Written By: Lyndsey Sutherland - Clean Victory Athlete, Marketing Manager of Impact Gyms, and Leg Day Enthusiast.
Lets talk legs. I mean powerful, thick, STRONG LEGS.
Quads. Hamstrings. Glutes. All of the above. Women want them but are only doing HALF of what it takes to get them.
And I can tell you right now, the answer is NOT more kick-backs.
I can no longer sit idly by and watch all these women kill themselves doing 1,000 light-weight reps 3 times a week and wonder why they aren’t reaching their leg and booty goals.
Before I give you the key to what you have been missing, let’s talk anatomy really quick.
All muscles are comprised of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers. Each muscle group has a different percentage of each, and from there, can vary slightly from individual to individual.
Slow twitch muscle fibers are smaller than fast twitch fibers. These fibers support muscle endurance movements like running and performing resistance exercises in higher-rep ranges at a lower weight. (1)
Fast twitch muscle fibers are thicker and quicker to fatigue. These fibers are responsible for maximum force output like explosive movements and resistance exercises in lower-rep ranges at a greater weight. (1)
Like every other muscle group, your legs are made up of BOTH fast and slow twitch muscle fibers. Glutes are split 50/50. Hamstrings are 53% fast / 47% slow. And your quads have the biggest genetic influence, generally starting at a base line of 40% fast / 40% slow with a sway of +/- 20% either way. (2)(3)
Have you guessed what most women are NOT doing?
THEY AREN’T TRAINING LEGS HEAVY!
Most women are training only HALF of the muscle fibers in their lower half (the slow twitch fibers) by doing countless reps of sub-maximum weight resistance and completely neglecting the other half of their muscle composition.
I think a few things contribute to this:
1. Lack of knowledge. There’s an age-old myth that lifting heavy will make a woman look like Arnold-freaking-Schwarzenegger. It is biologically impossible to achieve that look without testosterone supplementation. Period.
2. The idea that higher-reps means more fat loss. While higher-rep ranges can help you burn more calories during the act of the exercise due to the duration of the set, lower-reps with more weight can contribute to a denser muscle gain (hence the thicker fibers). More muscle means you burn more calories throughout your day AT REST. More calories burnt at rest means you will have a leaner physique. (4)
3. Social media. There is an epidemic sweeping across social media platforms – Instagram in particular – of uneducated people sharing misguided information and training philosophies. For example: One girl see’s another girls trainer put said girl (whose leg she admires) through a high-rep leg day. The first girl then goes on to preach through countless Instagram posts that in order to get a booty like Beyonce, you should only be doing high-rep leg days. The problem here lies in the first girl not seeing the low-rep heavy leg day that girl did earlier in the week.
Ladies, quit stopping yourself from reaching your full potential due to lack of knowledge and societal myths. Stop being afraid. Stop being afraid of looking gross mid-lift. Stop being afraid of failing. Stop being afraid of being uncomfortable.
TRAIN THE OTHER HALF OF YOUR LEGS! Your leg days should be split evenly between high-rep lower weight days and low-rep higher weight days.
CHALLENGE YOURSELF! A good rule of thumb when training heavy is to stick to 4-8 reps at an intensity where you feel like you could have gotten no more than two more reps in.
One last thing – if you’re constantly eating garbage and not AT LEAST paying attention to your protein intake, you’re probably missing out on some major leg gains. You don’t have to eat like a bodybuilder. But prioritizing whole foods, water intake, and protein amounts can make big changes in your physique.
Go chug some Stage One, get your Fourtify ready to sip, and go lift some heavy sh*t.
Penney, S., MS, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, FNS . (2016, April 05). Fast-Twitch, Slow-Twitch: What's the difference? Retrieved November 02, 2017, from http://blog.nasm.org/fitness/fast-twitch-slow-twitch-whats-difference-matter/
Wilson, J., Dr. (2017, February 23). The Muscle PhD Academy Live #032: Muscle Fibers. Retrieved November 02, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1626&v=-VYfPWm2Dq0
Wilson, J., Dr. (n.d.). Dr. Jacob Wilson (@themusclephd) • Instagram photos and videos. Retrieved November 02, 2017, from https://www.instagram.com/themusclephd/
National Council on Strength and Fitness. (n.d.). A Pound of Muscle Burns 30-50 Kcal/Day, Really…. Retrieved November 02, 2017, from https://www.ncsf.org/enew/articles/articles-poundofmuscle.aspx