How to Build a Pair of Muscular Legs as a Natural Trainer
By Ali Kuoppala | Last reviewed Tue 25 September 2018
Medical Review by Dr. Stefano Pizzo, MD
Oh, the leg day, the most fearsome day of the Week for most lifters. Should you once again skip it?
No. In this article, you’ll learn the perfect methods of building those defined muscular legs naturally.
Some men want to avoid leg training as they’re worried that their legs get too big and they can’t fit into jeans anymore, That problem though is relatively easy to solve. No man needs to fit into skinny jeans, naturally trained muscular legs will fit into normal jeans just fine. So, stop wearing skinny jeans and get some power into those chicken legs.
Honestly, it’s up to you whether you want to get bad-ass leg muscles or not, if you do, this article will teach you the fundamentals of properly training your legs for balanced musculature and definition, which is what you should strive as a natural lifter.
Know the Muscles you Work With
Your legs and calves can be divided into the following 9 main muscle fiber bundles…
- Hamstring muscles (the back part of legs);
- Bicep femoris
- Quadricep muscles (the front part of legs);
- Rectus femoris (on top of vastus intermedius on the image)
- Vastus lateralis
- Vastus medialis
- Vastus intermedius
- Calf muscles;
- Gastrocnemius (two headed muscle on the top layer of calves, cut off in the image)
- Soleus (large muscle mostly underneath the Gastrocnemius)
Optimal Training Frequency and Set/Rep Patters for Leg Growth
As it is with any other muscle of the human body, your legs muscles grow best when subjected to heavy weight training that includes the principles of progressive overload.
In other words, a natural trainee looking to maximize his natural leg growth and definition, needs to train with heavy enough weight to force muscular strength gains, and do this with progressively heavier and heavier weights week-by-week to actually force adaptation to bigger loads of weight. This, instead of high-rep pump BS is the real way to grow muscle naturally, and unless you grasp it, you will be forever spinning your wheels.
What you also need to remember is that leg muscles are the largest of your body, and when you exercise them, you’re going to really exhaust the central nervous system (CNS), which is why proper rest days, as well as not going too high on volume are to be remembered if you ever intend to keep your progress linear.
Good rule of thumb that most elite trainers seem to agree with is that you should pick 1-2 main exercises, along with 2-3 assistance exercises for your leg muscles. The main lifts should be multi-joint exercises done with heavy weight, low reps, and lowish’ sets (think 2-6 reps, 2-4 sets). Assistance lifts can be the more isolated type of exercises, and the rep range should go bit higher (for muscle glycocen store expansion, consider 8-12 reps and 3-5 sets).
These are all just guidelines, but here’s what this could look like in practice;
- Main exercise for overall leg growth 4×3
- Main exercise for the quadriceps 6×2
- Assistance exercise for hamstrings 10×4
- Assistance exercise for quadriceps 12×2
- Assistance exercise for calves 12×2
- Another assistance exercise for calves 12×2
Best Exercises for Leg Growth
These exercises were not picked out by random, instead, they’re a combination of recommendations from elite trainers and findings from studies using EMG to measure maximal muscular activation.
- Best (main) exercises for overall leg muscle activation;
- Best assistance exercises for hamstrings and quads;
- Finally to hit the calves;
NOTE: Click the links for videos.
For proper leg growth you don’t need huge arsenal of exercises with crazy muscle confusion programs, hit the above heavy 1-2 times a week and you’re good.
Here’s a program example;
- Squat 5×3
- Leg press 6×3
- Lying leg curls 10×4
- Hack squat 12×2
- Standing barbell calf raise 12×2
- Donkey calf raise 12×2
- 5-10 minute walk on the treadmill with max incline (to wear out calves).
Leg training is no rocket science. Hit key movements 1-2 times a week with heavy enough weight, and focus on making small weekly progress to force bodily adaptation. There’s no way you wouldn’t grow doing that.
Also if you’re looking for a full training manual for how to maximize the hormonal output of training (along with getting ripped to shreds)…