I know a few people who claim there is nothing worse than seeing a muscular guy with a stacked upper body and small legs.
But I'm here to tell you that there is.
In fact, there's something much, much worse.
Don't get me wrong here; I dislike it intensely when I hear guys say they skip leg day. But there are another group of people I feel for.
Let me introduce you to the guys who go to the gym and absolutely hammer their legs, week in and week out, who simply cannot force their legs to grow any bigger, no matter what.
Why is this worse than a top heavy bodybuilder who only focuses on chest and arms?
Because the first example above is a story of neglect, whereas the second example is a story of unrequited love. Of asking, and asking, and asking your legs to grow, only to receive nothing in return. And that's much harder to swallow.
If that doesn't get you "right in the feels", my friend, nothing will.
There are tons of guys and girls in that situation. I've been there myself, too (you've heard me talk about it in my YouTube videos), and if you consider yourself to be one of them then this article is going to be right up your street. For today I am going to show you how to get bigger legs even if you've been at a sticking point for as long as you can remember.
So let's take an in-depth look at Why Your Legs Won't Grow by running through my 5 main reasons why your legs are not responding to your workouts.
Many people are simply going through the motions on leg day.
Look around your gym the next time you go. These motherf**kers are easy to spot.
Because on "arm day" they'll spend 2 hours or more trying to hit the biceps brachialis from every conceivable angle. I used to know someone like this, he performed 12 exercises for triceps alone.
But come leg day, they plod though the same old "3 sets of 10 reps" routine that hasn't been working for as long as they can remember.
Leg extension (3 sets of 10 reps)... Leg curl (3 sets of 10 reps)... Calf raise machine (3 sets of 10 reps)...
This. Is. Madness.
If the muscle growth in your legs is lagging behind your upper body development, and you find yourself falling into this category, then you needn't go any further into this list because you have already identified your biggest roadblock on the way to making your legs bigger - you aren't training hard enough!
To put it into context, considering the size difference between the muscles in our arms and the muscles in our legs, does it make sense for our training volume across these workouts to be so lopsided? Nope, of course not!
Furthermore, your legs need an injection of variety and intensity to kick-start muscle growth in the same way that any other muscle would. So I recommend also ditching the tired old basic routine and bringing in some new exercises, as well as some new rep ranges. If you've always had problems focusing on training your legs, then the worst thing you can do is make leg day boring and repetitive, right?
From this point on, leg day should feel like an all-out war. One which you cannot win. Now we're talking!
Wear your wobbly-legs with pride, buddy.
Newsflash! Nobody cares how much you can leg press.
I sometimes hear people say "My legs are really strong, but they're just skinny."
When I hear this, I think we need to refer back to what "strong" actually means.
If a client can squat one-and-a-half times their body weight, and deadlift twice their body weight, they are strong.
If you are able to do these things and still consider yourself to have skinny legs, then you can legitimately put a lack of muscle growth down to poor genetics.
But I don't really see many people who can those things complaining about having small legs.
What I do see, however, are a lot of people spending way too much time on isolation exercises and not enough time with the big dogs; squats and deadlifts.
Exercises like leg extensions are fantastic for developing the quadriceps, that is for damn sure. They are one of my favourite leg exercises and can be a great asset during a brutal leg workout. But if you want to pack on size you must train regularly with the exercises which allow you to lift the most weight.
We also want to focus on the exercises which allow us to work the most muscles at the same time, as this will in turn create the biggest spike in growth hormone levels.
No other leg exercises can compete against squats and deadlifts here. They are the undisputed rulers of the gym.
Make friends with them.
Your lower body contains a collection of your body's biggest muscles.
They can take a lot more punishment than any other body part.
You can use that to your advantage in the gym, by turning up the training volume.
Like I said earlier, I'm amazed at how long some people will spend focusing on small muscles like the biceps and triceps, and then gloss over their leg workouts with the minimum amount of work. This makes no sense.
Your legs want to be punished. They welcome that s**t.
