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|Lunge Lunge and Lunge for Luscious Legs|
|Written by Laura Mak, IFBB Fitness Pro|
After years of research and personal training, I have concluded that a majority of clients voluntarily like to omit leg day, or at least admit it is their most dreaded day of training. Why is that? Leg day is the hardest body part to work.
Legs are typically considered the most taxing workout by many for good reason. The "leg" workout actually consists of the three largest muscles of the body - gluteus, hamstrings and quadriceps. Since those are the largest muscles, the heart has to work hard pumping the oxygenated blood enabling the legs to perform. The body expends more energy on leg day than any other day of training.
In contrast, leg day is my favorite day of training. I have changed my leg training routines from general conditioning, to muscle building, to maintenance phase. I do not lift "heavy" by most standards, especially now that I am more in a maintenance phase.
Typically my routine consists of high reps and medium weight with an extra emphasis on glutes and hamstrings. My genetic makeup allows my quads to develop easily. Therefore, when working the quads I keep the weights lighter and repetitions higher. I like to train legs twice a week, just to keep the muscle in condition. I use one day as an overall leg day glutes, hams, quads, and calves. The second day is a bonus day for booty and hams. This is also the day I add plyometric exercises.
In the course of my career I have had so many women that ask me, "What is the single best leg exercise?" I give the obvious and truthful answer, "the lunge". It is the one best exercise that hits all parts of the leg, giving the leg and booty great shape and definition. It uses several secondary muscles for balance like the core of the body and calves. The lunge is a safe, complete, all-in-one exercise. This exercise can be practiced in the gym, hotel, neighborhood, track, back yard, or living room. There are many variations of the lunge, which allows room for variety. It can be performed for repetitions, time, with or without weights, traveling or in place, with a plyometric jump for height or distance.
During fitness contest prep I use the lunge in these three ways. I consistently perform sets with weights, a plyometric jump, and for time. Since I typically have leg training days on Tuesday and Friday, I concentrate the first training day with weights and the second day more for repetitions and plyometrics. I perform three variations of a lunge with 15-20 pound weights in each hand. The weights can be balanced on top of the shoulders, or what I prefer, down by my hips. The later concentrates more work on the glutes.
I typically do lunges with weights moving forward and alternating legs. Secondly, with my right foot I step onto a platform about 18-24 inches, into a deep lunge, then I lift and extend the right leg straight to a horizontal position (concentrating on squeezing the quad) and returning to the start position with both feet together. I repeat this exercise on the same leg for 10-20 repetitions then repeat on the other side. Lastly, I begin stepping forward with the right leg, return to center and with the right leg stepping backward. This should be done continuously from front to back on the same leg for 10-15 repetitions.
Since the fitness routine round is two minutes of high intensity strength moves and jumps, I make sure to practice plyometric lunge jumps. During plyometric training, I rest for about 60-120 seconds in between sets. My heart rate, remains slightly above normal. The first exercise is a basic lunge jump for height. I keep my hands on my hips, so the work is entirely on the legs. I start with a right lunge then spring up as high and quick as I can, switching legs in the air, landing with the left foot in front and immediately repeating for 10-30 repetitions on each leg.
The second lunge jump variation I perform is traveling forward is a bent knee lift in between. This is similar to the lunge jump for height, but is more difficult because it uses the hip flexors also. The knees are lifted upwards and together, while the legs are parallel to the floor. I execute this exercise moving forward about 10-12 lunges and then a rest. Again these are done for both height and distance. The third jumping lunge is performed sideways. I begin with both feet together, step out to the right with the foot remaining parallel, spring off the right leg and replace that foot with the left leg moving out to the left side. These should be done for quickness and height. The less arm movement, the more emphasis is placed on the legs.
Last, but certainly not least, I use the traveling lunge as a timed exercise. I gradually increase my time to 30 minutes during a session. About eight weeks out from contest I begin lunges twice a week starting with fifteen minutes each session the first week. Each week I add five minutes to the time until I reach 30 minutes. Since my weight training is done during the mornings, I practice the lunges for time in the evening before my last cardio session. This is done continuously one lunge after another. I start at one end of the gym - lunge to the other end, turn around and return to the start position and repeat. (It is ok to do this at a track too for different scenery.)
For lack of boredom's sake during the traveling lunge, I have several variations that I use. I add a rear leg lift as I begin to ascend from the lunge. There is a slight knee bend and a 45-degree lift of the leg while the knee is turned out to the side. During this movement I concentrate on squeezing my glutes. I make sure to keep my hips facing forward. Sometimes with this movement they have a tendency to open out to the side. The next variation is a lunge then standing al the way up into a single leg calf raise while lifting the opposite knee, tucking the hips under, and squeezing the glute. Yes, this one takes a considerable amount of balance. But it incorporates several other muscle groups.
Although the lunge is the single best leg exercise for shaping and complimenting the legs, I also have to do several basic exercises for the quads and hamstrings. I typically like to vary the foot position to work the different muscle groups. Below are my typical two days of leg training.Tuesday:
Leg day doesn't have to be the dreaded day. Begin by incorporating a few variations of lunges and watch the transformation. Yes, it does take more energy, but the reward of great legs and glutes is worth it, right?
About the Author
Laura Mak is a fitness and health expert at MuscleMagFitness.com where she regularly writes about hot topics in the areas of health, fitness and figure competitions, nutrition, and yoga. Laura is a highly sought after personal trainer, and also owns MakAttackFitness, a successful online company offering health and fitness eBooks, fitness equipment, apparel and offers customized personal training services.
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