Top 5 Leg Training Mistakes and How to Correct Them


With more meat than a deli counter, and tricked out with vertical ravines and horizontal etchings, quadriceps can be showstoppers. Unfortunately, most bodybuilders never maximize their quads, because they are forever shortchanging their leg workouts. This month, we’ll examine the most frequent quad-training blunders and lay out a course of action for correcting each so that the time spent at the squat rack and leg press earns you an A in leg gains

Incorrectly Targeting Areas

Here’s a prevalent myth: to focus more on your quads and less on your glutes during Smith machine or hack squats, move your feet further forward


In fact, the opposite is true. Likewise, many believe that a wide stance will work outer quads and a narrow stance hits more of the inner area–wrong again. The fact is that even many experienced bodybuilders simply do not know how to best target the four quadriceps muscles (the vastus lateralis, rectus femoris, vastus intermedius and vastus medialis) and the various muscles of the upper, inner thighs

Solutions

Point your toes in to work the outer quads (vastus lateralis) more; point them out to work the inner quads (vastus medialis) more
Keep your feet under your hips during exercises, such as Smith machine squats, to target the quads more and glutes less
Taking a narrow stance will focus more on the outer quads; taking a wide stance (and pointing your toes out) will focus more on the muscles of the inner thighs

Using Truncated Range of Motion

You see it in every gym. Guys load up the leg press for–at best–half reps, bending their knees only far enough to keep the weight moving


That same abbreviated bending occurs at squat racks, hack squat machines and often even for leg extensions. Whenever a bodybuilder trains quads, the odds are that he will go through the motion of not going through the whole motion; primarily because doing leg exercises for sets of full reps is hard and doing half reps allows heavier training–providing the illusion of training harder–so quads get “short repped” and thus shortchanged. By limiting the length of movements, you’re limiting your growth

Solutions

Each rep of most sets of squats should descend to where your quads are parallel to the floor or platform, if not deeper. The exception to this rule is when doing half squats to focus more on the medialis, which research shows are effective
Any form of leg press should descend at least until your quads are parallel to the foot platform. In a 45-degree leg press, your knees should brush your chest without your glutes coming up off of the leg press seat, which would place a lot of stress on your lower back
Squats or leg presses should briefly lockout, or stop just short of lockout, at the top
When performing leg extensions, go from a full stretch (calf perpendicular to thigh) to a full contraction, wherein you briefly lock out your knees and flex your thighs
Lunges, thigh adductions, and any other leg exercise should have a full stretch and contraction
You may wish to extend sets of some machine leg exercises via partials, but do this only after reaching failure with full-range reps

Going Too Heavy

This mistake almost always travels in concert with the one that precedes it, since going too heavy leads to truncated reps and truncated reps allow you to go too heavy


This is especially true of leg presses because it’s very likely that you can use more metal with this exercise than any other. This stokes your ego, and because the guy before you used 800 for half reps instead of 500 for full reps, you want to crank out those 800-pound partials, too. What’s more, even if you’re squatting deep in the hole, you may pyramid up to singles and doubles just to slap on as many plates as possible each workout, thus feeding your pride, but not building much–if any–muscle

Solutions

Do full-range movements (see mistake #2
Keep the reps for most sets in the eight-to-12 range
Focus on your muscles, not on the weight

Squatting with Incorrect Form

Stopping far short of parallel isn’t the worst squatting offense


Many bodybuilders lean too far forward and push their hips too far backward, working their backs, hips and butts more than their quads. What’s worse, this could potentially strain your spinal erectors. If you’re going to do barbell squats wrong, it’s best not to do them. A better option is to practice the correct form of this invaluable exercise until you squat right every time

Solutions

Generally, when you take a stance that’s beyond shoulder width, it’s best to do so with your toes angled slightly outward, but find the stance that lets you remain as upright as possible. Often, taller bodybuilders need a wider stance
Overemphasize the arch in your lower back
Look straight ahead throughout each rep
As you drop down, keep your butt over your heels, as if you’re going to sit down on a chair
Driving out of the hole, move your hips before you move your knees
Practice proper upright form by sitting to (butt just touching) and rising from a bench, chair or box set at parallel. Use no weight or a light weight until you master this
Consider starting with Smith machine squats until you master the form, then move on to free-weight squats

 Failing at Failure

Leg training is a bitch. Pushing sets of such exercises as front squats, leg presses and walking lunges to their max will feel like someone is firing a blowtorch at your thighs, and most bodybuilders don’t stay under the blowtorch long enough


You might regularly superset biceps and triceps exercises, do forced reps when bench pressing and drop sets during side laterals, but it’s less likely that you apply the same intensity to your leg workouts–simply because of the pain quotient. As we’ve already explained, bodybuilders frequently go too heavy (with truncated reps) on the leg basics. Low-rep training is the easy way out
Max out on five reps of the leg press and max out on 15 reps, and there’s little doubt that pushing yourself to the limit (with a lighter weight) for 15 will bring on greater torment. Immediately follow those 15 reps with another 15 of hack squats or lunges, and you’ll start to understand maximum leg-day intensity

Solutions

Use reps in the 10-15 range to boost intensity
On occasion, use intensifying techniques like partials, supersets, and rest-pause to push sets beyond full-rep failure
Accept pain as a necessary component of full-bore quad workouts
Lessons Learned

Position your feet to target different quad areas
Make each rep a full rep. When squatting or leg pressing, this means bending your legs until your thighs are at least perpendicular to your calves
Generally, keep your reps in the eight-to-12 range
Practice proper squat form
Push sets to failure and sometimes beyond


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About Tamer El Sheikh

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
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