Legs: Training, Workouts, Anatomy & Tips for Men

Legs: Training, Workouts, Anatomy & Tips for Men

Legs: Training, Workouts, Anatomy & Tips for Men

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               When you walk in the gym, how do you recognize the true hard workers? You look at their legs. Legs are hard to train and develop, but once you get there everyone will admire and envy you for your hard work. Also, you cannot have a good looking physique without good looking legs. They are literally half of our bodies. Let us tackle this subject and break down the leg anatomy so you can improve your legs.

Leg Anatomy

               In general sense the human leg is the lower extremity, including the foot, thigh, calves, quadriceps, even the hip and gluteal area. On the other hand, in human anatomy, the part that you call leg is only the lower extremity extending from the knee to the ankle. In this article I will use the term, leg, in general sense.

               There are five big muscle groups: quadriceps femoris, hamstrings, glutes, adductors and calves.

                  Quadriceps femoris

Image showing the muscle heads in the quadriceps femoris.

Quadriceps femoris, or commonly referred to as quadriceps or quads is a large muscle group on your legs located between the hip and knee. Its main function is to flex the knee. It is divided into four separate parts or “heads”

               Quadriceps femoris, or commonly referred to as quadriceps or quads is a large muscle group on your legs located between the hip and knee. Its main function is to flex the knee. It is divided into four separate parts or “heads”:

  • Rectus femoris is located in the middle of the front of the thigh. It originates from the anterior inferior iliac spine and inserts into the patellar tendon as one of the four quadriceps muscles. Its functions include flexing the thigh at the hip joint and extending the leg at the knee joint.
  • The Vastus lateralis muscle is located on the outer portion of the quads and it is the largest and most powerful muscle in the quadriceps. It originates from the Femur and inserts into the Patella and Tibial tuberosity. Its functions are to extend and stabilize the knee.
  • Vastus medialis is located medially in the quadriceps muscle group. It originates from the medial side of the femur and inserts into the quadriceps tendon. Its main function is to extend the knee. Also, it is the muscle you work when you want the tear-drop shape.
  • Vastus intermedius is a deep muscle. It lays underneath the rectus femoris. It originates from the anterior and lateral surface of the femur and inserts into the patellar tendon.

              There are large varieties of exercise that target the quadriceps femoris. When you want the lift to be more quad dominant you need to angle your shins. If the shins are vertical (perpendicular to the ground), as a result, the lift will be more glute and hamstring dominant. Some exercises include: lunge, rear lunge, side lunge, walking lunge, single leg split squat, side split squat, single leg squat, squat, front squat, full squat. You can do these exercises with either a barbell or dumbbells.

                 Hamstrings

               In human anatomy, a hamstring, commonly referred to as “hams” is any of the three tendons located on the backside of the thigh muscles (the back of your legs). Because they help in the movement of the hip and knee, their stability also, it is important to make them stronger so they can help with the stability in your quadriceps exercises.

Image showing the location of each hamstring

History of soccerIn human anatomy, a hamstring, commonly referred to as “hams” is any of the three tendons located on the backside of the thigh muscles (the back of your legs). The hamstrings have three main muscle groups: biceps femoris, semimembranosus and semitendinosus.

               Well developed hamstrings will allow for increase in quadriceps development. The hamstrings have three main muscle groups: biceps femoris, semimembranosus and semitendinosus.

  • The biceps femoris us a muscle located in the posterior. As the name implies it has two heads. The long head arises from the tuberosity of the ischium and the short head arises from the linea aspera. They both insert at the head of the fibula. We use both of them in knee flexion.
  • The semimebranosus is the most medial of the hamstring muscles. It originates from the ischial tuberosity and insert into the medial condyle of tibia. Its function is to extend the hip joint and flex the knee joint.
  • The semitendinosus is the long superficial muscle on the back of the thigh. It arises from the tuberosity of the ischium and insert into the medial surface of tibia. Its functions are to flex the knee and extend the hip.

              Exercises that work these muscles directly include: Romanian deadlift, single leg Romanian deadlift, stiff leg deadlift, glute-ham raise, hamstring raise and hyperextensions. A lot of other exercises target the hamstrings indirectly but nonetheless intensely. They include many gluteus maximus exercises and lower spine erector exercises.

                  Gluteal muscles

               The gluteal muscles, commonly referred to as just glutes, are a group of three muscles that make up our buttocks (butt). Besides their potential beauty this muscles help in keeping your trunk upright.  Gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus make up the gluteal area.

Showing the muscles in the gluteal area (butt), all three of them

acefitness.orgBesides their potential beauty this muscles help in keeping your trunk upright. Gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus make up the gluteal area.

