• Megan

Workout composition (leg day)

When I first began training, it was a goal of mine to greatly develop my legs and glutes. I have been going to the gym regularly for about 1 and a half years now, and I am only just beginning to get the hang of it. For 18 months, I have been making mistake after mistake, painstakingly wasting my time and energy on exercises that did very little to get me closer to my goals. Doubtless, learning of these mistakes taught me of patience and resilience; the only way to do my past self justice was to adjust accordingly, and push on with my fitness. This brings us to today, where I have just come home from a successful session of training legs and glutes. Thanks to the help of a personal trainer, and research done online, I feel that the changes I have made to my routine are guaranteed to bring me success. To give you an insight into these changes, I am going to detail an example of two workouts I have done: one from about a year ago, and the next from today.

One Year Ago (ish)

I would begin by warming up on either the elliptical (cross trainer) for approximately 10 minutes, or running on the treadmill at a moderate speed for 5-10 minutes, depending on how motivated I was feeling on the day. Following this, I would do a very brief stretch before moving on to the weight machines. Here, I would bounce around from whatever machine took my fancy at the time; whether it be a laying leg-curl or calf raises. On these machines, I had no plan for set quantities or rep ranges. Instead, I would repeat the movement until close to fatigue, rest until I was bored of scrolling through Instagram, then do another "set". I never lifted particularly heavy, nor did I push to feel the muscle being properly worked. Once I felt I had used enough machines, I would fetch a set of resistance bands from my bag before making my way to the mats. Don't get me wrong- resistance bands can be very useful tools for resistance training; they provide constant tension throughout a movement and are extremely versatile pieces of equipment. However, I would only use them to repeat the same three or four exercises, every single time. Abductions, donkey kicks, fire hydrants, and glute bridges. Again, and again and again. I also had little awareness of tempo and control, resulting in poor execution. This was commonly where my workouts finished. I would then walk home, or even take the bus, despite the walk being about 7 minutes long.

A few hours ago

To start, I warmed up on the treadmill. As I wear flat-soled vans for training legs, running can be a little uncomfortable (particularly on my calves), so on other days I may choose the stair-master. To keep the warm-up fun, I run at a moderate speed for 3 minutes, before sprinting for 45 seconds, and then running for a couple more minutes at a moderate pace. This alternation also allows for greater endorphin release, promoting a "feel good" sensation around the body, and heightening pain tolerance. After this, I carried out a 5-10 minute glute activation session, where I got my muscles fired up and awake, ready to work. To increase my flexibility and minimise the risk of injury, I thoroughly stretched my lower back, hips, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Now onto my favourite part of the workout: heavy compound lifts.

On the leg press machine, I loaded 75kg onto either side (prior to this, I practised the movement at about 75% of this weight to ensure I was getting adequate depth). As this session was intended to be quad dominant, I placed my feet high and narrow on the platform and completed 4 sets of 10 reps with 1 minute and 30 seconds rest.

Following this, I jumped onto a squat rack, set it up in accordance to my height and depth range, and placed 12.5kg on either side. You may notice that this is rather lighter than the weight I used on the leg press machine; this is because I have only recently integrated squats into my routine, and I wish to practice good form and technique before progressively overloading the weight. After completing 4 sets of 8, I was happy to continue to hip thrusts.

As hip thrusts require extensive set-up and down time, I find it difficult to practise these routinely. However, as fortune and time were on my side today, I had enough space and patience to give them a go. I experimented with the weight and rep ranges, and concluded that 4 sets of 10, with 30kg net weight, was suitable. Though I am new to heavy hip-thrusts, I am confident that my form is correct, therefor I aim to progressively overload with the exercise as time proceeds.

Moving past compound exercises, I focused my attention on targeting my quads. On the flat leg press (different to the incline leg press) I placed my feet high and narrow again, and selected 59kg. On this machine, there is greater difficulty in initially pushing off, so I needed to push against my knees with my hands to get the platform up and begin the set. I did 3 sets of about 15, nearing failure each set.

At this point, I was a little pressed for time, so I had to skip the step-ups that I originally planned to do. As well as this, the box that I frequently use to execute the step-ups was in use, so I had to move on.

To finish, I performed 4 sets of frog pumps, with no weight. To get that final burn, I came close to fatigue on the first 3 sets, then really pushed myself on the 4th.

In total, this accumulated to 19 sets. A general rule of thumb with weight training is to abstain from exceeding 20 sets in any session (though this varies by person), so I feel I have pushed myself well today. To finish the session, I did 15 minutes of incline walking; this is a gentler way of incorporating cardio into my workouts, and succeeds as a peaceful, calmer way to end the day's work.

A year ago, my workouts were poorly executed, unstructured, and left me feeling dissatisfied with my progress. Now, however, I am feeling stronger every day and intend on developing my knowledge further so that I can exponentially improve. In future training, I aim to perfect the smaller technique associated with each exercise (particularly compound movements) and increase the weights to achieve effective hypertrophy.

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