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5 common leg training mistakes to avoid

When I first started lifting weights, most of the gyms in my city did not keep a squat rack or a power rack. They all had some version of the leg press machine, and definitely the leg extension machine, but almost none had a rack. In those days, even around the world, most gyms that did have squat racks, did not have many members who would use it. Somehow most would go for the easier option of the leg press machine or the leg extension. In most cases, this was because people found barbell squats to be too hard, or had been told that squats are bad for the knees, or maybe they just did not care about developing leg strength and the leg muscles.

Thankfully, I have seen some improvement in this regard in the last decade or so. More people nowadays seem to be doing squat, and asking "how much do you squat". Sure, there are many more who can do more leg training and spend less time trying to work on their belly or upper body, but atleast there seems to be some change. The fact is that if you want to be big and strong, then you got to work those legs. You can never have serious functional strength if you have weak legs. And when it comes to strong legs, the squat is the top exercise! However, one exercise by itself cannot do everything, and just like any other bodypart, you can make common training mistakes with your legs too.

Here are the top 5 common leg training mistakes that you will see people make. Make sure that you do not commit any of them:

1) Not training the hamstrings- its true, we often train what we can see in the mirror. Thus the quads get a lot of attention, and the hamstrings do not get their due. To have good leg strength, speed and healthier knees you must make sure that you train the hamstring. And by training I do not mean doing a few sets of leg curls after a ton of quad work. I am talking about heavy deadlifts, kettlebell swings, etc. The Olympic lifts are also great at working the hammies, so try some snatches and cleans too. Overall, make sure that you work both the front and the back of the leg.

2) Not working the lower legs- continuing from the earlier point, the muscles of the lower leg are also often neglected since they are not what see easily in the mirror, that is unless you are wearing shorts. Often the cause of lower leg problems is the weakness of the muscles down there. Another reason why training the lower legs is important is because they can make a big difference in our performance in any athletic activity. To develop strong lower legs, make sure to do some calf raises with a barbell, dumbell, kettlebell, machine, or any other tool, but be sure to do it.

3) Going too heavy- aah, the classic leg training mistake! Often you will hear how some guy can squat 400 plus pounds, only to find out that he barely even does a quarter squat. Yes, going up and down a few inches is not a squat! Your depth should ideally be the same for your warm up sets as well as your heaviest set. If you cannot go down as low in your heaviest set, then you are going too heavy. Cut down on the weight and increase the range of motion. You will have more strength and better muscular development to show for it.

4) Going too light- opposite to the previous mistake, you will also find those who go too light with their leg work. Believe it or not, I have seen people who barbell curl more than what they barbell squat! Is it because their biceps are too strong? No, it is simply because they do not care about their legs. Many will simply do "leg day" as a mere formality, and as a type of active recovery day, rather than put in some intensity. And even with the ladies, this is a common mistake of always going too light with leg training, despite their want of lean and shapely legs. Please do keep in mind that the legs are a big muscle group and are very strong (or atleast they should be). They need some good intensity to be challenged, and light dumbbells will never do that. 

5) Not doing single leg work- while some will argue that squats by itself is enough, I think that in the long run some amount of single leg work is essential. Most of the athletic activities can be done better if you have relatively equal strength in both the legs. Also, a lot of movements in our daily lives will require you to use single leg strength at times. So do not avoid single leg movements like lunges, step ups, Bulgarian split squats, etc. These movements will help even out any imbalances that you may have, and will develop greater muscularity. 

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