3 Tips to Take Your Leg Workout to Another Level
Three simple ways to see more results from your leg workout.
You either love them or hate them. Regardless as to how you feel about working legs, it’s very important to do. I personally enjoy leg days since I like lifting heavy weights — and you definitely get to do that with leg exercises. To me, nothing beats hitting a new squat or deadlift strength PR. Even though it may seem like designing a leg routine would be a lot simpler than an upper body one (since there’s seemingly less leg exercises to choose from), there are some factors that are important to consider.
Here are three tips I personally incorporate whenever I create a new leg workout.
1. Make sure you work your anterior/posterior muscles equally.
Having muscular imbalances between your anterior (front) and posterior (back) leg muscles is an easy way to prevent you from lifting optimal weight. To be able to perform the squat and deadlift to your greatest potential, your quads, glutes, and hamstrings must all be strong (since they’re all recruited during these movements).
A common issue seen in those who have stronger quadriceps relative to their glutes, is knee valgus (knees caving in) while squatting. The squat relies mostly on your quads and glutes, but with knee valgus, it results in your quads being over utilized and your glutes being under utilized. From being unable to recruit your glutes maximally, you’ll be unable to squat to your potential.
With the deadlift, a common issue seen is in the “lock out” step (when you’re locking yourself into the final upright position). The lock out position relies on strong glutes, so having weak glutes will prevent you from being able to optimally perform this movement.
What are some exercises I can do to prevent anterior/posterior muscular imbalances?
Most leg movements that require you to lift heavy loads do recruit your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. However, to make sure that all these muscle groups are being targeted enough, make sure you’re regularly performing at least one exercise that primarily targets each of these muscles. If you have a muscle group that’s lagging in strength, adjust accordingly and focus on more exercises that isolate these muscles.
Some exercises that effectively targets one (or more) major leg muscle group:
- For your quads: squat variations, leg press, lunges
- For your glutes: hip thrust variations, Bulgarian split squats
- For your hamstrings: deadlift variations, leg curl
2. Have at least one unilateral leg exercise.
Incorporating some unilateral exercises are important to prevent muscular imbalances between each side of your body. Many major leg movements such as the squat and deadlift are bilateral (uses both legs at the same time). As a result, it’s easy to develop muscular imbalances between your dominant and non-dominant leg, if you don’t do at least one unilateral leg exercise regularly.
I personally enjoy doing unilateral movements such as:
- Bulgarian split squats
- Single leg press
- Single leg Romanian deadlifts
3. Do barbell hip thrusts.
Everyone knows to do squats and deadlifts to hit their legs. As great as both the squat and deadlift are, neither of these movements targets the glutes like hip thrusts. Having a strong set of glutes is important for both the squat and deadlift (two major leg exercises that recruit the glutes).
If you find that your squat and deadlift has been plateauing (and you don’t regularly do glute-based exercises), definitely give barbell hip thrusts a try to see if it will improve your performance.
You won’t regret it!
An important factor to consider when designing a leg workout is to make sure you’re doing exercises that prevent muscular imbalances. As well, doing the hip thrust should be a staple in every leg routine due to its carry over to improving your squat, deadlift, and overall leg strength.
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