  • The gluteus maximus muscle is the main extensor muscle of the hip and the most visible muscle on the buttocks. It originates from the sacrum and the lumbar fascia and inserts into the iliotibial tract. Its most powerful action is to cause the body to regain erect position.
  • The gluteus medius is a deeper muscle and people are not too concernerd about it, but it plays major role in stabilizing the hip and thigh. It originates from the ilium, under the gluteus maximus and insert into the greater trochanter of the femur. Together with the gluteus minimus they abduct the thigh and internally rotate the thigh.
  • The gluteus minimus is the smales of the gluteal muscles and its location is underneath the gluteus medius. It starts from the outhe rportion of the hip and inserts to the outer thigh. It mainly works together with the gluteus medius.

              Any exercise that works and stretches the buttocks is good for the gluteal muscles, for example lunges, hip thrusts, squats, deadlift, leg press and any other movements including external hip rotation and extension.

                 Adductors

               Not many people pay attention to their adductors. That is because they do not know their importance. With strong adductors your stability will be better during unilateral movements and will help you with better form for your squat. There are quite a few of them, but we will discuss five of them.

Image showing the adductors and muscles around them.

Beth OharaNot many people pay attention to their adductors. That is because they do not know their importance. With strong adductors your stability will be better during unilateral movements and will help you with better form for your squat.

  • The adductor brevis is located deep to the pectineus. It originates from the inferior ramus and the body of the pubis. It inserts into the lesser trochanter and linea aspera. Its function is to adduct the hip.
  • The adductor longus is a skeletal muscle in the thigh. It arises from the pubic body and inserts into the medial third of linea aspera. Its function is to adduct the hip and flex the hip joint.
  • The adductor magnus is a large triangular muscle, located on the medial side of the thigh. It originates from the pubis and tuberosity of the ischium. It inserts into the linea aspera and adductor tubercle of the femur. Its function is to adduct, flex and extend the hip.
  • The pectineus muscle is located at the anterior part of the upper medial aspect of the thigh. It originates ftom the pectineal line of the pubic bone and inserts into the pectineal lline of the femur. Its function is to flex and adduct the thigh.
  • The gracilis is the most superficial muscle on the medial side of the thigh. It originates from the ischiopubic ramus and inserts into the tibia. Its function is to flex, medially rotate and adduct the hip.

               Exercises that work the adductors include: sumo squat, sumo deadlift, linge, angled lunge, rear lunge, side lunge, walking lunge and split squat. If you want max isolation to target the adductors you need to do exercise like cable hip adductions, lying hip adductons, seated hip adductions and standing hip adductions.  Single leg leg-press also helps.

                  Calves

Showing the muscles and tendons in the back portion of the lower leg.

webmd In human anatomy the calves are the muscles on the back portion on the lower leg. The two largest muscles of which the calves are composed of are the gastrocnemius and soleus.

               You cannot have great legs, without a good set of calves. In human anatomy the calves are the muscles on the back portion on the lower leg. The two largest muscles of which the calves are made up of are the gastrocnemius and soleus.

  • The gastrocnemius muscle is a very powerful superficial muscle. It is unique because it crosses the back of the knee. It originates from the lateral and medial condyle of the femur. The two heads, lateral and medial then insert into the Achilles tendon. Its functions are to flex the foot and knee.
  • The soleus muscle is a muscle located in the lower back part of the leg, underneath the gastrocnemius. Together with the two heads of the gastrocnemius, some scientis consider them to be a single muscle, the triceps surae. It originates from the fibula and medial border of tibia; inserts into the Achilles tendon. The soleus is used in plantar flexion (movement in which the toes are moved away from the shin).

Training Tips

               You need to force your legs to grow. They consist of many muscles so you will need a good amount of volume, many angles and different exercises. As a result they will resist you as hell, but you need to push through and want more! Use lower rep range for compound exercises and moderate and high rep ranges for isolation exercises. Remember to keep a good form. A lot of the exercises put a lot of effort on the back. With correct form you lower the risk of getting injured. Back injuries are the hardest to recover from.

               The absolute best way that you can train your calves is the calf raises. If you do only one exercise for calves than do the standing calf raise. You can change your foot position. When toes position outward (aprox. 30-degrees) you work the inner head, when toes positioned straight ahead, you work the back of the calves and when your toes are position inward (aprox. 30-degrees) you work the outer head. Other than that, do seated calf raises and donkey calf raises.

               Deadlifts and squats are the best exercises for glutes. Because all of the muscles in the gluteal area have similar functions, when you are training gluteus maximus, you are training the medius and minimus too. Studies have shown that the deeper you go into your squat, the more activation you get.

             Another great exercise for glutes and quads is the Bulgarian split squat. I do not see many guys doing it. Maybe because it looks a bit silly, but trust me it hurts. One of the hardest exercises I have ever done.  You can even do them like John Meadows does.

 

Workouts

                   Workout 1

 

1. Barbell squat (4 sets of 4-6 reps)

              When performing squats, to avoid injury keep the back straight and as upright as possible. To correctly feel the action if the gluteus, it is important to bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor.

