Here are some pro tips to getting strong functional legs:
1. Your legs have evolved for endurance because in the past we needed to be on them all the time. As such they require plenty of what we call ‘pre-fatigue’ to maximize training. What this means in your workout is you should stack several leg exercise together in a row with no rest in between them. Honestly if you pay close attention you will notice that your legs tend to get stronger as they warm up. Don’t underestimate your legs they can often do a lot more than you think. Avoid just doing a set then stopping until all the burn goes away and you catch your breath, try continuing through several sets until they truly weaken and feel rubbery.
2. Legs have many muscles, if all you feel is quad burn during leg press, squats, lunges etc then you are missing out big time. You need to involve your inner and outer things, glutes, hams and hips. One thing that helps is to work those muscles listed first before hitting the big compound leg exercises (like squats). This way they are going to be easier to feel and target when working your full lower body all together in that they are already pumped up and activated.
3. Just like you may notice with your arms you will show favoritism to one leg over the other. This means it is important to get a decent amount of single leg exercise in your routine. Try a single leg-leg extension set followed by single leg-leg curl (same leg) then finish with a lunge on same leg (then switch sides). You want to develop balance of function especially as your legs relate to your core and spine.
4. Don’t skip or skimp on lower leg training. You need to hit your calves and tibs (front of lower leg) just as hard as your thighs as they are equally important. You may not see a huge visual change but they will strengthen significantly over time. A good stack is to do a solid run on your thighs then catch your breath while you hit the lower legs (smaller muscles) then you’re ready for a final string of thigh exercises to finish it off.
Remember to build real strength will take heavy weights so play safe, move in a controlled purposeful manner. Jumping and bouncing looks interesting in internet videos but leave it for the show-offs and daredevils. You can get excellent results without looking like you are auditioning for the circus.
Be well, be strong,
Andrew and Tierney