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Why Leg Press Should be a Part of Every Leg Workout
DON'T SKIMP LEG DAY!!!
Legs. For many this day is not longed for, it is dreaded, and at best it is endured. This is largely because it requires sweat, heavy weights, discomfort, pain, and above all.... effort!
But, for the sadistic few of us, this is the best day of the week, this is the day we wait for, get excited for, and get stuck into the most.
Results, that's why!
That effort doesn't go un-noticed by the body. Leg day probably employs more muscles of the body, percentage wise, than any other workout. If, like me, you like to hit deadlifts with legs, this is greatly increased. Hitting a huge amount of the body means more muscle fibres stimulated, which means more strength and muscle growth. Best of all, the intensity of leg day can really boost your levels of natural growth factors, like testosterone and human growth hormone. This all adds up to GAINS.
So, the motto here is not simply...
'Don't skip leg day'
'Don't SKIMP leg day!!!'
Squats Vs Leg Press
For many, the squat is the king leg builder. This may be true, the squat is the king LEG builder. But, is it really the king QUAD builder?
The squat hits all sides of the legs, as well as heavily involving the glutes, back and core. It is the hardest exercise you will do in the gym. For intensity, it truly is the king. But, as far as I'm concerned, although it should play a part in every leg workout, the king of quad strength and size is the leg press.
The squat has a huge stability component. This is the reason that all sides of the legs and the core are heavily involved in the movement. All of these muscles must be engaged, or else, to put it simply, you would crumple.
The leg press removes this stability component. Forget all those fandangled, fancy machines with unilateral plates and funny planes of motion. If you want to blast some seriously heavy, hard work into your quads, look no further than the good old fashioned 45 degree fixed sled (below).
The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer— Arnold Schwarzenegger
As you can see from the diagram above, with the leg press, you are fixed in position. There is no need for your body to balance itself, or control any lateral movements. You simply lower the sled and push it back up, predominantly using your quads. I can leg press three times the weight that I can squat. Even taking bodyweight into account, it is easy to see the benefits of hitting the quads with this extra load.
Form here is to space your feet as you see fit. Obviously different foot widths and angles will hit your quads in different ways, and even bring the groin into play. Generally speaking, however, spacing your feet approximately shoulder width apart is the way to go.
Your backside should be firmly back into the seat, with your lower back flat. Now, in a controlled manner, lower the weight. Feel the muscles stretch and work as the weight is lowered, never neglect the strong negative phase of your lift. Do not let your lower back curl as the weight moves towards you. If you can't stop this, your hamstrings are probably tight or shortened. This will need addressing. Yoga exercises are the best way to lengthen shortened hamstrings.
When you reach the point when your knees are bent no further than 90 degrees, drive the weight up. Push up powerfully, keeping the soles of your feet flat against the platform. Every degree you go beyond 90 degrees, the force against your knee joint is magnified greatly. While this may be OK with light weights, heavy weights are extremely risky.
Don't stop too long at the top. While your legs are locked out, your quads are essentially resting. Don't let them off easily, drop the weight slowly back down again. Feel it burn.
As you lift heavier and heavier weights, I recommend wearing knee straps, even if your knees feel ok. The amount of weight it is possible to leg press places a huge strain on your knee joints.
Fitting Leg Press Into a Leg Workout
Following is an example of a leg workout I might use to hit all muscle groups optimally.
Ideally you should walk briskly to the gym on leg day to get the blood pumping and the muscles starting to work. If this is not an option, use a treadmill to warm your legs up.
Next, stretch your legs, back and groin from all angles. Remember not to over-stretch cold muscles, this can do more damage than good.
- Leg Extensions- 2 x warm-up sets of around 30+ reps
- 2 x working sets of 15
- Squats - Warm-up set of 30-40
- 3 x working sets, 15, 10, 8
- Leg Press - 1 x lighter set of 20
- 4 x heavy sets, 12, 10, 8, 8
- Leg Extension - 2 x drop sets, the last to absolute failure. Drop the stack all the way.
- Lying Leg curls - 1 x warm-up set of 25
- 2 x working sets, 12, 10
- Seated Leg Curls - 3 x working sets, 12, 10, 8
- Seated Calf Raise - 25, 12, 10, 10
- Standing Calf Raise - 10, 10, 8, 6
The squats should be performed with lighter weights than normal, and nice and low, breaking parallel, to really get the legs opened up. Really grind out the negative phase. Keep the back flat and head up. If you have knee problems, just stick with regular squats, with a regular range of motion.
If your gym has a prowler (pic below), drop the leg extension drop sets and put a few prowler lengths right at the end of your workout to really eke out the last bit of energy.
Always stretch and warm down properly after a big leg workout. Leaving the lactic acid in the muscles is the main cause of killer muscle soreness and stiffness (DOMS) in days to come.
Don't be afraid to defy convention!— ME!
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