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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Glutes and Quads

Great legs start with working those glutes and quads.

It is important to know which muscles are involved in your leg routine. Your main leg muscles consist of the gluteus (buttocks), the quadriceps (front of the upper legs), the hamstrings (back of the upper legs), and the calves (back of the lower leg). 

Working out your legs is also crucial to maintain a nice symmetry, which is simply the proper balance between the size of each and every one of your body's muscles. (In layman terms, it means you won't look like a Popsicle, with a muscular upper body and chicken legs).

Today's routine will focus on the gluteus and quadricep muscles.  Standard squats, Leg Extensions, Leg Press

Standard Squats

The squat is the mother of all leg exercises. If you were to do only one leg exercise, it should be the squat, since it works your entire body. The focus, however, is on your gluteus and quadriceps. The regular squat is a great exercise in order to build your legs and your overall fitness level.

Sets and Repetitions
4 Sets -- Reps 15-10-8-8

1. Get into a comfortable upright stance, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your toes should be either pointed straight ahead or slightly outward. Don't point them inward, because this will put a lot of strain on your knees.
2. Keep your vision focused straight ahead or slightly above eye level. Do not tilt your head backwards or raise your eyes too much because this will disrupt your balance.

3. Place the barbell squarely on your traps (trapezius muscles) and shoulders (not the neck) and grip the bar comfortably, with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. This will automatically straighten your back and force you to maintain a strict form.

4. Slowly bring your butt towards the ground, but make sure to keep your heels planted firmly on the floor. Do NOT start by bending your knees.

5. Continue downward by slowly bending your knees. Be careful not to let your knees move forward or sideways -- always keep them in-line. This will relieve some stress off of them.
6. When your thighs are parallel to the ground, begin exhaling and return to the starting position. There should be no sideways movement, especially in the knee or hip area.

7. Squatting deeper than parallel to the floor will NOT damage your knees, as many lifters believe, but it could be dangerous for beginners. This focuses the tension on your hamstring muscles instead. Knee damage is a result of raising your heels off the floor, not of lowering your butt to the floor.

Leg extensions are a great finishing exercise. It's even a good idea to do a light set before starting your leg workout, since it works your entire quadricep region.

Sets and Repetitions
3 Sets -- Reps 10-10-10
leg press
1. Sit on the seat of a leg extension machine with the footpad firmly placed on the outer part of your shin. Make sure your knees are flexed at a 90-degree angle. If your legs are forced too far beyond this angle, knee damage could result early on in the movement.

2. Extend and straighten your legs until they're parallel with the floor.

3. This is the only leg exercise in which you can lock your knees without risking knee damage. It's actually a good thing to lock your knees and hold the position for a second or two in order to squeeze and burn your muscles.

4. After reaching the end of the motion, slowly return the weight to a point near the starting position. This will allow you to keep constant tension on your quadricep muscles.
leg press
5. Pointing your toes toward each other at a 20-degree angle works the inner quad area, while pointing your toes outward works the outer quad area. Try to vary the angle of your toes every once in a while to work your legs from different angles.

Leg Presses

The leg press is another great overall quadricep muscle builder. It's also a fun exercise to carry out because you'll be able to pack on the weight rather quickly compared to other exercises, without necessarily needing a spot. Remember to always maintain perfect form.
leg press
Sets and Repetitions
4 Sets -- Reps 15-10-8-8

1. Place your feet flat on the platform, shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointing slightly outward. You can vary your foot positions in order to hit your muscles from different angles. A wide stance will work the outer quadriceps, while a narrow one will work the inner quadriceps.

2. Lower the platform until your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Make sure that your lower back is properly aligned with the seat to prevent back-injury.

leg press3. Press the platform outward until your legs are nearly straight out. Do not lock your knees at the start of the movement in order to keep the tension on your leg muscles and avoid injury. Make sure not to bounce at the end of the motion because that can also cause serious injury.

Well that's it; your glutes and quadriceps should be pretty tired by now, but guess what?  This is only the first part of your leg workout. To maintain a nice symmetry, you'll need to work on your hamstrings and calves, next time.  Until then, stay fit and let loose.

Excerpts from Leg Work out I

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