In previous articles and videos I have shown that in order to make a muscle grow to it's full potential we must train it to failure, and in order to reach that true stage of failure we need to hit it with several different rep ranges.
So as well as changing up a boring routine, and incorporating more powerful movements on a regular basis, we should be looking to switch up our rep ranges on a week-to-week basis to bust out of that muscle building plateau.
Believe me, if you've been doing 3 sets of 10 reps for as long as you can remember, then something as simple as moving to 3 sets of 25 reps will give your legs the kind of pain the have't felt in a long time.
Higher rep sets will create metabolic stress within the muscle, which is great for muscle growth, and will reap dividends when you return to lower rep ranges, as higher rep range work is fantastic for improving our muscular endurance (greater muscular endurance means more time under tension).
In fact, recent studies suggest that high rep sets can build as much lean muscle tissue as low rep sets, with the key being to ensure you are training the muscle to failure (so don't make the mistake of going too light when shooting for a higher rep range).
To get the most from this, keep your big compound lifts in a lower rep range to maximize the amount of weight you can lift, and try pairing isolation exercises with some higher rep sets to really shake up your training.
Another method you could use here is dropsets, which allow you to rack up your total number of reps while still maximizing resistance.
In the words of The Rock:
"They will not stop until you feed them."
Not only is this true for the pec pop of love, but also for creating muscle growth.
If your legs resemble pencils, chances are you haven't been providing them with enough nutrition to grow. Because much like there isn't "one weird trick to a flat stomach" (despite what those annoying ads say), there isn't one secret technique to force your legs to grow.
In fact, you can take all the useful tips in this article and throw them out of the nearest window if you aren't going to eat enough food.
I believe that there is a common misconception that you can get big while on a cutting diet. You can't. Sure, your legs might look a little more defined if you are able to work your body fat percentage down a few notches, but in order to really get bigger legs, you need to focus your attention on eating to get big.
Without the fuel, the machine won't work.
All three macronutrients will play an important role in this.
I encourage clients to set their protein and fat intake to adequate levels to support maximum muscle growth and hormone regulation (starting with protein at 1.2g per lb of body weight, and fat at 0.5g per lb of body weight will do this for most individuals), and from there it's a case of playing with carbohydrates to find the so-called "sweet spot".
For most, a carb intake of around 2g per lb of body weight will be significant enough to see a relatively fast change in muscle shape and size, and should provide you with more than enough energy to see an increase in your big lifts when you are training.
Others need to aim even higher with carbs, at around 3g per lb of body weight.
It's a game of experimentation, so start with the figures above and move carbs up until you feel happy with your overall progress.
Just don't fall into the trap of eating a ton of junk food under the false guise of "I'm bulking, bro.."
If you eat like s**t, you'll look like s**t.
If you follow my Twitter newsfeed, you'll know that I'm a big fan of high intensity sprint-style workouts when it comes to cardio.
In the photo above, you can see me putting action movie actor and Mr. British Isles Adam Baroni through an outdoor sprint workout in the build-up to his role in family movie Sophie's Fortune.
This is a style of training I've long used with clients, because they are shorter in duration and they are generally more interesting than long, slower cardio sessions.
But HIIT also has another ace up it's sleeve - it's great for retaining lean muscle tissue!
A common habit of guys who are never happy with the size of their legs is a regular dose of long aerobic cardio, be it on a treadmill, an elliptical, or an exercise bike.
Do not buy into the myth that cardio will "kill your gains", however.
That is a nonsensical myth perpetrated by guys who simply can't be bothered to do any cardio work. In fact, performing regular cardio will have some tremendous effects on your training ability (you'll feel more energetic, have more stamina, and recover faster between sets as a result of your improved fitness levels).
It's all about choosing the right kind of cardio to support your training goals.
And when it comes to building muscle, HIIT is the way to go!
So start incorporating some short 20-30 minute HIIT sessions into your routine a couple of times a week, and you should see some great results in the not-too-distant future.
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