Your legs are made up of the largest and strongest muscles in the body. Getting your legs in shape is not only essential for exercise performance, but also for preventing injuries and making daily life easier. You are likely to see some results two to four weeks after starting a leg exercise program. However, depending on your starting fitness level it may take three or more months to reach your goal.
Consistency and gradual increases in your training program are the keys to getting your legs in shape. You must increase muscle tissue in your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves. The most effective method is progressive resistance-training plan that gradually increases in intensity over the course of three months. Complete two leg-strengthening workouts each week. One workout will focus on the glutes and hamstrings and the second on the quadriceps and calves. Space the workouts at least three days apart in your plan, such as hamstrings and glutes on Monday and quadriceps and calves on Thursday. Perform aerobic exercise four or five days a week to achieve fat loss.
Train your glutes and hamstrings with exercises such as the straight leg deadlift, weighted bridge, standing cable hip extension, leg curl and walking lunge. Train your quadriceps and calves with the barbell squat, leg press, bench stepup, leg extension, standing calf raise and seated calf raise. Include moderate-intensity aerobic exercise in your routine to burn fat. Examples include jogging, incline walking, swimming, the elliptical machine and cycling.
Month One: Conditioning
Focus on conditioning and improving muscular endurance during the first month. Do 12 to 15 repetitions of each exercise and perform two sets during the first two weeks. Do three sets the other two weeks. Limit rest periods between sets to 30 to 60 seconds. Aim to complete 30 minutes of aerobic exercise four or five days a week. Perform aerobic sessions either after your leg workouts or on the days you are not training your legs.
Month Two: Hypertrophy
Focus on increasing muscle mass in the second month by increasing the weight and decreasing the repetitions for each exercise. Select a weight at which muscle failure occurs between six and 12 repetitions. Perform three sets, resting 60 to 90 seconds between each set. Increase the weight you if are able to complete more that 12 repetitions. Decrease the weight if you cannot complete at least six repetitions. Increase the duration of your aerobic exercise by 10 to 15 minutes so you do cardio 40 to 45 minutes five times a week.
Month Three: Strength and Power
Improve muscular power and strength during the last month of your leg training program. Increase the weight again and perform two to six repetitions of each exercise. Do three to four sets, resting two to three minutes between sets. Maintain five days week of aerobic exercise, except replace two 45-minute moderate-intensity sessions with interval training. Perform 20 to 30 minutes of sprint intervals in which you sprint, or increase intensity, for 30 to 60 seconds followed by a 30 to 90 second recovery interval in which you decrease intensity to catch your breath. Perform 10 to 15 intervals after a warm-up.
- "Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning"; National Strength and Conditioning Association; 2006
- ExRx.net: Periodization Training