Please, whatever you do, don’t enter bodybuilding with intentions of giving some body parts more ‘love’ than others. If you do this, you’ll make a mess of your physique, and you’ll look odd. Think Gregg Valentino.
Although I don’t know why, I know from experience that the legs are usually the body parts which bare the majority of the brunt of this lack of commitment. A lot of people simply do not like training their legs as much as they do their upper body.
It’s a mistake, believe me. Nothing good will come of you not giving your legs the same amount of care and attention you would your favourite body part. You’ll look like a chicken-legged goof, and your top-heavy physique will only serve to make you look even sillier. There is nothing more to say. Train your legs, end of story.
I advocate training the legs once or twice a week (each muscle, that is) – and sometimes even maybe as much as three times a week, but always with at least a day’s rest in between.
I’ll now go over the different muscles of the leg, and what exercises you need to do to make each muscle grow optimally.
The biggest, most powerful, and heavy muscle in the body is the quadriceps. Although leg-extension machines are a favourite of many, they pale in comparison to the effectiveness of squats.
Squats are undoubtedly the most hated exercise in bodybuilding. Maybe in part because they can be so awkward to perform. But don’t despair. There are many different variations of the squat you can try, including machines to assist you (smith, and hack) so you can strike up the balance of using a squat exercise you like, and gives you good results.
I think 7 – 12 reps and sets of 3 – 5 are suitable numbers for most people, including beginners. Do whatever gets you results – and is the least work possible, that’s my motto… so start with 7 reps and 3 sets.
Hamstrings (Leg Bicep)
I’ve found the most effective method for training the hamstrings to be the straight legged dead lift, by far. Second, quite possibly, ‘Good Mornings’, and third, leg curls on a leg curl machine, which I usually perform with one leg at a time.
I advocate the same amount of reps and set ranges as I do for the quads.
By far the best exercise for calves – and everyone who knows anything about bodybuilding knows, and will agree on this – is donkey calve raises. All you need is a training partner of suitable weight willing to sit on your back while you perform this awesome exercise and you are well away.
If not, a good substitution is to perform it with a heavy weighted dip belt, either standing upright, or in donkey positioning.
I’ve found higher repetitions to be far more effective than lower reps for building the calves. Higher reps mean fewer sets are necessary. I normally do 15 reps – sometimes 20 reps – and go for 3 sets. Sometimes I may do 4 sets, but rarely.