Guilty of only working out upper body...no legs...HELP!?

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    Jul 13, 2009 3:45 PM GMT
    Hey guys,

    So for the past 3 years I've been lifting pretty regularly and gotten some nice results on my upper body. I usually hit the gym 4-5 times a week but yes, it's all upper body.

    I know I know...how horrible does it look when you see those guys at the gym with a kick ass upper bod and tiny little legs. YUCK. Well, in my defense I run often and walk a lot, so it's been enough leg exercise to give me definition.

    However, I knew sooner or later this day would come. I am unhappy with my legs. They are too small. I feel my body does not look properly proportioned at this point.
    The problem is that for 3 years I've focused on upper body. I am very comfortable in the gym...machines, free weights, whatever....except for when it comes to leg exercises.

    I always avoid the far end of the gym where all the leg equipment sits....it intimidates me. But today is the day. I usually work out at lunch and today I want to start making myself familiar with the equipment and developing leg muscles.

    My question to you all, is what exercise do you recommend starting with? Do I max out my weight at the beginning or so I start with low weight, high reps? And how many days a week should I be focusing on legs? I honestly know nothing about working legs out. Being a beginner, I want to be smart, do it right, not look stupid, and still be able to walk the next day. Though, I do admit I am excited to be sore. I miss being sore from lifting.

    Any advice would be great,
    Thanks!

    BILLY
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    Jul 13, 2009 3:50 PM GMT
    oh you are a bad person. bad bad bad.

    icon_wink.gif

    Legs are fun. Try:

    bulgarian spilt squats
    lunges
    leg press
    weighted squats (start off light... maybe in the smith machine to make you feel safe).
    machines: the quad one, leg extension, and the hammy one, leg curls. Also adductor and abductor machine will make your ass rounder.

    I love working legs.

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    Jul 13, 2009 4:02 PM GMT
    Thanks lostboy....too bad you're not local to come train me.

    And yes, I am horrible. I'll fix it though.
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    Jul 13, 2009 6:45 PM GMT
    Oh I´d fix you icon_wink.gif

    icon_twisted.gif

    that´s 7 exercises, not including variations, which you can split between two "legs days" or whatever you like.

    Oh and deadlifts. Just make sure that you get someone to show you the more complex things (Like deads and squats). And start light.
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    Jul 14, 2009 12:02 AM GMT
    start out slow. If the squat rack intimidates you. Try doing the squats on the smith machine, start with just the bar to get the movement down and then add some weight and then increase as you like. Get the form down first and get comfortable before you worry about doing anything heavy. Since you havent done legs before it wont take much to get them sore. VERY IMPORTANT TO USE PROPER FORM...Cant stress this enough, you dont want to get injured when you start going heavier.

    Try the leg press, again start with maybe a plate on each side and see how it feels and add from there. Since you havent been doing legs you should be able to add some pretty good weight each week.

    Leg Curls, leg extensions,..do 3-4 sets of everything. Dont forget calves either. Id recommend doing legs once a week
  • UFJocknerd

    Posts: 392

    Jul 14, 2009 12:24 AM GMT
    I second all above, except the bit about the Smith Machine. No reason to use that thing at all, in my opinion. There's nothing wrong with not being able to lift a ton on legs right away, and the Smith Machine movement is bad for the knees and unnatural. Just start with a lower weight doing real squats with proper form.
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    Jul 14, 2009 12:28 AM GMT
    Squats !!! if you don't have a gym buddy, Lunges holding weights in your hands and Leg press machine. . Prepare to eat a lot more food once you add leg work...its the largest muscle in your body.
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    Jul 14, 2009 12:33 AM GMT
    Awesome...thanks guys. I am REALLY excited to work them out and make them sexy.

    Alpha 13: Oh man...I can't afford my appetite right now as it is. I constantly want to eat. That part is gonna suck.
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    Jul 14, 2009 12:43 AM GMT
    Agree with JockNerd -- no Smith Machine squats -- just a horrible thing for a bunch of reasons I'm frankly too tired to type (I've typed them in forums like this for years, and I'm now I'm just cranky). Free bar squats are great. Just start with an empty bar and work on form form form form form! Your legs will be sore just with the empty bar if you're doing it right, trust me.

    I'm also of the opinion that the hamstring curl machines are absolutely evil (the RJ articles and the Diakadi Body guys also support this view, if memory serves). Awful for your knees. If you're doing good squats and lunges, and maybe using a leg press with legs up high on the platform, you're going to hit your hamstrings just fine.

