Friday, January 18, 2013
We are now in the middle of January, and those who really kept to their new year resolution of starting to get fit and eat right, have probably started to exercise or train hard….so let’s start talking about actual exercises and training. So this week’s blog is about training the legs or more specifically thighs, or what people who are already familiar with training denomination, the “Quads”.
The first question that should be asked is DO YOU TRAIN LEGS? Do you know why the bodybuilders and fitness professionals hate training them? And when you are training legs are you activating the thigh muscles properly? Are other muscles from the leg activated? How should they be trained? Even if you are going up on stage in a bodybuilding contest, do you know how you should warm-up so that you can?
The reason for talking about leg exercises, in the fight to lose that extra fat gained during the holidays, is because when you train your lower body it is easier to burn more calories due to the need of more energy use for blood flow to lower extremities, and production of energy to contract the muscles. So do you know why people call them Quads? Well the beginning “Quad” means the number 4 and in the human body relates to Quadriceps, or 4 muscles. The individual muscles that are included in the Quadriceps are the Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis (front outer thigh), Vastus Medialis (front inner thigh), and Vastus Intermedius, which is located underneath the other three.
So how do you get those toned Quads that we see on strength athletes? And what better to start off with then the Barbell Squat Exercise. Do you know why the Squat is one of the best exercises to do for lower body? How low should one go? And should you bend your upper body while going down? Can anyone do this exercise? What are you really supposed to feel while doing this exercise?
You squat when you are going to stand up, or sit down. So basically the movement that should be done is of sitting down and then standing up. But in the gym you see people throwing their knees forward and down, in direction of the tips of the feet. Is this the proper form? Maybe they should pay attention to how they sit and stand before putting weight on their shoulders. Well when you sit down the knees bend with almost no movement of the lower legs. The upper body slightly leans forward without being rounded, so that your hips bend and your backside is seated. So when you do the squat, the knees should not go beyond the tips of your toes if you are not doing the full ROM. If you are doing the full ROM it is only physically natural that the knees are aligned with the feet or even slightly pass it to maintain balance, but that means you are on the tips of your toes. As for upper body, leaning forward is also natural. But there really isn’t a need to go lower than having your thighs at 90 degrees with your calves. This will recruit all front and back muscles of your legs. Yes, the Squat is an exercise that works ALL the muscles of the legs and your core and abdominal muscles, for you need to stabilize these muscles. For maximal contraction one should do the full ROM, maintain the proper posture (don’t slouch or hyperextend your hips when coming up), and to feel it more in the Quads, push off the balls of the feet. Now the intensity (weight) that one should use depends on the individual.
Yes there are many variations of the Squat, such as wide stance squat, dumbbell squat, fitness ball squat, and seated box to name a few, and changing it up can activate certain muscles of the legs a little more. The question at hand is who can do them depends on the individual. Generally, the Squat is an exercise used for improving strength to stabilize the joint of the knee, so almost everyone should do it with the variation that they are most comfortable with, regarding the purpose of training (hypertrophy, fat loss, rehab, or others). How low you should go, and what intensity should be used depends on the ROM capacity of each individual. For example, those with knee (anterior/posterior) ligament injuries will be able to do isometric (no movement) strengthening exercises with the fitness ball at the 90º. And some may be able to do it actively at shorter knee angles (20º – 60º). Today many injuries in non-athletes are caused by weak muscles of the legs, where the knee takes on all of the body weight pressure due to improper posture and overloading. With the obesity epidemic many suffer from problems due to the lack of a support system of the Quads and the lower leg muscles for the knees (Ice cream Cones and Toothpicks).
So as commented on before (Ice Cream Cones and Toothpicks) train your legs! And remember advanced weightlifters are bothered by leg days because if trained right, one can hardly walk after, and not because they don’t think it’s not important. And if trained right, you might not fit into your pants until the muscle swelling improves, which is why on a contest day you DON’T warm up your Quads.