injury and remain on good terms with the folks in the apartment below.
LATERAL SQUATS Hip adductors, hip abductors, quads and glutes This side-to-side squat variation recruits the hip adductors and abductors, in addition to the legs’ larger muscle groups. Start in a squat, hands on hips or thighs. Take a small, easy hop to the left, bringing your right foot to where your left foot was, concentrating on doing the work with your inner thighs, as your take your left leg out to the left and land, lowering into a squat; then hop right and squat. Do one set of 10, building up to three sets of 10.
VERTICAL POWER SQUATS Quads, hamstrings and glutes This leapfroggy leg move works the big muscle groups you need for propulsion. Place a rolled-up towel on the floor, about one foot in front of you. Start in a squat, butt back, keeping your knees over your shoelaces, back straight. Jump over the towel, land gently on the other side in the same squat position, then jump backward over the towel. The motion is continuous: Squat, jump forward, squat, jump backward, squat, and so on. (Always look straight ahead; glancing down tends to round the upper back, sacrificing the crucial shock absorbing ability or your spine.) Start with one set of 10 and build to three wets of 10 At first, use your arms for momentum. Once you’ve mastered that, try to keep your arms crossed in front of you, or rest hands on hips, whatever is comfortable.
SPAIT LEAPS All the major leg muscles and hip rotators These are tough, so start by keeping them very low, almost in place, basically shifting your weight form one leg to the other. As you get stronger, you can take the split wider. Do a few practice leaps to get the feel of landing properly, keeping your knees over your shoelaces. Start the split leap with your weight on the right leg. Extend the left leg as you push Push off from the right, make a split in the air(or barely off the ground) and land gently on the left leg, crossing the right behind. Push off and repeat from the left leg. Beginners can plant their rear foot on the floor rather then crossing it and can keep hands on hips. Do one set of 10. Build up to three sets of 10. Then try it crossing your arms with each leap so that they mimic your legs.
SKI JUMPS Quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves Place a rolled-up towel on the floor. Start in a slight squat, knees bent, feet together. Jump sideways over the towel, then jump back over it, either laterally or traveling forward along the length of the towel as if you were alpine skiing. (Don’t jump backward. When you reach the end of the towel, turn to go back) Keep your landings quiet. These jumps tone the lower body, but they’re also good for developing kinesthetic awareness, a sense of where your body is in space. You should feel it in your calves. Start with one set of 10, working up to three sets of 10.
TORSO STABILIZERS Abdominals This move works on core strength which is critical for any sport. Start on the floor, facedown, elbows below your shoulders, toes on the ground, one hand atop the other so your forearms form a triangle on the floor. Pull your abs up and in to make your body like a plank, and place one toe atop the other foot’s heel; hold 10 seconds, lower and repeat. This contracts the abs and stabilizes the torso good for preventing back trouble. Don’t let your back arch or butt rise. Aim for 30 still seconds. (Keeping your eyes closed enhances body awareness.)
LEGS Like most guys, our Model Steve Jacobs (Health & Nutrition Body Beautiful ’08 finalist) thought running 2 days a week was enough to keep his legs in shape. But then he found that chiseled pecs and abs just didn’t go well with stick legs. “So I finally started paying attention to my lower half,” he admits. But just a he was getting started, Steve was set back by a knee injury. Rehab involved doing “single leg exercises with light weights before building up to heavier ones.”
Steve still does Single Leg Curls and Reverse Curls, “to give my bad left knee the attention it requires,” he says. And follows up a leg workout day with cardio “to boost blood flow to my leg muscles and ease soreness.”
It’s important to build strong legs, because they’re the foundations on which they rest of your body rests. Leg injuries happen when there are muscle imbalances. If you’ve ever pulled a hamstring or had shinsplints, the cause is probably simple: Your quads have overpowered your hamstring, and the more powerful calf muscles have bullied the shin muscles. That’s why you should always work on the weak areas, toe bring them on par with the stronger muscles.
These workouts can normalize relations between your warring lower body muscle group, helping you play better, stay in the game longer, and look better when you take off your pants. What more could you ask?
Muscles: The gluteus maximus and hamstrings push your body up and forward when you’re jumping and running. The hamstrings also bend your leg at the knee, and the quadriceps straighten your leg again. Your calves lift your heels up off the ground, and the anterior tibialis muscles lift your toes up toward your knees; both actions occur when your walk or run
Beginner: Accustom leg muscles to exercise, and increase their strength.
Advanced beginner and Intermediate: Build strength and size in your lower body.
Advanced: Choose a workout that matches your goals: Improved sports performance or pure muscle-building and great-looking legs.
FREQUENCY: Do these exercises three times a week, as part f a total body weight workout.
REST: 1 Minute between exercises
PROGRESS: Increase weights each week.
HOW LONG: Follow this program for your first 4 to 8 weeks of exercise, or for 2 to 3 weeks after a break. When you can’t increase the weight from one week ot the next, move to the Advanced Beginner workout.
SETS: 1 REPETITION: 12-15
SETS: REPETITION: 12-15
FREQUENCY: Do these exercises three times a week, as part of a total-body weight workout.