2. Dumbbell lunges (4 sets of 12 reps)

              As you lunge forward, you put all of the weigh on your leading leg. It is a relatively difficult exercise to perform because of the balance required. Beginners should start with very light weight.

3. Leg press (3 sets of 12-15 reps)

              If you place your feet lower on the footplate, you will primarily stress your quadriceps. Conversely, if you place your feet on the top of the footplate, you will shift more emphasis to the buttocks and hamstrings. If you spread your legs, the adductors will be more involved.

4. Lying leg curls (3 sets of 12 reps)

              When feet are extended it puts more stress on the hamstrings. When feet are dorsiflexed it puts more stress on the gastrocnemius.

5. Leg extensions (3 sets of 20 reps)

               This is the best quadriceps isolation movement. The more you incline the back of the seat, the more intensely you work your muscles as you raise your legs.

6. Standing calf raises (4 sets of 12 reps)

               This exercise works the triceps surae. To stretch the muscles correctly, be sure to rise up as high as possible on your toes as you perform every repetition.

 

                    Workout 2

 

1. Barbell squat (4 sets of 6-8, 6-8, 8-10, 8-10 reps)

               When performing squats, to avoid injury keep the back straight and as upright as possible. To correctly feel the action if the gluteus, it is important to bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor.

2. Leg press (4 sets of 8-10, 8-10, 10-12, 10-12 reps)

               If you place your feet lower on the footplate, you will primarily stress your quadriceps. Conversely, if you place your feet on the top of the footplate, you will shift more emphasis to the buttocks and hamstrings. If you spread your legs, the adductors will be more involved.

3. Walking dumbbell lunge (3 sets of 10, 12, 14 steps per side)

               As you lunge forward, you put all of the weigh on your leading leg. It is a relatively difficult exercise to perform because of the balance required. Beginners should start with very light weight.

4. Leg extensions (3 sets of 10 reps)

               This is the best quadriceps isolation movement. The more you incline the back of the seat, the more intensely you work your muscles as you raise your legs.

5. Romanian deadlift (3 sets of 8, 10, 12 reps)

               To make this movement safer, slightly bend your knees. To get better construction in the hamstrings, never do this movement with heavy weight. In this exercise, negative phase is excellent for stretching the back of your thighs. If you do it regularly, it will reduce the likelihood of injury when doing heavy squats.

6. Lying leg curls (3 sets of 12 reps)

               When feet are extended it puts more stress on the hamstrings. When feet are dorsiflexed it puts more stress on the gastrocnemius.

7. Standing calf raises (4 sets of 12 reps)

               This exercise works the triceps surae. To stretch the muscles correctly, be sure to rise up as high as possible on your toes as you perform every repetition.

 

                    Workout 3

 

1. Hack squat (3 sets of 4-6 reps)

               This movement maximizes emphasis on the quadriceps. If you place your feet close together you will place more emphasis on the gluteal muscles. If you spread your feet, you will shift the work to the adductors. To protect from back injury, make sure to contract your abdominals.

2. Romanian deadlift (3 sets of 8 reps)

               To make this movement safer, slightly bend your knees. To get better construction in the hamstrings, never do this movement with heavy weight. In this exercise, negative phase is excellent for stretching the back of your thighs. If you do it regularly, it will reduce the likelihood of injury when doing heavy squats.

3. Dumbbell lunges (4 sets of 25 reps each leg)

                As you lunge forward, you put all of the weigh on your leading leg. It is a relatively difficult exercise to perform because of the balance required. Beginners should start with very light weight.

4. Leg extensions (3 sets of 20 reps)

               This is the best quadriceps isolation movement. The more you incline the back of the seat, the more intensely you work your muscles as you raise your legs.

5. Lying leg curls (3 sets of 12 reps)

               When feet are extended it puts more stress on the hamstrings. When feet are dorsiflexed it puts more stress on the gastrocnemius.

6. Standing calf raises (4 sets of 12 reps)

               This exercise works the triceps surae. To stretch the muscles correctly, be sure to rise up as high as possible on your toes as you perform every repetition.

Conclusion

              The knowledge and workouts are there. They are only as good as the work you put in regularly. If you do half-ass workouts you will get nothing. You are already in pain, get a reward from it.  If you want everyone to admire and envy you for your dedication and hard work you need to give your everything on each and every repetition using perfect form and resting as needed. No day will be harder than leg day. Suck it up and train even harder than last time.

              Because of the large number of muscles I will make sure to post more workouts for every muscle group individually.

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2 Comments

  1. Neveah  - 9th March 2017 - 08:50
    Reply /

    Thanks so much Anthony, I apripceate the kind words. I am very blessed with an incredible family, a thriving business, the best team I could ever ask for, amazing clients and friends like you that I have had the privilege to work with over the years.

  2. Zapya Apk  - 5th May 2017 - 17:00
    Reply /

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