5 Biggest Leg Day Mistakes
A solid leg workout means never sacrificing good form for more weight. Here are 5 common leg-training mistakes that are sure to leave your wheels deflated!
By Bill Geiger
1. Lifting Your Hips Off The Pad During Leg Presses
Shallow squats are one thing, but on the other end of the spectrum is trying to lengthen a given move’s range of motion past a safe point. If your hips come off the pad when doing leg presses, you’ve lowered the sled too far and are putting your lower spine at risk of injury. It’s critical that you control the negative portion of the rep so you can smoothly reverse direction. Try placing your feet a little higher and wider on the sled, and don’t allow your knees to come all the way in to your chest. Again, stretching after your workout can help.
2. Doing Shallow Squats
Whether it’s on the leg press, hack squat or doing free-weight squats, nothing is more pathetic than loading up a bar and dropping just a few inches. We’re not impressed. While heavy partial-rep training has a place in advanced-level bodybuilding, doing all your sets this way shortchanges leg development, especially in the hamstrings and glutes. Drop down so you can achieve a full 90-degree bend in your knees. Avoid rigorous stretching before squatting, because it tends to make you weaker, but stretching your legs after your workout will help you maintain flexibility so you can squat low.
3. Going Too Low On Romanian Deadlifts
This is by far one of the most common leg-training mistakes! Lifters know they should keep a flat back, but in an effort to increase the range of motion, they often lower the bar too far on this single-joint move, causing the back to round. First, the plates shouldn’t touch the floor; this isn’t a conventional deadlift. Second, try this test with just the bar: Rehearse the movement facing sideways to the mirror, and turn your head to watch your back as you descend to just mid-shin level. Your spine should never, ever round! One more tip: Don’t lock out your knees.
4. Excessively Pointing Your Toes
You may have heard that turning your feet inward or outward during leg exercises can help target particular areas of the leg, but that really only works on open-chain moves where your feet aren’t planted against a solid surface, such as on leg extensions and lying leg curls. Pointing your toes excessively inward or outward on squats, leg presses and hack squats can actually damage your knee, hip and/or ankle joints, so it’s best to use a more natural foot position. For most bodybuilders, that’s one in which the feet are turned slightly outward. Find a comfortable, balanced stance in which your feet remain flat on the platform, and which allows you to press through your heels and the balls of your feet for maximal power and strength.
5. Being Able To “Walk” Out Of The Gym
Ask any bodybuilder with legs bigger than a chicken’s and he’ll tell you that leg training is demanding work, it takes every ounce of energy, and if you do it right you should not be able to train another bodypart afterward, let alone even try to walk up a flight of stairs. So how does your leg workout compare? Do you put every ounce of energy into your training and take your sets to failure, or do you mindlessly perform sets of 10 and experience little fatigue or leg cramping afterward? Get a push by working out with a training partner who is highly motivated or try a new routine. Next-day muscle soreness to some degree is a good sign you’re training hard.