Friday, June 19, 2020

Building the Legs of an Oak - Arnold Schwarzenegger

"If Sisyphus gets a pump from his eternal exercise, 
I assure you all this time he's been a happy man." 
 - Samuel Wilson Fussell

I suppose that I'd be accused of exaggerating if I went into any detail about some of the workouts I used to take. In my early days back in Austria, I would have the weirdest kinds of training sessions. They never followed any accepted form. Everything was done in the truest instinctive way. 

My training partners and I would decide what bodypart we wanted to work for that day and then proceed to bomb it out of existence. We would drive out to the wooded country nearby with a carload of weights and train until nightfall. Sometimes we would go eight or nine hours a day without stopping. As funny as that may seem, some of my best workouts were taken during that period, and I got some of my best results in the process.

Of course, part of the reason for this was that I was new at training. When you first start taking workouts with weights almost any move, no matter how it's done, will give results. While I got the results I wanted in size, I still lacked the muscular definition needed to become a top champion. I won almost every event I entered, but then who did I compete against. 

We get to think we're pretty good if we can beat anyone on the block. What many fail to realize is that the world is made up of many blocks. 

It wasn't until I competed in my first NABBA Mr. Universe contest that I fully realized some of my weaknesses. At this contest I got a chance to see great bodybuilders. They were the best I had ever competed against. I had seen pictures in the magazines of some of the better physiques in the world, but somehow I never quite believed what I saw. I figured that a great deal of all that muscle must be the result of some magician in the photographer's darkroom. Never had I seen so much muscle. None of it was hidden behind a veil of flesh. You could see every muscle as if the men had no skin at all. 

I was particularly impressed by the legs of one of the contestants. Every head of his frontal thigh seemed to be alive with writhing sinew. I looked at my own legs. They had plenty of size, but they couldn't come close to this man with the impressive legs. For a long time I harbored the thoughts of the ignorant. I felt that such legs had to be inherited. I refused to believe that I could do anything different to get such muscular separation. Back I went to Austria - inspired to train harder but not much wiser about the way to do it. 

It wasn't until Joe Weider invited me to come to America that I had my best chance to learn the science of weight training. I soon found out that bodybuilding was weight training with a purpose. 

If you train a haphazard way you will get haphazard results. Joe designed routines that left no doubt as to the direction they were to go. For the next year I worked like a madman. I wanted to enter and win the IFBB Mr. Universe. I knew that the best bodybuilders in the world would be in the IFBB event. This would be my greatest test. 

Using Weider principles to the fullest (!) my muscles began to spring into life. Soon those elusive ridges of muscular delineation began to crease my body. My legs began to take on the muscularity I thought one had to be born with. My power increased along with size and shape. It was unbelievable what a scientifically developed program could do. 

Not only did I win the IFBB Mr. Universe title but I won the Best Legs award, along with most of the others. It was the Best Legs award, however, that brought me the greatest pride in victory. After winning the Mr. Universe title itself, nothing meant more. It was the proof I needed that I was doing the right thing. 

I had taken one of my weak bodyparts and rammed it into championship perfection.

Now I want to share some of this knowledge with you.     

The Anatomy of the Leg

 Click to ENLARGE

Probably no group of muscles in the body equals the thighs in size and power. Partly because of the great demand on the legfs and the versatility they require, they are quite a complicated network of muscle groups. I cannot attempt to describe all of them - that would be a waste of time. I do feel, however, that you should know about the major muscles concerned with flexion and extension since it is these moves you'll rely on for growth. Since the frontal thigh is the "show" area of the leg, let's start there. 

The frontal group of muscles are the extensors of the leg. They are often referred to as the quadriceps because of the four major muscle groups involved. The longest of the group is the rectus femorus which arises from the anterior inferior illiac spine and inserts into the patella. It overlays the vastus intermedium which rises from the femur and inserts into the patella. These two muscles make up the central "V" shaped delineation of the middle front thigh. The "candle wax" like formation on the inner thigh is the vastus medialis while the outer thigh muscle is called the vastus lateralis. Both of these originate from the upper head of the femur and insert into the patella. The muscle group generates great power and is best developed by direct leg extension and squatting moves. 

I shouldn't leave the thigh muscle group without a mention of the two muscles that actually flex the thigh toward the abdomen. One is pretty short and can be seen around the lateral hip joint. It's the tensor fascae latae and arises from the border of the ilium and inserts into the lateral fascia of the thigh. Fascia is the sheath of tissue that often invests muscles. The other muscle is the longest one in the body and serpentines itself diagonally across the thigh. Vince Gironda has one of the best defined sartorius muscles I have ever seen. 

We now know the major muscles that elevate and extend the thigh which are analogous to the triceps of the upper arm. The thigh flexors on the back of the leg, however, must not be overlooked. While not as showy as the frontal extensors, they are obviously needed for complete thigh movement and add tremendously to thigh size. 

The deepest muscle of the flexor group is the short head of the biceps femorus, which joins with its twin, thet long head, to form a common tendon that inserts into the head of the fibula which is the outer bone of the lower leg. The rest of the muscles in the flexor compartment all arise from the ischial tuberosity. The wider semi-membranous inserts into the posterior aspect of the tibia. The thinner semi-tendinosus inserts on the anterio-medial surface of the tibia. Leg flexion moves are the best growth producers for the backs of the thighs.

