‘Do I Have to Work Out My Legs?’ — Ask Coach Rick Scarpulla
'I hate to work legs. I find it so boring. Do I really have to?' -- Darren, 24, Ohio
The answer is simple -- yes, you need to work your legs. Regardless of your goals, leg work is very important to your training and overall physical health.
With that said, if you are an athlete you should not only be working legs but hitting them hard in many ways. The hamstrings and glutes are the most important muscle groups to an athlete. These are the muscle groups that make you run faster and explode out of the hole faster. If you have a skinny little butt and flat hamstrings you got no game. If you look at the fastest, most powerful athletes in any sport the common thread is well developed hamstrings and glutes. The hamstrings and glutes, along with the erectors and obliques, make up the “posterior chain.” That is where a great deal of our power comes from. I'm not eliminating the quads from this conversation, they must also be worked, but based on your question I'm assuming you do very little work on your posterior chain.
The number one leg exercise, referred to as “the king of all exercises” is the squat.
In my gym there is nothing like squat day. Friday night is called "The Friday Night Squat Show." There is nothing like the feel of the heavy iron across your shoulders. The music gets cranked up loud and chalk fills the air. The big plates get loaded, first 2 then 3 and then we keep going until the bar is bending across your back. The intensity grows to a fever pitch and the big boys push until we can’t push no more! It is not for the timid or the faint of heart, it is not for the meek. It is intense to say the least. Each man trying to out lift the other. Each man pushing past the breaking point mentally and physically. I get a rush just thinking about it! That’s training!
If you only do one exercise for your legs it should be the squat. It works all the leg and core muscles. I recommend box squatting (pictured) for my athletes because of the break in the kinetic chain. Regardless of what kind of squat you choose, make sure you “man up and squat deep” as we say at West Point. Don’t curtsy like some little girl. Go down until your knees and your hips are parallel.
As far as set and reps for the general fitness athlete mix it up do low rep heavy weight, do moderate weight mid range reps (6-8) Use lightweight with high reps. Use them all and mix it up each week.
You need to incorporate leg training as a regular part of your training. Your body and mind will feel better. You know you feel like a chump avoiding leg training. If your gym doesn’t allow squatting find another place to train. I bet deep down inside you want to squat big weight. Gotta squat little weight first. It will grow faster than you think. You need to do lots of hamstring and glutes work. We like jump training and hack squats also. Good mornings and deadlifts are staples as well. You have to work the legs. Keep lifting and Train Hard-Train Smart!
Rick Scarpulla, the creator of The Ultimate Athlete Training Program, is a highly sought-after and renowned strength, speed and conditioning coach who works in developing top high school, college and professional athletes and programs throughout North America. You can follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.