The Importance of Training
Training your leg muscles isn't just about getting great legs but it is also about maximising your upper body development if that is one of your goals as well as stimulating the anabolic hormones in your body like, testosterone and growth hormone.
There is actually an exercise theory called, 'The Indirect Effect', which states that by exercising the large muscles of the body, i.e. the hips and leg muscles, you can indirectly stimulate the growth of the other muscles as well. For example, an unpublished research study found that by only performing the squat exercise subjects could not only increase the size of their hip and leg muscles but could also increase the size of their chest, back and arm muscles as well.
It was theorised that since the squat exercise works such a large muscle mass in the lower body it stimulates the body to produce more of the anabolic hormones that promote muscle growth. This then affects muscles throughout the body rather than simply the hip and thigh muscles alone.
There are several leg exercises that are beneficial in helping to develop your hip and thigh muscles and therefore, achieve great legs, even if your goal isn't to develop 'big muscles'.
Most of these leg exercises are 'compound' exercises, which means they involve movement around more than one joint. Compound exercises are said to be the most effective exercises whenever you train any muscle group. You may notice that I haven't included a couple of the very popular 'isolation' exercise in this list, leg extension and leg curl.
Even though these exercises are featured in gyms throughout the world, I don't think that they're necessary in order to get great legs or in order to train your thigh muscles effectively. Plus, many anatomical experts believe that those two exercises in particular put more stress on the knee joint compared to any other leg exercise.
Of course, if you're training for a bodybuilding or fitness competition then there may be some benefit in performing these isolation exercises because they can help you work your thigh muscles through a greater range of motion and therefore stimulate a greater number of muscle fibres. However, if you're not etting ready to step on stage then I just feel that you may be better off avoiding these two exercises entirely.
Furthermore, some gyms are also equipped with adduction machines. These isolation exercise machines work the adductor muscles (the leg muscles on the inner thigh), the muscles that bring your thighs together. Some gyms may even have abduction machines, which work the muscles on the outer thigh. Again, I don't think these two exercises are necessary if you want to get great legs. The shearing forces they put on the hip joints are unnecessary and the movements themselves, like the two exercises mention earlier, are not 'natural' movements. This means these movements are not performed when doing any 'normal', 'everyday' movements. Therefore, it is suggested that they are avoided when training. The exception being of course, if you're getting ready for a competition and then, many of the practices you need to perform are considered to be quite un-natural!
If you would like to find out how to structure your workouts correctly in order to get the best results, then I suggest reading the article titled, How to Structure Your Weight Training Programs.
Also, if you would like to learn more about training your leg muscles and how to perform the leg exercises mentioned here, then get a copy of Weight Lifting For Beginners. It will provide you with an in-depth explanation of how to perform the exercises correctly so you get the best possible results from your training.
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