Health & Fitness

Why you shouldn’t skip leg day

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Robinson Joel Nairobi demonstrates how to do a leg press on November 3, 2021. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

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Summary

  • Having a perfect lower body is a dream for most fitness fanatics and those procrastinating on starting exercises next month or a year after.
  • However, wrong exercises may give you a disproportionate body which is heavy on the upper part and slimmer on the waist downwards.
  • Without proper training you may be left suffering from “chicken legs” or “Johny Bravo” syndrome.

Having a perfect lower body is a dream for most fitness fanatics and those procrastinating on starting exercises next month or a year after.

However, wrong exercises may give you a disproportionate body which is heavy on the upper part and slimmer on the waist downwards.

Without proper training you may be left suffering from “chicken legs” or “Johny Bravo” syndrome.

Fitness trainer Robinson Joel, popularly known as Robby-Piyo, of AV Fitness Centre located in Kilimani, Nairobi explains that three major factors contribute to gym-goers having an unbalanced body.

The lower body forms the larger muscles in the thighs, hips, and legs. This makes it hard to see quick results as is witnessed while exercising the upper body. Also, many people do not put in as much hard work. The second factor is people do not work for their body types.

“Not every lower body exercise will work for your body type,” says Robinson.

The other factor is poor nutrition, yet you expect quick results. He recommends that to tone and shape the lower body, eat lots of proteins and carbohydrates in equal measure as well as some fats.

“You cannot be eating as usual while training unusually. Load up on a lot of calories after exercises including macronutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. A good meal will involve something like roasted potatoes with chicken breast and rice. Chicken breast has a lot of protein,” says the trainer.

Robinson explains that for one to have a well-defined lower body, they need to combine explosive movements like box jumps, staggered cone jumps, and tyre hops with strength training.

He states that with these exercises, you are targeting a group of four muscles found in the lower body including the hamstrings, the powerhouse muscles of the leg, on the back of the thigh; the quadriceps, commonly known as the tear-drop muscles as they form the shape of a teardrop when well-formed, on the front of the thigh; the glutes on the butt and muscles on the legs attached to the tibia and fibula.

Then there are the hip flexor muscles which are responsible for giving more stability during agile movements as well as powering the legs during fast motions.

“A good lower body training routine will incorporate all the four muscle groups. It is advisable that during a gym leg workout day, you never combine it with any other workout but purely focus on the four muscles,” he advises.

For well-toned legs, find a proper workout routine that heavily loads up on the calf muscles to help them grow. To achieve this, incorporate strength training and explosive movements, which will lead to the muscles in the leg splitting.

“When you explode and jump it is like carrying twice your body weight. This is why sprinters have the best calf muscles you can wish for. This is because their sprint training routine involves a lot of explosive movements,” he says.

Some of the strength training exercises, says trainer Robinson, include the following:

Squats

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This is a compound exercise to build legs and power up the abdominal area. For proper technique, make sure the knees are in line or behind the toes but not in front. The back must be straight and footing flat with the legs slightly wider than shoulder—width. If you want to build the leg muscles, then you must go heavy on the squats. Add weights when doing squats and do more reps.

If the objective is just to chisel and tone the lower body, then do low-intensity high reps of between 15 and 20 with weights three-quarters of an individual’s body weight.

“There is no leg day without a squat. If you have a weak lower back, use a belt. The belt helps to balance front and back abdominal pressure, ensuring the spine is in a proper position while squatting.”

Leg press machine

This workout is a good substitute for the squat for those with problems doing squats. “The heavier you become, the most difficult it is to properly execute a squat. A leg press machine is a good substitute to avoid injuring your back while doing squats,” he says.

Sitting at a predetermined position, load manageable weight and then push while either angling your feet differently, either toe pointed in or out. One can also isolate each leg at a time and see which is stronger than the other to bring the weaker one up to speed.

Leg extension

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Robinson Joel demonstrates how to do a leg extension on November 3, 2021. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

Robinson explains that there are different ways of doing this exercise. First, it is the posing pattern where you go slowly up and then collapse down or the one where you go up then hold it for a couple of seconds before lowering them.

“Go heavy if you want to build or grow muscles but light with higher reps if you want to tone the muscles.”

Hammer curl machine

This focuses more on the hamstrings and is good in isolating the powerhouse muscles.

Calf raise

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Robinson says this exercise hits the lower calves and isolates them to have a better structure and not chicken legs although not many people like doing them.

Others

There are other machine-oriented exercises including a kickback machine that targets the glutes, adductor and abductor which heavily isolate the hip flexor muscles and are very popular with female fitness enthusiasts.

The trainer recommends kettle-bell sumo squats, goblet squats, lunge step up, dumbbell box step-ups, and dumbbell walking lunges as some of the best outside-machine exercises for a good lower body.