Love it or hate it, leg day should never be skipped. The legs are a large muscle group, so not only does building them properly result in a balanced look, it will also increase your metabolism. A higher metabolism means you burn off calories quicker, resulting in a leaner look with the chance to feast on more foods without gaining fat. It’s a win win! If you feel like you’re missing something in your leg day and want an extra boost to build those muscles, follow these tips.
Not too far away from what trees do, rooting is all about the point of contact between your feet and the floor. It works by engaging your muscles and creating tension before performing the exercise, helping your body prepare the targeted muscles for movement. It applies to most (if not all) leg exercises, including those on the floor, like squats, and those on machines, like the leg press.
To root, stand with your feet comfortably apart. Slightly bend your knees and put your hips back a little as if you were going to squat. From here, look at your feet. Drive them away from each other as if you were trying to rip the floor apart. Hold that tension between your feet, and notice what happens. Hopefully, your knees are driving outward slightly and your glutes are starting to wake up. If this is the case, you’re officially rooted.
So let’s apply this to your leg exercises. In a squatting stance, get rooted, and squat while maintaining that outward tension. Feel the difference? Your glutes should now be firing off like crazy! It’ll help almost all of your leg exercises. For deadlifts, your feet are closer together but should still be rooted.
With lunges, the leg doing the lifting should be rooted. It goes on! You’d be surprised how many people don’t utilize this in their workouts, but you’ll notice that successful lifters always root themselves.
A compound movement is an exercise that works on multiple joints, and includes moves like squats and pull-ups. The more joints that are moved means more muscle groups are activated, which in turn multiplies your calorie burn. Compound movements are the best way to look balanced, as you work different muscles at the same time.
That’s not to say isolation exercises — moves that engage only one joint, like bicep curls or bridges — should be excluded. These are still brilliant movements and should be included in your workout program, but they only target one specific muscle. This is great for sculpting a particular area, but they burn less calories and might result in an imbalanced look. Utilize those extra joints and incorporate compound moves into your workout for more burn and more balance.
Because your legs are a large muscle group, they’re usually stronger than your top half. You need to use heavier weights on leg day, or you won’t build and tone. Aim for 8–10 reps, and your muscles should be pretty much burned out by the last rep. However, you need to be careful about the weight you choose. Be sure you’re capable of using that weight before you lift it; don’t injure yourself.
Start at a reasonable weight and go from there. If it’s too easy, add more weight. If it’s too hard, ease up. The confidence is appreciated, but start with something lighter and work your way up.
Intention revolves around the connection between your mind and your muscles — sort of like the Force in Star Wars, but cooler. This is one of the simplest ways to build your muscles, and all you use is your brain. It’s easy: think about the muscles you want to activate while doing the exercise. Studies have shown that muscle activation is increased when the intended muscle is directly thought about. So, next time you’re doing a set of squats, really think about your glutes. When you next do some push ups, think hard about those pec muscles. Give it a go, and you’ll notice a bit more of that awesome burn.
Maddy has worked in the health and fitness industry for 5 years. She has a bachelors in Exercise Science and has recently received her Masters in Exercise Physiology. She has worked with a wide demographic of clients as a Personal Trainer and loves helping people reach their goals and continue to grow. She is an outdoor enthusiast and dedicates her workouts to rock climbing, hiking and whatever new experiences may come her way.
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