There are many myths and misconceptions about training legs in the gym, and it is time to focus in on a few of these, to make a statement in your training, rather than make a mistake in your training. Lucky for you, Jennifer Brown, Fitness Coach at the Australian Institute of Fitness is here to put those myths to bed and answer FIVE very common misconceptions about training your pins.
Short answer, YES! By avoiding legs altogether in your program, you run the risk of muscular imbalance. To obtain muscular balance, and to gain maximum results from your training, you must include legs in your weekly sessions. The muscles in your lower body are some of the largest muscle groups in the body, and by incorporating compound exercise’, the MORE you head away from Homeostasis, meaning your body has to work harder in recovery, to return to its rested state. This also means you will have a bigger calorie deficit, greater hormone response and as a result, you burn more calories.
Isolation certainly has its place in a program, especially if you are training for a specific goal, or in rehab, but if you choose only to perform this type of exercise, you won’t have the opportunity to challenge your strength with heavy lifting. For the beginner to intermediate strength trainer, compound movements are the best options. Why? Because your nervous system has to work harder when you engage more muscles. This also allows a greater adaptations of the body, and in return, greater results.
This myth is true, if you’re referring to the beginner strength trainers, who are learning the movement pattern, but for those seasoned lifters, free weight exercises are better option. This is because they force the energy systems to work harder in order to keep you stable with good posture, and they vary the range of motion (ROM) of your joints. By only using machine weights, you will find that the machine itself will guide your joints through the movement, which does limit the challenge of stability for the joints, and core muscles. It is not very often in life, that we are required to hop into a space (e.g. leg press machine) and push something heavy with our legs. It is much more likely that we will be required in life to lift something heavy off the floor, such as a child. So this is why a free weight squat would be better in a program. TIP: When making the transition from machine to free weights, this is a great time to engage with a Personal Trainer in you haven’t already, so they can make sure you are training safely and with correct technique.
Put simply, if you vary the exercises, but keep the sets, reps and intensity the same, you won’t get the gains. You need to vary the intensity to obtain maximum results from your workout. As you become more and more experienced with your strength training, you can consider taking your body beyond what you normally do by increasing your weights, which will allow your body to release extra growth hormones. When it comes to increasing the resistance of each exercise, or increasing the amount of reps you are doing, you may want to get your Personal Training on deck to help spot each exercise and ensure you are working safely and efficiently.
Yes, by not giving your body, and muscles enough time to recover between workouts, you put yourself at a higher risk of injury, plus you will limit the benefits of each workout as you won’t be able to train at your usual capacity.
For the nervous system to recover enough to perform exercises again, as a guide you should wait at least 72 hours between heavy strength sessions. This is relative to the workout intensity, and experience of the lifter as to when you can perform this session again. A simple way to remember this is, the harder you train, the more time you need to recover, SIMPLE. The time between sessions can be used to train different areas of the body, having a rest day, or incorporating a stretch and flexibility session into your regime.