In the calf area I'll mention only two muscles. The larger and deeper muscle is the soleus which originates from both the fibula and the tibia. The gastrocnemius has two heads. One head originates from the lateral aspect and the other from the medial of the lower femur. Both heads join to overlay the soleus and join with the latter to insert into the famous Achilles' tendon which inserts into the calcaneus or heel bone. Any moves such as toe raises will be activated by doing resistance moves that are the opposite of toe raises.  Pardon? I didn't follow that at all. No matter.   

That was a  very brief anatomy course, listing only the muscles that we as bodybuilders are most interested in because of their ability to be displayed. 

Now, let's get them ready for that display. 

Molding Mighty Thighs and Calves 

In doing these or any exercises you must have the utmost concentration. The degree of force used in any move is determined by the amount of concentration behind it. An example of this is the classic fable of the little lady who single handedly lifted a car off her son who was pinned beneath it. She didn't think of the impossibility of what she was asking herself to do. All she could think of was that she had to lift the car off her boy. The concentration on this task was immediate and swift. The results were startling because she was able to do what many men supposedly much stronger than she would have found impossible. 

This doesn't mean that I believe you have to psyche yourself up like that for each rep. I do believe, however, that it's necessary to use a great deal of concentration to get a great deal of results. 

Exercise 1

Full Squat -  Just because an exercise is old doesn't mean that it's bad. The full squat has been around as long as man has known how to lift, but it's still one of the best result-producing exercises on the books. Put your heels on a block for balance if necessary and the bar on the shoulders. I then take a deep breath and squat below parallel. As I come up from the squat position I exhale. This aids in the expansion of the chest and the oxygen requirement needed for each rep. I do 6 sets of 8 reps and try to go up a little in weight with each set, thus increasing the demand on my legs. 

Exercise 2

Leg Press - If the full squat has one disadvantage, it's the pressure it puts on the lower back. There were times I wanted to increase the poundages, but felt that the strain would be too great. One of the best ways to get a similar basic move and have full back support at the same time was to use the leg press machine. I could use heavier weights than ever before and as a result my full squat weight went up as well. This exercise is done for 4 sets of 10 reps, in a superset with Exercise 3.  

Exercise 3

Front Squat - a superset is the rapid performance and alternating of one exercise with another. In this case I do one set of 10 reps in the leg press followed without pause by one set of 10 in the front squat. Followed without pause by another set of 10 in the leg press and so on until 4 sets of 10 reps of each exercise have been completed. All of this is done without any rest so that the blood will be forced rapidly into the exercised area and, thereby, increase the rate of growth. The front squat is done the same way as the full squat except that the weight is held in front of the shoulders. This tends to make you lean back for better balance, thus placing a greater exertion on the frontal sweep of the thighs. 

Exercise 4

Leg Extension - This exercise is the best for getting really deep definition without losing any size. It especially develops the area around the knee which you can't really develop from other exercises. A very important factor is to extend the legs as much as possible, while at the same time concentrating on definition. Always lower the weight slowly. When you do the last rep, your legs should be burning. After every set you must do a lot of flexing to help get definition and to increase size. 

Exercise 5

Leg Curl - This one I do on the leg curl machine. No exercise works more directly on the back of the thighs. If a leg curl is not available to you, you can improvise by placing a dumbbell between your feet as you lie prone on a flat bench and then curl the weight up. Naturally the curl machine is best because of the constant leverage and resistance given. 

While the thigh work is important and the thigh muscles are certainly powerful, from the standpoint of visual appreciation the calves are the prime muscles of the legs. Think for a minute, if you see a man at the beach with big muscular thighs and scrawny calves, you would think he had bad legs. If on the other hand he's got poor thighs but fantastic calves, you're liable to remark how good his legs are. Unfortunately the calves are made of dense muscle fibers that have to be really bombed to be reached. The origin of the muscle and the place of insertion on the Achilles tendon determine to a great extent the shape of the calf so a great battle must sometimes be waged to get the results you want.

Exercise 1

Calf Raise - I load up the calf machine for this one and do 5 sets of 20 reps with the toes straight ahead. You can do the exercise two ways . . . the right way and the wrong way. When the weight gets so heavy that it is difficult to get all the reps out, some will bend their knees and put out with their thighs to complete the exercise. Another trick is to avoid getting a full extension and contraction. The right way to do the exercise for the best results is to keep the knees locked and to let the heels down as far as possible and go up until the calf is cramped. Just watch the inches pile on if you do this one correctly. 

Exercise 2

Donkey Calf Raise - This one is my favorite calf exercise. It's done by bending forward at the waist and leaning on a bench or table for support. The toes are on a block, and you have your partner seated on you with his weight placed as directly as possible over the hips. I turn the toes in to give a greater stimulus to the outer surfaces of the muscle. This is done for 5 sets of 20 reps.    

Some Conclusions

No area in bodybuilding is more neglected than the legs. When people ask you to "show your muscles," they expect to see you hold your arms up and flex the upper body. The drive to develop the lower portion of the body isn't usually as great. You want to develop what people want to see. 

Another reason that many bodybuilders steer away from extensive leg work is owing to the fact that it's so gosh darn beer schtein fulla pain hard. The thighs are powerful and can use great amounts of weight, and the calves are stubborn and can use a lot of reps. If you're not willing to work hard you can forget about getting fully developed legs and a well proportioned physique.   




No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive