Day 28: Leg Day

“The legs feed the wolf”

This is a quote I heard the other day when I was watching the movie miracle on TV.  In the movie, it is used to explain how team USA is going to need to out skate their opponents to win.  They are the tool that makes everything become possible.  To relate this quote to my fitness journey, legs are foundational, if you take care of them, they will take care of you, and make your goals possible.

When you look at leg exercises, the majority of them are compound movements.  When you are doing these, you are also working out secondary muscle groups that get activated to deal with the weight and maintain form.  These movements scorch calories and give you a cardio workout even though you may not notice this.  Cardio is thought to be the best for breaking a sweat and fat loss, but I challenge you to do a set of squats then follow this up with lunges to see if you’re not breaking a sweat.  Legs for me is one of the best forms of short burst cardio that also builds strength.  A good little trick is to slow down your reps and do pause reps.  If I am doing 10 squats in a set, I don’t rush through to get the ten then re-rack the weight.  I’ll try and have the weight on my body for 45 seconds to a minute.  For those ten reps, I’ll do them slow to increase the time the muscles are under tension, which is great cardio and builds strength.

Another advantage of working legs is the effect that it can have on your hormones.  Testosterone is one of the most important hormones when it comes to building muscle.  Two leg workouts specifically are great for boosting testosterone levels.  Heavy squats, and heavy deadlifts are known to increase and regulate testosterone levels.  Since I’m no doctor I don’t want to give advice on this topic when it comes to hormones and science and such, but I am good at research, so I have linked some great sources for information that pertains to testosterone production and working out your legs.  The legs are the largest muscle group in the body, so don’t ignore them.  Take care of them, and they will take care of you.

Johnny’s Must Reads:

https://www.quora.com/Does-training-legs-increase-testosterone-levels

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/health-fitness/mens-health/6-ways-to-increase-testosterone-with-exercise

http://www.menshealth.co.uk/workout/testosterone-boosting-leg-day-workout

Warmup:

  • Stair Climber for 5
  • Lower body static stretch
  • Shoulder stretch

Workout:

  • Squats: 135 for 12 for 3 sets, 155 for 8, 175 for 8, 185 for 5 for 2 sets, 205 for 2, 225 for 1, 135 for 6
  • Leg Press: 180 for 15, 270 for 10, 360 for 8, 450 for 5 for 3 sets, 180 for 12
  • Lunges: 50 pound barbell walking for 15 steps each leg. 3 sets
  • Quad Extention machine: 50 for 10 each leg for 6 sets (Rest every 2 sets)
  • Calf Raises: 70 for 10 for 3 sets
  • Calf Raise Machine: 115 for 8 for 3 sets.
  • Hip abduction machine: 145 for 15 for 3 sets
  • Hamstring Curls (one leg): 50 for 12 for 3 sets

Post Workout:

  • Jump rope for 5 minutes

 

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Day 22: Legs – Sounds of the Gym

So, I walked into the gym today, ready to smash some legs.  I followed the same routine as I always do.  Pack my bag in my room listening to some music, get my protein shake for after the gym, get my pre-workout for before, and then head out the door to kill it.  When I walked into the gym it hit me, I’ve just made a grave mistake, or so I thought.  When I walk out the door, I normally throw my headphones in my bag so I have them for the gym, but on this day, I was thrown off by a phone call from a friend.  I took my headphones out to answer and forgot to bring them with me to the gym.

This was the first time in about a year I went to the gym to workout with no music.  I thought that this workout was going to suck because I didn’t have my beats to pump me up, and push me through the workout.  I hit the stair-climber like I always do, and proceeded to warm up.  While I was warming up I started to notice the sounds of the gym which I never noticed before.  It was a calming background noise that combines all that was going on around me.

There is the banging of the weights, the sound iron makes when it bounces off iron.  This sound holds a special place for lifters, and it is a nostalgic sound that motivates you just by hearing it.  CT Fletcher says there ain’t nothing better than a pair or 45 pound plates slapping together.  In the gym today, you could hear the loud thud from heavy deadlifts, and the clinking from re-racking the bar when squatting.  These sounds represent the respect and power it takes to lift these weights.

The conversations in the gym were drowned out by the sound of the weights.  Voices blurred together and became a constant murmur.  Individual conversations formed a collective from a zoned-out state.  I could narrow in to try and eavesdrop on a conversation, but I choose to stay withdrawn, and let the voices in the gym drown out the thoughts in my head.

I listen to music to pump me up or as background noise.  I was ignoring how great a place the gym can be to just unplug and take in what’s around you.  Over the past few months I’ve been making an effort to be mindful of what I’m thinking about.  When I am in the gym I try and keep my focus on the task at hand.  I need to get better at paying attention to the here and now, and let my mind wander less.  Forgetting my headphones might become a common occurrence because of the calming nature of the sounds of the gym.

Warmup:

  • 5 minutes stair climber
  • Lower body stretch
  • Lower body foam roll

Workout:

  • Squats (pyramid up and down):  95 for 12, 135 for 8 for 3 sets, 155 for 8, 175 for 8, 185 for 6, 195 for 3, 205 for 2, 225 for 1 for 2 sets, 135 for 8
  • Leg Press: 360 for 6 for 3 sets (normal), 180 for 15 for 3 sets (narrow legs)
  • Quad Extension (drop sets) 60 for 10 then drop to 40 and go till failure.  4 sets
  • Calf Raises (plate machine): 70 for 10 for 4 sets
  • Walking Lunges: 50lbs barbell on back, walk for 10 sets each leg, turn around then walk back
  • Hip Abductor machine: 175 for 12 reps

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Day 10: Leg Day

After two good workouts in as many days, I’m excited to walk into the gym, which is a strange feeling on leg day.  My goal for the day was to focus on form.  Form is something I’ll admit to struggling with in regards to my leg workouts.  It’s easy to focus on form and dial it in when the weight is comfortable.  But once you get into heavier and heavier weight and you start to push yourself, form starts to deteriorate.

Using squats as an example, since this is a compound movement that has a variety of different mechanics to it, as you get into heavier weight, if one of the mechanics goes, then it causes a chain reaction.  If your knees track in because the weights to heavy, your back and hips will try and compensate which throws them out of alignment as well.  This is why squats are one of the hardest exercises to perfect.  Making a conscious effort to watch your form can lead to lifting more weight, making weight progression quicker, and limiting chance of injury.

In this workout session, I focused attention on my breathing as I did my exercises.  It is a common misconception that you should be breathing as you go through the motions of workout, but this is a myth.  For exercises like the squat, you should be taking in a big breath at the top and use the air inside you as a stabilizer of sorts.  You can get the most drive when you are holding your breath.  Taking in a breath at the top then hitting the squat and then exhaling at the top adds to the mechanics of the lift.  Adding breathing helps slow down the lift and gives you time to focus on each squat, you don’t want to rush through the lift because chances are you’re not focusing on the stretch and contraction of the muscle.  You don’t just want reps, you want good reps.

Warmup:

  • Stair climber for 5 to get the blood flowing
  • Lower body stretch, shoulder mobility stretch to ensure arm can get behind bar comfortably for squat

Workout:

  • Squats (pyramid up and down):  95 for 12, 135 for 8 for 3 sets, 155 for 6, 155 for 6, 175 for 4, 175 for 3, 195 for 1, 155 for 6, 135 for 8
  • Leg Press: 360 for 6 for 4 sets
  • Quad Extension (drop sets) 60 for 10 then drop to 40 and go till failure.  4 sets
  • Hamstring curls: 50 for 8 for 3 sets
  • Calf Raises (plate machine): 70 for 10 for 4 sets
  • Walking Lunges: 50lbs barbell on back, walk for 10 sets each leg, turn around then walk back
  • Hip Abductor machine: 175 for 12 reps

Post-workout:

  • Foam Roll to help with recovery
  • Quick leg stretch to aid in recovery

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 6: Legs – Getting Under the Bar

“I can’t wait to go to the gym and work legs today” – No one ever

I’ve been told that legs make up around half of the body.  I’m not a doctor, or good at math, so I’m not sure if this is exactly true or not.  What I can tell you is the truth is that I DON’T LIKE LEG DAY.  Squats are my least favourite exercise, and if they weren’t such an effective compound movement, I would never do that exercise again.

When I first started working out, I had one of those hour-long fitness consultations with a trainer and he asked me to do a body squat (no weights) so he could coach my form.  I couldn’t even do one.  I was embarrassed, I felt like everyone in the personal training section was judging me.  For a couple months after that I never touched my legs in the gym.  I figured that just avoiding my weaknesses was fine.  But once you start working out for a while you get hungry for growth.  You want to push yourself, you want to grow, and I mean both mentally and physically.

So, after a couple months I finally got under the bar, tried a squat with no weight and made a fool of myself.  I couldn’t get to depth and was doing those quarter squats that you see newbies doing, and I couldn’t get my left shoulder behind the bar so I was squatting on an angle.  Long story short, I dropped the bar in the rack, it made a huge noise, and everyone looked at me.  Just because I the will to do a squat, doesn’t mean I was going to be able to do one.  I wasn’t prepared, and I learned the body and mind must work in unison.

This might have deterred me from squatting a couple months prior, but at the time it got me angry.  I did my homework.  I used youtube to learn proper form, how to build a strong foundation, and learned how to make progression.  I read fitness blogs on leg workouts for beginners.  I watch people in the gym to see what their form was like.  And every week I kept getting under the bar, and every week I got better.  I could squat the bar, then 10’s, then 25’s, then 35’s then 45’s, but then I trailed off.  I got comfortable with the exercise, but with that comfort came complacency.  I thought it was good enough that I got to a level where I could throw a 45 on each side and get down to depth for 10.  But it’s been almost three years now and I’ve been squatting within the same 50lbs range for years.  I realize I had lost all hunger and drive for growth, and I was fine being in the same place today as I was yesterday.

When I set this goal to bench 225, it came from the idea that I need to start pushing myself harder in the gym and bring it every single time I walk in.  Although I haven’t set a goal for my lower body, i’m bringing a stronger mentality with me when I get under the bar.  The mentality to push harder every day and through this, the physical and mental growth that I’m craving will come.

Warmup:

  • 5-minute stair climb
  • Foam Roll my legs.  Acting confident as I roll, as I’m pretending to know what I’m doing.

Workout:

  • Squats (pyramid up and down) – 95 for 10, 115 for 10, 135 for 10 x 3 sets, 155 for 5, 175 for 3, 135 for 8
  • Leg Press (pyramid up and down) – 90 for 15, 180 for 10, 270 for 8, 360 for 4, 180 for 6
  • Walking Lunges / Band Sidesteps (superset)– 50lbs for 10 steps each leg, Light band for 10 steps each leg
  • Quad Extensions (one leg at a time)(pyramid up and down) 40 for 12, 50 for 8, 60 for 4, 50 for 5, 40 for 9
  • Hamstring curls (one leg at a time) 50 for 10 reps x 3 sets
  • Seated Calf Raised – 70 for 10 reps x 3 sets

At the end of the lift, my legs were dead and it was a good lift.  Doing a little stretching can save you from walking like a penguin for the next three days.  Foam rolling is always helpful to loosen up those muscle fibers and gain back some of that mobility you’re sure to be craving.

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”