The world is full of lifters who resemble a top heavy triangle.
With their well built pecs and cannonball delts supported by thighs and calves so thin they look like they could draw you a picture, you could be forgiven for thinking they came to the gym riding on a chicken.
Yep, there’s a whole generation of lifters who haven’t hit their lower body since The Rock had hair.
But you know what’s worse than not training your legs?
Do you know who I really feel sorry for?
Those unfortunate souls who blast their legs week in, week out only to see no progress.
And there’s lots of them. In fact, every week I receive at least five emails from people who blast their quads and hamstrings regularly but do not see the results they’re hoping for.
So in today’s article I’m going to teach you the 5 main reasons why your legs are not responding to your workouts.
1. Step It Up
Many people are just going through the motions on leg day.
Look around your gym.
These motherfuckers are easy to spot.
On “arm day”, they want to train for 2 hours in an attempt to hit their biceps brachialis from every conceivable angle. I used to know someone like this, he performed twelve exercises just for his triceps.
Twelve fucking exercises.
But come “leg day”, they’ll be the ones plodding through 3 sets of 10 reps on the leg extension machine, followed by – shock!! – 3 sets of 10 reps on the leg curl and maybe the calf raise machine.
This. Is. Madness.
Considering the size difference between our legs and our arms, does it make sense to make our workout for these body parts so lopsided? Of course not! Your legs are your biggest and strongest muscle group, and if anything, they should be receiving more focus than smaller muscle groups, not less.
Furthermore, your legs need variety and intensity in their routine just as much as any other body part, so ditch the tired old routine and start incorporating some new exercises. Leg day should be a war – one which you willingly enter knowing you cannot win.
Wear the wobbly walk of post-leg day with pride, my friend.
2. Hangout With The Big Boys More Often
News flash – nobody cares how much you can leg press.
I sometimes hear people say things like, “My legs are really strong, but they are skinny” – in which case, we need to look at exactly what “strong” means.
To me, if a client can squat one-and-a-half times their own body weight and deadlift more than twice their own body weight, they are strong.
If you’re able to do these things and still have skinny legs then you are legitimately able to put it down to poor genetics.
But I don’t really see many people who can do those things complaining about having small legs.
What I do see, however, are a lot of people spending a bit too long playing around with isolation exercises and not enough time with the big dogs; squats and deadlifts.
Exercises like leg extensions are fantastic for developing the quadriceps, that is for damn sure. They are one of my favourite leg exercises and can be a great asset during a brutal leg workout. But if you want to pack on size you must train regularly with the exercises which allow you to lift the most weight.
No other leg exercises can compete against squats and deadlifts. They are the undisputed rulers of the gym.
Make friends with them.
3. Turn Up The Volume
As your biggest muscle group, your legs can take a hell of a lot more punishment than other body parts.
Use that to your advantage.
Like I said above, I’m amazed at how some people will absolutely blast a small muscle and then hit their biggest, most powerful muscles with a weak-ass workout my Grandma could do.
Your legs want to be punished. They welcome that shit.
So don’t restrict yourself do doing 3 sets of 10 reps and presume that anything higher is for girls with pink, fluffy dumbbells.
You see, recent studies show that training in higher rep ranges promotes just as much lean muscle growth as training in the hypertrophy rep range. The key is to use a weight which causes muscular failure – don’t think “go light” when higher reps are involved.
To get the most from this, keep your big compound lifts set in a lower rep range to maximize the amount of weight you can lift and try pairing higher rep sets on isolation exercises. Another method you could use here is dropsets, which allow you to rack up your total rep count while maximizing resistance.
4. Not Enough Food
In the words of The Rock:
“They will not stop until you feed them.”
Except I’m not talking about the pec-pop of love, I’m talking about your quads, motherfucker.
They will not stop looking like toothpicks supporting an orange until you provide them with enough nutrition to grow. Much like there isn’t really “one weird trick to a flatter stomach”, there isn’t a secret leg exercise which will explode your muscle growth overnight.
There is a common misconception that you can get big while on a cutting diet. You can’t. If you want to get big then you need to focus on getting big. And to do that, you must eat big.
All three mactonutrients (but particularly carbohydrates) will play an important role in growing muscle.
I encourage clients to set their protein and fat intake quite high – around 1.2g and 0.5g per lb of goal body weight – in order to maximize lean muscle growth and regulate the body’s hormones to to support a faster recovery. Beyond that I’ll play with carbohydrates to find the client’s optimal level.
For most, an intake of around 2g per lb of goal body weight is enough to see a change. For others, they must aim higher (2-3g per lb goal body weight).
Just don’t fall into the trap of eating a ton of junk food under the guise of “I’m bulking”. If you eat like shit, you’ll look like shit.
The bottom line is this – without the fuel, the machine won’t work.
5. Too Much Cardio
If you follow my website or Twitter feed regularly then you’ll know that I’m a keen advocate of high intensity, sprint-style workouts.
Not only are they shorter in duration, they’re far more productive!
Meaning you’ll burn more body fat and retain more lean muscle.
And one of the common habits I see in those who struggle to put size on their quads is a regular dose of long, aerobic cardio.
Incorporate shorter, high intensity sessions such as HIIT on a bike or sprint-based outdoor work into your routine and you will see an improvement.
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