    And if you're about getting a nice butt (some guys aren't), then make sure you hit the lunges regularly. You can do this with dumbbells, but I think using the bar (again, likely starting out with an empty bar -- it's 40 lbs, after all) is a more effective lunge than the dumbbell version. Deads are great for your butt too, but make sure you ask someone who knows what they're doing to show you.

    And what's this about wanting to walk afterward? One of the best things about doing a great leg workout is that you wont be able to sit down or get up two days afterward. Learn to love it!
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    Jul 14, 2009 12:50 AM GMT
    UFJocknerd saidI second all above, except the bit about the Smith Machine. No reason to use that thing at all, in my opinion. There's nothing wrong with not being able to lift a ton on legs right away, and the Smith Machine movement is bad for the knees and unnatural. Just start with a lower weight doing real squats with proper form.


    _________________

    agreed! 86 the smith machine. go for the squat rack. practice form with bar only until you get a good feel for the arched back, bending thru the hips and pushing thru the heels. add weight slowly.

    other favorites include deads, romanian deads, weighted lunges, good mornings, leg press, weighted back kick (cable), abductors, adductors, sitting calf, standing calf, calves on the press... i love working legs! dont be intimidated.
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    Jul 14, 2009 1:15 AM GMT
    As a beginner, you should stay away from machines. Stick with the basics.. squats and deadlifts. Focus on proper form and do high reps, like 10 -12 rep range. Once you get comfortable with doing squats, you can gradually add more weights. Same with deadlifts.

    I'm not a fan of the leg curl/extension machines. I think they're fine for doing pump sets at the end of your workout. But they should not be used as primary leg exercises. I think this is where a lot of guys go wrong.

    Smith Machine. No. If you've been working out for a while and you know what you're doing, the Smith Machine is great for targeting certain muscle groups. But as a beginner, stay away.

    Here's my leg routine..

    Back squats:

    10 minute warm-up on exercise bike
    1 warm-up set, 10 reps, light
    2 working sets, 6 - 8 reps, heavy

    Stiff-legged deadlifts:

    3 sets, 6 - 8 reps, heavy.

    Calves:

    I use the leg press machine, place the balls of my feet at the edge of the platform, and extend to get a full contraction on the calf muscles.

    3 sets, 20+ reps, feel the burn.

    Alternate leg routine..

    Front squats:

    10 minute warm-up on exercise bike
    2 semi-heavy sets on the leg press machine, 6 - 8 reps.
    3 sets, light/medium weight, 8 - 10 reps.

    Good mornings:

    3 sets, light/medium weights, 8 - 10 reps

    Plyo:

    3 sets of ski jumpers, 25 - 30 reps
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    Jul 14, 2009 1:55 AM GMT
    Machines are good if you have injuries or other reasons why you need the movement to be very constrained/limited. They are not *always* evil, but for an uninjured person they should not be the main part of the work out. Ham curl machine with heavy weights is NOT good. With lighter weights and done with total control it´s not evil, if used intelligently.

    work towards making squats, deads, lunges and leg press your main ones (and there are variations) Free weights mean you have to control in all dimensions... more muscles work, more stimulation, more growth.
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    Jul 14, 2009 2:36 AM GMT
    xrichx saidAs a beginner, you should stay away from machines. Stick with the basics.. squats and deadlifts. Focus on proper form and do high reps, like 10 -12 rep range. Once you get comfortable with doing squats, you can gradually add more weights. Same with deadlifts.

    I'm not a fan of the leg curl/extension machines. I think they're fine for doing pump sets at the end of your workout. But they should not be used as primary leg exercises. I think this is where a lot of guys go wrong.

    Smith Machine. No. If you've been working out for a while and you know what you're doing, the Smith Machine is great for targeting certain muscle groups. But as a beginner, stay away.

    Here's my leg routine..

    Back squats:

    10 minute warm-up on exercise bike
    1 warm-up set, 10 reps, light
    2 working sets, 6 - 8 reps, heavy

    Stiff-legged deadlifts:

    3 sets, 6 - 8 reps, heavy.

    Calves:

    I use the leg press machine, place the balls of my feet at the edge of the platform, and extend to get a full contraction on the calf muscles.

    3 sets, 20+ reps, feel the burn.

    Alternate leg routine..

    Front squats:

    10 minute warm-up on exercise bike
    2 semi-heavy sets on the leg press machine, 6 - 8 reps.
    3 sets, light/medium weight, 8 - 10 reps.

