Monday, October 29, 2012

The Wheels of the Body

      Legs Legs Legs. Most of us have them and use them in one way or another. The feeling of muscle soreness sucks for both guys and girls but it is a necessity to always push ourselves and have complete leg workouts. Think about it. How many of us activate our deep hamstring muscles, our "glutes" or even the less popular hip flexors? The Leg Day is a love-hate relationship between anyone trying to develop their legs but we do it because the benefits outweigh the painful muscle soreness that comes from working out hundreds of muscles in 1 hour. That's right ladies and gents, performing a deep full-squat works out hundreds of muscles. What better way to increase strength and bone density, improve athletic performance, decrease body fat, and build muscle mass? (1) So what exactly constitutes a complete leg day? My list is as follows.

  1. Inclusion of a Back Squat
  2. Targeted Hamstring Activation 
  3. Knee Stability Training
  4. Activation of All Leg Muscles
  5. Strengthening of Lagging Muscles in the Lower Extremities
  6. Hip Flexor Stretching and Strengthening or Mobility
     So how would this look like in terms of exercise? Examples below are provided to demonstrate some of my favorite and some are arguably the most important exercises one will ever master. Reasons why are also provided. 

1. The Barbell Back Squat

*It is important to know that the activation of the gluteus maximus is greatest during a parallel squat (2)
* If you have to pick one exercise for legs, pick this one because it targets the most muscles. 

2. The Stiff-Legged Deadlift

Exercise Technique highlights provided by the NSCA (3) (This is complex exercise, see a trainer for further understanding of exercise technique)

"Downward Movement

  • Begin the exercise by forming a flat or slightly arched back, and then flex forward at the hips slowly and under control. 
  • Continue the downward movement phase until one of these four events occurs (they determine the maximum range of motion, or the bottom position):
    • The plates touch the floor (or the bar touches the feet of well-trained lifters standing on a raised platform)
    • The back cannot be held in the flat or slightly arched position
    • The knees fully extend
    • The heels rise off the floor
  • Keep the body tight and in control; do not bounce or relax the torso at the bottom of the movement
Upward Movement
  • Raise the bar by extending the hips
  • Continue the upward movement phase until the standing starting position is achieved"
*The stiff-legged deadlift is one of the best ways of targeting the hamstrings and developing an excellent posterior chain of muscles. 

3. Walking Lunges
  • These are performed like the lunge except we take a step forward into the next lunge. 
  • Great for targeting the hamstrings and gluteal muslces and generating greater knee stability. 
Hip Mobility/Flexibility

Breaking it down Barney Style
  1. If your goals are to build strength, be healthier, build muscle, get toned legs, fat loss, or keep a tight body then squats are an auto-include exercise for your workout program. As a matter of fact it should be included in everybody's workout programs. 
  2. There are more muscles in the legs than just the quads. 
  3. Talk to a trainer if you have ANY questions. We are here to help. 
  4. We can talk about legs for days butt (see what I did there?) we will have to keep it short and simple today. 
Thanks for Reading

Noel Cerda

1. Coburn, J. W., Coburn, F., Malek, M. H., Cer, N. S. A., & Cer, F. (2011). Nsca\'s essentials of personal training. (2nd ed.).
2. Caterisano A, Moss RF, Pellinger TK, Woodruff K, Lewis VC, Booth W, and Khadra T. The effect of back squat dept on the EMG activity of 4 superficial hip and thigh muscles. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 16(3):428-432. 2002
3. NSCA (2008). Exercise technique manual for resistance training. Human Kinetics Publishers.

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