Two simple words, “leg day” are often met with a collective sigh of empathy towards those who make mention of this task.
Widely revered by many as the hardest day in their training schedule, leg day often separates bodybuilders from those who train hard, but not as hard as they could be.
While huge arms and wide backs are usually the first to be noticed on a physique, it is your entire bottom half that rounds it out and makes it complete. Many times competitors step onstage with very impressive upper bodies only to finish in the runner-up spot because of the glaring imbalance caused by less than impressive legs. If you feel your legs could use a good dose of hardcore, intensity demanding attention, then look no further than the squat to initiate new growth and a new approach to leg training. Here are five tips to help you get under the bar, under control and out of the hole (you’ll understand this shortly).
Tip #1: Bar Placement
When performing the standard back squat, you have two options for where you can rest the bar on your body. Bodybuilders aren’t always overly concerned with weight (you use what you need to make improvements), so that lends itself to a higher placement of the bar on the upper traps. This higher placement allows for a more upright position of the upper torso, more distance for the bar and weight to travel thus more energy and muscle recruitment required to complete the repetition.
The other option is a placement of the bar on the lower traps. This technique is widely used by power lifters as it decreases the distance the weight has to travel, and heavier weight can be used under control. Each option will give way to increased strength and muscle size.
Tip #2: Foot Placement
Where you place your feet will depend on which area of the leg you would like to target. A close foot position will hit more the vastus lateralis while a wide foot position will target the vastus medialis and rectus femoris. A neutral foot position (approximately shoulder width apart) is great for targeting the quad overall. A slight outward point of the toes is recommended for balance sake. My suggestion is to incorporate all the different foot positions during your training program.
Tip #3: Hips Back, Back Straight, Head Up
This biomechanical position is all about avoiding injury and being safe under the bar. Keeping your head up will help with your balance and mentally give you an idea of where you ultimately want to finish when you are at the bottom of the movement. Keeping your back straight as you go through the range of motion will keep your spine aligned and reduce the risk of added pressure to any part of your spinal column. Tilting your hips back engages the glutes and hamstrings as they are secondary muscle groups that will help you complete the squat and provide you with a lot of added power.
Tip #4: Push Through Your Heels
Now that you have experienced a proper setup and are at the bottom of the squat decent, it’s time to power out of the hole to complete the rep. For you to do this as effectively and efficiently as possible, you must do all your pushing through your heels.
Consider this point, the fastest way to get from point A to point B is a straight line. That said, a straight line starting from the top of your head going down through your body would lead you directly to your heels. If you’ve squatted before you know the bottom or hole is the hardest position of the entire movement so getting out fast is paramount and driving through your heels will get you out of there as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Many trainers do not like the feeling of something sitting heavy in their stomachs on leg day or any training day for that matter. Leg day specifically lends itself to this thought process as all the compression on the midsection from doing squats and the effort required can sometimes give you a sickening feeling. It is, for this reason, I would advocate using a fast digesting protein source before your workout such as VP2 Whey Isolate or even better, the revolutionary new MyoGenin. You’ll get the influx of amino acids you need for your workout and a flood of leucine for mTOR activation – the primary trigger of muscle growth.
I was once told that you cannot build a house without a foundation. Think of building your physique from the ground up just the same as any other strong, free-standing structure is built. Include squats in your leg day arsenal, train under the principles of Max-OT and enjoy the experience of out-of-control leg growth!