    Good mornings:

    3 sets, light/medium weights, 8 - 10 reps

    Plyo:

    3 sets of ski jumpers, 25 - 30 reps


    ___________________________________________

    agreed again. im not a big fan of leg/curl machines either. i do like Smith machine lunges tho... elevate the heel about 3/4 inch to really push thru the heel (i stand on a 10lb plate)... isolates that glute big time... feel the burn.

    speaking of glutes wheres the lunges in your routine??
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    Jul 14, 2009 3:14 AM GMT
    tee_bone said
    agreed again. im not a big fan of leg/curl machines either. i do like Smith machine lunges tho... elevate the heel about 3/4 inch to really push thru the heel (i stand on a 10lb plate)... isolates that glute big time... feel the burn.

    speaking of glutes wheres the lunges in your routine??

    My glutes develop naturally from all the combined leg exercise that I do. icon_biggrin.gif

    Ski jumpers are essentially jumping lunges. I guess people use different names for this exercise.

    I start down, in the lunge position, on the balls of my feet. Then I leap high, switch my feet, softly land on the balls of my feet, full movement back down to the lunge position again. And I perform this in rapid fire reps, no pause.

    First 2 sets, I'll do 25 - 30 reps. Final set, I'll grab a 25 lbs plate and hold it in front front of me with both hands, and do as many as possible.

    I find that this exercise really firms up the inner thigh/groin area. I think it's more effective than using the adductor machine. It also works the hamstrings nicely. And it hits the glutes, depending on how low you lunge.
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    Jul 14, 2009 11:42 AM GMT
    IDont agree with the smith machine hate. Ive been using the smith machine for over 10 years now, never had a problem, its totally comfortable for me and no pain in my knees. Its less intimidating than the squat rack so it could be an option for him. I also disagree that the hamstring curl machine is evil but I guess to each his own. Everyone has differing opinions based on their experience. You have to expeiment with different things to find out what works and what does not for you
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    Jul 14, 2009 11:47 AM GMT
    I'd hire a trainer to help you out. I did that a few years ago, specifically to get my legs into gear. Best thing I ever did; now Im quite comfortable with my ability doing a leg workout.
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    Jul 14, 2009 11:50 AM GMT
    xrichx said
    tee_bone said
    agreed again. im not a big fan of leg/curl machines either. i do like Smith machine lunges tho... elevate the heel about 3/4 inch to really push thru the heel (i stand on a 10lb plate)... isolates that glute big time... feel the burn.

    speaking of glutes wheres the lunges in your routine??

    My glutes develop naturally from all the combined leg exercise that I do. icon_biggrin.gif

    Ski jumpers are essentially jumping lunges. I guess people use different names for this exercise.

    I start down, in the lunge position, on the balls of my feet. Then I leap high, switch my feet, softly land on the balls of my feet, full movement back down to the lunge position again. And I perform this in rapid fire reps, no pause.

    First 2 sets, I'll do 25 - 30 reps. Final set, I'll grab a 25 lbs plate and hold it in front front of me with both hands, and do as many as possible.

    I find that this exercise really firms up the inner thigh/groin area. I think it's more effective than using the adductor machine. It also works the hamstrings nicely. And it hits the glutes, depending on how low you lunge.


    ___________________

    sure, presses, squats, skijumpers, deads...all work glutes to some degree. still i like to isolate glutes alone. its the only way mine are truely sore the next day.
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    Jul 14, 2009 1:06 PM GMT
    i agree with the guys above, the smith machine is useless. use the regular rack for squats!

    I mostly agree with everyone else. Start off slowly to get all the proper form then work up from there. My legs are the best part of my body, well at least thats what everyone says. I find that if you stick to a few core exercises like squats, lunges (walking are the best!), dead lifts, and some curls/extensions you are golden. I am also a big fan of varrying the workout each time. Changes things up alot!
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    Jul 14, 2009 1:24 PM GMT
    i agree with the guys above, the smith machine is useless. use the regular rack for squats!

    I mostly agree with everyone else. Start off slowly to get all the proper form then work up from there. My legs are the best part of my body, well at least thats what everyone says. I find that if you stick to a few core exercises like squats, lunges (walking are the best!), dead lifts, and some curls/extensions you are golden. I am also a big fan of varrying the workout each time. Changes things up alot!
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    Jul 14, 2009 5:23 PM GMT
    What are "good mornings?"


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    Jul 14, 2009 5:34 PM GMT
    get your "squat" on! I love squats icon_biggrin.gif
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    Jul 14, 2009 6:13 PM GMT
    BILLY_1980 saidWhat are "good mornings?"

    here is an animation:
    http://www.sports-db.com/strength/gym/legs/goodmorning/index.html

    you can also do back hyper-extensions also for your lower back and glutes with or without weight:
    http://www.ehow.com/how_4592896_do-reverse-hyperextension-exercise-bench.html
    6842.jpg
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    Jul 14, 2009 6:29 PM GMT
    Thanks....wow these looks intense but awesome....hmmm...wonder why I've never seen guys doing them at my gym....
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    Jul 14, 2009 6:55 PM GMT
    Rujock saidIDont agree with the smith machine hate. Ive been using the smith machine for over 10 years now, never had a problem, its totally comfortable for me and no pain in my knees.


