How to Strengthen Your Legs
In just about any sport imaginable strong legs are a must for this is where most of the power is generated; it starts from the ground up in everything from a baseball pitch, shot put (put?) to a boxers punch. It is therefore essential to develop all aspects of the leg as fully as possible.
While I’m certainly a believer in variety I’m an even bigger believer in hammering home the fundamentals of training each body part (as you may have guessed!). This is for one simple reason: the fundamentals work the best!
The main parts of the leg we need to work are the quadriceps at the front upper part of the leg, the hamstrings at the rear upper part of the leg, and the calf muscle at the rear part of the lower leg.
You’ve probably heard me say this a million times already, but I’m going to say it again: squats are the best exercise to develop the quads. Yes, I know a lot of people train alone and do not like the idea of doing squats — or simply find them very difficult and awkward and cannot find a style which suits them — so if you can’t do them, don’t get hung up about it. There are other sorts of squats which are also very effective other than the normal back squats which you may like to give ago. Or, you may wish to use machines such as a hack squat machine or leg press machine which are also very effective. The main thing is, you need to train the quads as they are the biggest and most powerful muscle group in the entire body, and neglecting them would almost equate to trying to build a powerful car… with no engine.
In activities such as sprinting or jumping the hamstrings are heavily involved so it is very important that you do not neglect to train them. I believe one of the most effective barbell exercises to build the hamstrings is straight leg dead lifts. Lunges are also another effective exercise, along with good mornings.
Calves can pose a great problem for most people. That’s because they are a very resilient muscle (being at the bottom of the body, they have to be) and most people lack the understanding of how to train them effectively.
Probably the most important thing you need to understand about the calve muscles is, they are extremely dense in fibres. Therefore, to fatigue them sufficiently and cause them to grow, you need to work a lot more fibres a lot more deeply than you would with a normal muscle. This means higher repetitions and added weight. By high reps, I mean reps of no less than 15.
Without doubt the most effective calf exercise is the donkey calve raise. They can be performed with a lever donkey calve raise machine, or in the traditional manner with someone sat on your back.
Other effective calve exercises are standing weighted calve raises, done holding a dumbbell or with a weighted dip belt, or, seated, with a heavy plate or loaded barbell held across the lap. Of course, the seated variation is far less effective because the weight of the body isn’t being used, and in most people, that is a fair amount of weight to replicate with plates.
Both of the aforementioned can also be performed using lever machines.