Quads are huge muscles positioned right above your knees. They have the opportunity to grow to huge proportions, especially if you exercise them correctly. Nevertheless, modern bodybuilders rarely take the time to put in enough effort into these muscles so they are often much less developed than their full potential allows them. More often than not, the squat rack and leg presses that you do in the gym are not enough or you’re not doing them correctly, so let’s take a look at some of the biggest mistakes that people make when trying to buff up their legs.
1. Incorrectly Targeting Areas
It’s a common gym myth that if you want to improve your quads on the account of exercising your glutes, you should position your feet a little bit forward. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing hack squats or using a Smith machine, this myth always comes into the conversation as “fact”. You would be surprised to learn that this isn’t the case. It even goes to that extent that a lot of bodybuilders think that positioning your feet wider apart will help with their outer quads, while having them more narrow than shoulder width will help with the inner quads and other muscles on the inside of your leg.
This is also false – the truth is that most bodybuilders don’t even know how to target the four quads (vastus lateralis, medialis and intermedius, as well as the rectus femoris), nor do they know how to exercise the many muscles located on the inside of your upper thigh.
Here’s how to fix this:
- First, make sure that your toes are pointed inwards to intensify pressure on your vastus lateralis, meaning your outer quad muscle. If you want to put pressure on your inner quads, make sure to point them outward.
- Second, make sure that your feet are under your hips at all times, especially when doing squats on a Smith machine. This will help you to put more pressure on your quads and less pressure on your glutes.
- Third, your stance matters. If you’re holding a narrow stance, your outer quads will take most of the pressure, but if you’re standing in a wider stance with your toes pointed out, the toll will be on your inner thigh muscles.
2. You’re Shortening Your Range of Motion!
You can see this as soon as you walk in the gym. People put so much weight on their leg press that they can only do half a rep at most, and their knees don’t even bend the entire way down! If you take a look at the squat racks, the exact same thing happens, as well as the hack squat machines and the ones for leg extensions. When you see a bodybuilder working on his quads, the chances are that he’s not doing it right – instead, doing half of the motion while completely abandoning the other half.
This is because when you do complete sets will all of the intended reps, it gets really difficult and when you perform that same number but with half-reps, it gives you the illusion that you’re actually training as hard as you wanted. This means that more often than not, quadriceps muscles get less exercise and are being tasked with shorter, easier reps. If you do this you’re not only limiting the movement, you are also unnecessarily limiting your own progress.
Here’s how to fix this:
- Make sure that you lower yourself to the point where your quads are parallel to the floor or the platform you’re exercising on. The only time that you’re not supposed to do this is when you’re doing intentional half-squats to concentrate on your medialis muscle. This way to exercise is scientifically valid, but it won’t help with your quads.
- If you’re doing leg presses you should lower yourself down until your quad muscles are parallel to your feet. If you’re doing leg presses under a 45 degree angle, make sure that your knees lightly touch upon your chest, all the while your glutes are firmly in place against the leg press seat. This will intensify the pressure on your lower back as well.
- When you’re doing leg presses or squats, make sure that you lockout or come close to a lockout.
- When you’re doing leg extensions, you need to go from a complete stretch to a complete contraction and then into lockout of your knees. Flex your thigh muscles for best effect.
- When you’re doing lunges, thigh adductions or other leg exercises, make sure that you’re doing full stretches and contractions.
- If you want to push forward some more, do partials of a few chosen machine leg exercises, but this should be done after you complete your regular workout with full sets of complete reps.
3. Going Too Heavy
This is almost always in connection to the previous mistake. When you put too much weight on your machine, you are increasing the possibility of not being able to lift the entire thing for the necessary number of times. This happens mostly when you’re doing leg presses because of the high likeliness that you can lift more weight with this exercise than with other ones.
When you do this, it makes you think you’re really strong when you’re actually not doing anything to benefit your body. When you see someone lift 700 pounds for half-reps instead of 450 for the full and necessary reps, you want to do the same and most of the time that’s your mistake. When you’re doing deep squats you may even want to do pyramids until you reach just one or two squats with a whole lot of weight on them, but this is incorrect. The only thing you’re improving is your ego, not your muscles.
Here’s how to fix this:
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- Make sure you’re doing the complete movements – don’t cut anything short.
- Make sure you’re performing sets with eight to twelve reps, no more and no less.
- Keep your attention on your muscles instead of on the weight you’re lifting.
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