    I retract any categorical statement I made here. There's always exceptions to everything. A philosophy I'm always espousing, but often forgetting.

    That said, two things:

    1) My issue with the Smith machine for squats has nothing to do with knees. It has to do with your back.

    2) Anecdotal observations, while they are perfectly valid for the individuals observed, do not equate to evidence.

    I really need a chalk board to explain this, and it's probably not worth it cause nobody reads "walls of text", but here goes anyway, for those two people who might read it...

    To minimize strain on your back, focus the squat on your legs, and minimize any risk of "throwing your back out" (which is the layman's term for any disc or vertebral issue that pinches a nerve and causes severe pain or spasms), you need to make sure that your standing position is always adjusted to your current center of gravity. Meaning: there is a point somewhere between leaning forward and leaning backwards that is the perfect balance which relaxes your back into its resting "S" shape, and allows all the muscles in your back and your core that come under stress when you lean forward or lean backward to relax as much as they can.

    Secondly, this "perfect balance point" will shift depending on your front/back center of gravity. Your center of gravity is determined by how your body mass is arranged relative to a plumb line dropped down from the center of your head.

    For example, if you stand straight up, with no weight on your back, that plumb line will thread its way somewhere just "behind" the "small" of your back and just "in front" of your lowest, biggest vertebrae (L5/S1). As you squat down to the bottom position of a squat (thighs parallel to the floor), this center of gravity shifts slightly forward during the squat, then returns (roughly) to it's original position at the top of the squat.

    Imagine a piece of chalk attached to the end of a bar held across your traps while squatting, then put a chalk board next to the bar so that the piece of chalk draws on the board as the squatter moves up and down. If the squatter has good form, and is maintaining the "perfect balance point" at all times during the movement, then what we'll see written on the chalk board is NOT a straight vertical line, but a line with a very slight curve -- like a bow (i.e. a bow for shooting arrows) at rest. The exact shape of this curve will vary slightly for every person, depending on how they are built, how tall they are, the exact shape of the curves in their spine, how their weight is distributed front to back ,etc. etc. etc.

    For the vast majority of folks, the "perfect balance point" will sweep out a slight curve -- for a very few, it may be such a slight curve that it's practically a straight line.

    Now to the point: the Smith machine ENFORCES a vertical line, which at the top and bottom of the squat movement is fine, assuming you position yourself under the bar correctly (most don't, I find). But in the middle of the motion, that same enforced straight line is going to force the vast majority of people OFF of their perfect balance point, and place unnecessary strain on their back. For low weights (this could be up to two 45 lb plates on either side, depending on the person's size and strength), the stress on your back of being off the perfect balance point may not be such a big deal. But everyone wants to move up in weight, and eventually it becomes much more problematic when you move off your balance point squatting 250lbs and up.

    Squatting with a free bar allows you to constantly adjust your center of gravity to maintain the perfect balance point. The inability to maintain proper balance is pretty well acknowledged for Smith machine squats (again, with all the exceptions I've mentioned), and has even spawned a new type of squat rack contraption which they just installed at my gym a while ago -- it's like a Smith machine except that rather than just a fixed up/down motion, it has a second track that allows a front/back motion as well. Pic below:

    maxrack_picture1.jpg

    The reason this contraption was invented is basically what I've labored to explain in way too many words.

    So... in conclusion, if you've been using the Smith machine without incident for 10 years, then you should definitely keep using the Smith machine. No problems, no conflicts with my advice. But for someone who's never worked legs, let alone squatted, he should probably pay more attention to general evidence for the population at large, rather than specific data points about what works for a particular individual. Eventually, he'll find his own perfect balance point, and hey, it may just end up on the Smith machine, like you. The probability of that outcome is non-zero, but it is probably quite low, however.

    OK, that's like the 10th time I've typed that in 10 years. I really should find something better to do with my time.

    * stares at air fuzzy *
  • UFJocknerd

    Posts: 392

    Jul 14, 2009 7:41 PM GMT
    BILLY_1980 saidWhat are "good mornings?"




    If you choose to do these (I never do them), use a SUPER low weight (really, just the bar to start out with). VERY easy to blow out a disc doing these and be in serious, serious pain with a major injury.