TECHNIQUE: Increases weights on each set.
REST: 2 minutes between sets
PROGRESS: Use heavier weights each week.
VARIETY: After 3 or 4 weeks, switch to the exercises in the Intermediate program me, but do them as shown here, increasing the weight on each set.
HOW LONG: When you have the time and energy to do more exercises, move to the next level.
SETS: 3 REPETITIONS: 12, 10, 8
SETS: 1 REPETITIONS: 15
SETS: 3 REPETITIONS: 12, 10, 8 each leg
No More Shinsplints Nearly all shinsplints involve overusing your anterior tibialis the strip of muscle on the front of your lower leg without first strengthening it. Actually, it’s a simple muscle to exercise: Raise your toes toward your knee, and you’ve worked it. Here are moves you can do to strengthen your shins. One set of 10 to 12 repetitions of any one of these exercises should give your anterior tibialis all the work it needs.
ISOMETRIC CONTRRCATION: Hold for 5 seconds on each repetition.
PLATE LIFT: Perform slow repetitions.
BUCKET LIFT: Increase resistance by adding water or sand to the bucket.
FREQUENCY: Divide your workout into two sets of exercise one for the chest, shoulders, and arms and one for back, legs, and abdominals. There are two different leg workouts at this level. Do each once a week.
TECHNIQUE: Begin the first set of each exercise with the heaviest weight you can use for eight to 10 repetitions. Reduce the weight slightly for subsequent sets if you need to. If you start your workout with barbell squats, however, you’ll need one or to two warm up sets before you’re ready to work with a truly challenging weight.
REST: 2 minutes between sets.
PROGRESS: Increase the weights each week. If you increase the weight on squats and lunges, you may be too pooped for the others, but don’t worry about it. It’s more important to push yourself on the full-body exercises.
HOW LONG: Train this way for as long as you’re satisfied with the results, or until you feel ready to push yourself with higher weights and fewer repetitions.
SEATED CALF RAISE
SETS: 1 REPETITIONS: 15-20
SETS: 3 REPETITIONS: 8-10
BAD FORM Don’t bend forward or let your heels lift off the floor.
Homegrown Hamstrings Don’t have access to a gym? Here are two hamstring exercise that require no special equipment. You can substitute them for the exercises shown above.
DUMBBELEL LET CURL
LYING HIP EXTENSION
SETS: 3 REPETITIONS: 8-10
ONE-LEGGED CALF RAISE
SETS: 1 REPETITIONS: 12-15 each leg
HALFWAY THERE Lower your body till your rear leg is almost parallel to the ground.
BAD FORM Don’t let your knees extend past your toes especially if you’ve ever had knee problems.
SEATED LEG CURL
SETS: 3 REPETITIONS: 8-10
FREQUENCY: Choose the program me you’d like to follow and do it twice a week, following the same split routine you used in the Intermediate programme.
TECHNIQUE: Schedule heavy and light days each week. For the Power Workout, use more weight on each set on the heavy day, and on the light day stay at the same weight a much lighter one for all three sets. On the light day, use about 60 per cent of the weight you lifted for your last set on heavy day. For example, if you used 185 pounds on your last set of squats on heavy day, try about 115 pounds for all your sets on the next light day. For the Muscle-Building Workout start each exercise with the heaviest weight you can lift for the recommended number of repetitions. This rule holds for your light day as well as your heavy day.
REST: 2 to 3 minutes between sets on heavy day, 1 minute between sets on light day.
PROGRESS: Increase weights each week on all exercises.
VARIETY: If you’re doing the Power Workout, vary your foot position every 2 or 3 weeks. Instead of the wide stance powerlifting squat, try he barbell squat shown in the Intermediate programme. And instead of the deadlift , in which your feet are wide and you use a narrow grip. If you’re doing he Muscle-Building Workout, substitute other exercises every 3 or 4 weeks.
HOW LONG: When you can’t increase the weights from one week’s workouts to the next in the Power Workout, take a 1-week break from weight training, then return to the Advanced Beginner or Intermediate programme for a month or so. For the Muscle-Building Workout. You can train like this as long as you feel you’re producing results. When your body stops responding to this system, go back to the Advanced Beginner or Intermediate programme.
POWER WORKOUT To improve your game
HEAVY DAY SETS: 5 REPETITION: 5
LIGHT DAY SETS: 3 REPETITIONS: 10
HEAVY DAY SETS: 5 REPETITIONS: 5
LIGHT DAY SETS: 3 REPETITIONS: 10
MUSCLE-BUILDING WORKOUT To build more brawn
HEAVY DAY SETS: 3 REPETITIONS: 6-8
LIGHT DAY SETS: 3 REPETITIONS: 12-15
HEAVY DAY SETS: 3 REPETITIONS: 6-8
LIGHT DAY SETS: 3 REPETITIONS: 12-15
CALF RAISE ON LEG-PRESS MACHINE
HEAVY DAY SETS: 3 REPETITIONS: 10-12
LIGHT DAY SETS: 3 REPETITIONS: 15-20