As a teenager, my legs were developing much faster than my upper body, most likely due to running up and down a basketball court every day. I only began weight training to bring my arms / chest / back / shoulders into a reasonable proportion with my lower body.
One leg was (and is) slightly shorter than the other, by about 1/4″. This created a noticeable “hitch” in my walk and later made marching in R.O.T. C., dancing, etc. more difficult.
I only mention this to suggest that a “cookie cutter” approach to improving one’s physique is impractical. This is another reason that I am now doing articles on body part specialization….and giving options rather than dogma.
One more disclaimer: professional or obsessive bodybuilding is not within the content of my posts. And certainly enhancement by “juicing” is foreign to this subject matter. There seems to sometimes be a thin line of distinction between one who wants to improve his / her physical health and appearance vs. a narcissist who spends time flexing or preening before a mirror.
But if you are changing your body for the better at any age, you will certainly like what you see in a mirror, especially if you are “pumped up” after a good workout.
Let’s pause briefly to admire Heidi Klum’s slender legs.
Back to my earlier background, with apologies for rambling. As I was able to approximately equalize my upper body to my legs, I began to do heavy squats and calf raises. Later, as I went to gyms, I generally would alternate upper body days with leg days, doing abdominal exercises every day.
My leg work included leg presses, leg extensions, leg curls and calf raises, as heavy as possible. These were on Nautilus and similar machines.
At this point, I rarely go to gyms, though I have a free YMCA membership. I spend about an hour each morning on my workout before breakfast, doing abdominal work every day, but otherwise spacing muscle groups day to day. This suits me much better because I am then free to begin my day without the travel time and waiting time at machines associated with gyms.
Of course, we need sufficient equipment for home workouts, though not much money need be spent.
GENERAL LEG ANATOMY
For purposes of this instruction, we will be simplifying leg parts to the following:
- quadriceps (thigh muscles, in front of leg)
- hamstrings (or leg biceps, in back of leg)
- gastrocnemius and soleus (calf muscles)
- Squat with pause – squat to a comfortable low level. Hold that position for about 10 seconds. Then rise and repeat.
- Jump squats – squat down, with feet outside shoulders, knees behind toes. Then jump up. Land in squat position and repeat.
- Wall sit – stand about a foot in front of a wall. Lean back against the wall in a sitting position, with back flat. Hold position for about 30 seconds. It’s not easy!
- Forward lunge – with feet together, take a big step forward and lower your body to the floor, knee above your ankle. Then push forward with the extended leg to a standing position. Repeat with the other leg.
- Squat – stand on the middle point of your cords, approximately at the arch of each foot. Hold the handles with each hand. Take up the slack if necessary by pointing the handles upward. Otherwise, hold the handles at your sides with arms straight. Bend your knees to a squat until your thighs are parallel with the surface.
- Leg press – sit on the floor, with one leg bent and that foot flat on the floor. The other leg is bent, but with the resistance cord securely at the arch of that foot. Then press forward against the resistance with both hands holding handles. Your foot should be in line with your hip as you press that leg forward. Then repeat with the other leg.
- Walking lunges – note forward lunge description under “Bodyweight exercises” above. Do this with dumbbells in each hand. Move forward for a short distance as you lunge and rise to a standing position. Then proceed with the other leg leading.
- Sumo squat – while standing, place a dumbbell on its end as you straddle it. Then squat downward and grab the dumbbell as you rise up, chest forward. Then squat again and replace the dumbbell. Repeat.
- Leg press – lie on the floor with one leg pointing upward and that foot placed securely within the cable of a Steel Bow or Bow Classic. Cable should be placed at the arch of your foot. Press that leg upward from a bent knee position against the resistance. Keep arms still. Repeat for the desired reps – maybe 10. Then repeat with the other leg.
- Inchworms – begin in a push – up position. Walk feet toward hands with legs straight until stretch in back of legs is felt. Then walk hands forward until original position is reached. In a small space, you may be inching forward and backward or in circles.
- Lie down on your back, with one leg extended upward, your hip at a 90 degree angle. Place the middle of your resistance cord around the arch of your foot. Take up slack if necessary by shortening the length of the cord and by holding by the cords and not the handles. Pull on the cord to create and increase tension on the hamstrings. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Deadlift – hold dumbbells in each hand. Bend over with knees slightly bent and dumbbells at your sides. Then gravity will take over as the dumbbells almost reach the surface. Rise and repeat.
- Good mornings – place a dumbbell behind your head as you grip it with both hands. Then bend over. The effect will be different from that of the deadlift since the center of gravity has changed.
- Deadlift on ground – sit on floor with both feet securely within the lower cable of either the Steel Bow or Bow Classic, knees slightly bent and back straight. Then rise against the resistance, using your lower back.
- Calf raise – stand near a wall for support. Raise your heels by pressing downward at the balls of your feet. Be sure that your ankles, knees and hips are in alignment. Do 10 – 20 reps.
- Use stair step – as you do the above movements. This will add a longer and better stretch.
Resistance cords :
- Place the middle of the cord securely under your feet as you sit on the floor. Be sure that you have sufficient tension. Then press against the resistance to engage the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of the calves. Do one leg at a time or both. Either is okay.
- Calf raise – hold dumbbells in each hand in a standing position. Let them hang by your sides. Raise heels by pushing your toes down – explosively. Flex calf muscles at the top of the movement, then lower your feet. Continue as long as you can.
- Calf extension – from a seated position, place one foot at a time securely within the lower cable of the Bow Classic. Pull back on the upper cable. Point your toes against the resistance. Be sure to keep toes pointed throughout. Perform as many reps as you can and then switch to the other foot.
Note the calf development below –
- Straight leg kickbacks – set up on your hands and knees. Flex your feet, heels back and toes forward. With arms straight, extend one leg back. Squeeze your glutes as your leg is raised and kicked back. Feel your hips extend and your glutes engage. Hold for a couple of seconds. Do 10 -20 reps and then repeat with the other leg.
Resistance cords :
- Donkey kicks – with hands and elbows on the ground, hold both handles of the resistance cords. Place the center of the cord securely behind one foot. If necessary to add tension, grip the cords below the handles. Then extend the keg being worked backward. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat 12 – 15 times and then switch to the other leg.
- Single leg deadlift – stand with feet together and a dumbbell in each hand. Shift weight to one leg and extend the other leg backward, hinging at your hips until that leg is parallel (or close) to the surface. Your upper body will extend forward and the dumbbells will lower naturally. Move back to the beginning position and continue with reps to your level of comfort. Then repeat with the other leg.
- Standing deadlift – with Bow Classic, place both feet securely on the lower cable and knees bent. With straight back, pull upward on the top cable. Do 10-12 reps.
Note shapely lady below –
I have included my Nordic Track treadmill as an option for leg training. It is my primary leg developer, or maybe “leg slenderizer” would be more accurate. Calf exercises are also part of my leg workout. I don’t do too much for my thighs since they seemed to develop naturally. Bottom line for this – construct your workout on the basis of your personal needs, not on those of someone else.
By all means, don’t ignore your leg development or maintenance. Nobody looks good with a large upper body and pipe stem legs.
Please leave me questions or comments in the “Comments” box below. Or e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your attention. Be well!