There is a well kept secret in the fitness world when it comes to packing on some serious muscle.
Are you ready for the big unveiling of this secret? It is not rocket science but for you to build muscle mass anywhere in the body you have to train your legs properly (a good diet will help too).
Let’s illiterate this valid point again – you need to train your legs to grow whole body muscle mass and missing out leg days within your regime should really be regarded as criminal!
This notion is probably the most ignored or unknown training principle in the world of lifting. The legs are the biggest and strongest muscles within the human body and they represent a huge hormonal storage point.
Therefore when your legs recruit a huge amount of muscle fibres via a full muscle contraction this process is a platform for your body to secrete vast amounts of testosterone and growth hormone.
Testosterone and human growth hormones have the following important functions:
- Testosterone – is the king of all bodybuilding hormones; it increases protein synthesis and it is a major fat burner
- Human growth hormone – supports fat burning and boosts protein synthesis via activating IGF-1. It also safeguards any muscle loss and helps with muscle tissue maintenance
The beauty of ‘anabolic’ hormones
The beauty of these anabolic hormones is that they don’t react solely on the legs but they also interact with the whole body sending growth signals to all muscle tissues.
Getting the same anabolic hormonal response from bicep curls or chest flies is not remotely the same as training your legs because of the comparatively smaller muscle groups being exercised.
It may seem counterintuitive, however pumping your legs not only facilitates lower body growth but it also provides the growth stimulus that can repair other major muscles after they have been worked.
In other words if you perform a leg work out it will help the upper body as well, because these anabolic hormones will also target the cells within the arms, chest, back and shoulders etc. Thus leg training can’t be avoided if you want to develop a balanced muscular physique; however not all leg exercises are equal!
Not all leg exercises are equal
It is better to crack a nut with a sledge hammer! This phase applies to exercising your legs and using the right exercises can ‘crack’ the dilemma of adding some quality lean muscle mass to your overall physique.
It would be an ideal world if all exercises were equal and did the trick but unfortunately this is not the case. If you want all of the benefits of flooding your bloodstream with anabolic hormones, the leg exercises should be compound in nature and engage all of the leg muscles and the glutes.
Compound exercises recruit a huge number of muscle fibres, are multi-jointed and some of the best exercises include squats, deadlifts, glute bridges and lunges.
Isolated leg exercises such as calf raises, leg extensions and curls fall short in terms of hormonal activation because they recruit far less muscle fibres.
Research has indicated that lower body exercises such as jump squats can double the testosterone release when compared to bench pressing. Interestingly there is evidence to suggest that compound lower body exercises such as heavy squatting can release 10 times more growth hormone and this is major factor in whole body muscle growth.
However let’s not forget that human growth hormone is a powerful muscle builder and fat burner. This is all good news for building new lean muscle mass whilst reducing your % body fat.
Creating a leg work out
Now that you are aware of the amazing secret, let’s explain the best method of creating a leg work out.
The first element that you need to decide is whether to devote a full session just to legs or to add it into a split work out structure. Either approach will work as long as compound leg exercises such as squats are built into your program.
Completing 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions is a good place to begin with. If you are able to perform more than 12 reps then you need to add some more weight onto the bar.
By around the 8th repetition you should be near mechanical failure; at this point take a deep breath and power through another 3 or 4 reps. This training strategy will help to deliver a big surge of hormones to the muscle tissues all over the body.
Another strategy that you could try is to incorporate 1 or 2 sets of heavy squats into your upper body training regime. This approach can be executed before your workout because it is easier to go heavier on the squatting at the beginning of a work out, than at the end of a work out.
The heavier the weight combined with a compound movement such as squatting can induce a higher metabolic and hormonal reaction within the muscle. Therefore this technique works for both leg development and it also helps the upper body to catch up with the legs.