The Secret to Building Big, Strong Legs!

Big legs are the foundation to any top quality physique, it’s equivalent to the foundations of a home – What is a home without big and strong foundations?

Squats

To many, the belief that you have to perform endless sets of squats is actually, in my opinion, a giant misconception. Speaking anecdotally, Squats are last on my list when it comes to my own training, and I’m proud of my wheels!

Are Squats a waste of time?

Let’s get this clear, am I saying squats are a waste of time? No. Not at all. But what I am saying, is that there are many other exercises that are just as, if not, more efficient in your pursuit of gaining bigger legs. Squats DO have a place in leg training, after all, they are a testosterone inducing compound exercise, so by all means, keep them in your training regime.

However, I firmly believe that in order to create big, strong and well proportioned legs, you mustn’t neglect isolation exercises, machines, bodyweight exercises and the use of smart training methods.

Other Exercises

When it comes to leg training, there are plenty of exercises one can do. My personal favourites include; Leg presses, Leg Extensions, Leg Curls, Squat machines and the master of all, Lunges! Speaking of lunges, why would I put them above squats? Because they are gruelling to perform and taxing on the body. As anybody that has grabbed a bar or pair of dumbbells and decided to execute walking lunges would know, it’s painful! Walking lunges engage every muscle in your leg, and in my experience, activate more muscle fibres than squats. In addition, there isn’t as much stress put on the spine, especially if you use dumbbells to lunge with, instead of a bar.

Leg Training Methods

I suggest using a mixture of high & low repetitions for leg training whilst also switching between heavy and light weights. If you think logically, your legs are used to supporting your body on a daily basis, everything we do is through our legs. This leads me to believe that our legs require the use of heavy weights BUT with plenty of reps OR a high number of sets. As a result, I personally tend to use a lot of supersets and dropsets in my own leg days. These training methods combined with heavy weights and plenty of reps, will leave your legs swollen, pumped and crying out for protein to create growth.

Next time you train legs, swap your endless sets of squats for leg presses, lunges & extensions. If you’re feeling hardcore, why not try all 3 as a superset?

BCAA’s and Their Effect on Training

What Are BCAA’s?

First of all, proteins are made up of 20 amino acids. Some of these the body can make for itself (non-essential) and some must be consumed through diet and supplementation (essential).

BCAA’s (Branched Chain Amino Acids) consist of the three essential amino acids, Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. These amino acids (BCAA’s) make up for 35% of the essential amino acid profile found in muscles. As these amino acids cannot be made in the body, it is ‘essential’ we get them through diet and supplementation. Naturally, BCAA’s are found in foods that are high in protein; animal protein and dairy has the highest BCAA’s concentrations.

How Do They Work?

BCAA’s are relevant in exercise because the body can use them as energy, but they are also vitally important in the role of protein synthesis. For anyone trying to gain or preserve lean muscle, BCAA’s should be a ‘must have’ supplement. In particular, Leucine is the main amino acid of the three that is used to produce energy during exercise. Leucine is also the key amino acid that stimulates muscle protein synthesis in the post-exercise recovery period.

This means, the more BCAA’s present in your body, pre, during and post exercise, the higher the chances are of preserving and gaining lean muscle.

When Should They Be Used?

The ideal time to supplement with BCAA’s would be prior or during training, although they can also be taken directly after training. Exercise suppresses muscle protein synthesis whilst concomitantly increasing the breakdown of muscle protein. Therefore, it is extremely useful to ingest BCAA’s before or during training. By doing so, muscle protein breakdown is halted and protein synthesis can ‘reboot’ immediately after training. BCAA’s can also be ingested directly after training or gained through a Whey Protein shake, all of the BPI Sports Proteins contain at least 5g of naturally occurring BCAA’s.

Vegetarians may struggle to get sufficient amounts of BCAA’s within their diet, although Soy Protein contains a full “essential” amino acid profile, the BCAA’s levels are lower than in sources such as Whey. Therefore, vegetarians will benefit from supplementing with BCAA’s.

BCAA’s & Weight Training

The purpose of resistance training is to induce muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth). Given that the BCAA’s are especially important in stimulating muscle protein synthesis (the process underpinning muscle hypertrophy), then it is extremely useful to supplement with BCAA’s before, during and/or after strength training sessions.

 

How To Build Bigger Arms

One of the most frequently asked gym questions is; ‘How do you grow bigger arms?’. Now this is a question, that in most cases, is asked by men, however, women can relate to this too. Think logically, a training schedule usually dedicates an entire workout to a particular body part; chest, back and legs etc, so why wouldn’t it be the same for arms?

Let’s say that someone has dedicated an entire workout to other body parts, they’ve seen them grow by using the same frequency, same intensity and growth has occurred equally throughout. So why should arms be any different? The answer is, they’re not! Arms are like any other muscle group, they need to be hit with the same intensity and same, if not more, frequency.

Frequency

Typically, people tend to train arms directly after a larger muscle group, i.e; ‘chest & triceps’ or ‘back & biceps’, but this simply won’t cut it. In some rare cases however, it might be enough, but if you’re reading this, it’s probably because you want to grow yours further or struggle to do so.

Training arms after another body part isn’t wrong, however, more frequency is probably necessary. Arms shouldn’t just be an afterthought, they deserve their own day! What if someone already has an arm day? In this case it would be sensible doubling up or increasing the intensity. Lifters must also understand that everybody is unique and people’s bodies respond to different methods, techniques and intensities etc. So gym goers should not be afraid to use ‘trial and error’ when it comes to training or specific muscle groups, such as arms. Some, simply aren’t blessed with the 1:1 ratio of symmetrical growth, therefore, will almost certainly have lagging body parts. Despite not being able to change our genetic code, what we can do, is everything in our power to get the most out of what we have. This usually starts with the frequency and intensity of our sessions.

Intensity

As previously mentioned, increasing frequency can be beneficial, but what about intensity?

There are many ways to increase the intensity of workouts and arm training is no different. There are many ways to increase the intensity of an arm workout, the weights lifted, number of sets and reps performed, even the tempo of the repetitions. Additionally, methods such as, dropsets, supersets and giant sets will also play a huge role in amplifying arm gains. If these methods aren’t part of a person’s training, they definitely should be!

Form

This is a topic that could lead to great detail, from remaining strict and tight, to knowing when and how to correctly ‘loosen’ up and break it. Form is extremely important to maximising physical gains, even more so for arms. Arms aren’t a muscle group that require any ‘personal best’ records to be broken, so keeping the tempo slow, controlled and full of focus is vital. To add, keeping the form tight whilst performing bicep curls or tricep extensions, is the best thing a lifter can ever do to benefit arm gains. Building bigger arms requires strict but heavy isolation exercises, so using ‘mind to muscle’ connection is the key to unlocking those stubborn arm gains!