I am 55 years old and I picked up weight training right around the time that I turned 40. I have trouble seeing any definition is my frontal legs. They are big, but no separation or definition in the quad area. Do you have any suggestions?
Like all muscle groups, those that make up the legs are placed into formation according to your musculoskeletal predisposition. Often times, getting any stubborn muscle group to separate is difficult; however, here is what I suggest that you try and see if it does not expose those quads a bit better.
Squatting may, or may not be your number one priority in this case. In fact, when I used to compete, I would stop squatting two or three weeks away from the contest. I found that squats kept my legs big, but also if I continued right up to the day of the contest (or that last week) they may have been more full looking, but quite a bit less separated. One thing you might want to consider is to supplement regular squats with hack squats and add in some specialty work such as lunges. This is how I suggest you start:
First, everyone has what I believe to be a place where their hands and feet form and position within an exercise that will give them maximum leverage advantageousness. This is important to find on each exercise for each body-part because it allows you to use more weight; and, it will keep the injuries to a minimum. You want to find the exercises that you feel most powerful doing and stick with them.
Having said that, let’s take a look at feet placement for two important exercises that may enhance leg separation. If you place your feet together and high on the Hack-squat foot-plate; you will be able to use more weight; and, in most people, put more emphasis on the muscle heads just above the knee—especially the Vastius Lateralis (the “sweeping” muscle of the outer quads). The reason this happens in most people is that placing your feet higher on the plate makes the stroke shorter and allows you to use more weight. You also might want to push with your toes in this position to accent the lateral head of the legs. On another leg day, you might want to try the opposite type of foot arrangement on the hack squat. That would be with your feet as far back on the plate as possible and a bit more spread out. This will make the squat deeper and hit more of the entire leg—especially the glutes and hamstrings, but may help in separation also. You will have to lower the weight, but always shoot for 12 reps with as much weight as possible. Try alternating these every other week. Do barbell squats once a month for now and just see if you can feel and see a change in the way your legs are developing—give it at least six months before making any drastic changes.
Another interesting and often neglected type of leg movement is the lunge. Either with a barbell on your back of about 35% of your bodyweight, or a pair of dumbbells that are equally heavy; once weighted, move forward and lunge the right leg and allow it to drop to just below parallel while the other leg goes down also so as to balance your body properly. The front leg should be such that your knee is directly over the foot as you lunge. Any other position can cause anyone of the ligaments in and around the knee to be injured. Now push off with that leg and start again lunging forward with the other leg. Alternate feet/legs as you move along in a straight line in your gym, or outside on the pavement; doing at least 12 repetitions for each leg. This is after you have done your Hack-squats.
Another way to do lunges is to step up and down from a bench or a high block. Here, as with the former way explained, the legs almost have to split because of the impact that they are absorbing. To do this, take the same weight on your shoulders (or dumbbells in your hands) and step up on the bench and back down; alternating feet with each full up and down repetition.
The final way is to place the weighted barbell that you want to utilize on your back and put one foot on a high block, or a fairly low bench. This time you are going to do ten repetitions with one leg at a time. Again, with each lunge, put your knee directly over your foot and lunge and push off; lunge and push off, but rather than alternating, you keep one leg going continuously until you reach 10-12 full lunges. When you have completed the right leg; do the same for the left leg. I would suggest doing three sets of one of these lunge variations each time that you train legs. Eventually you will “feel” the one that is going to create the most separation for your particular legs.
Leg-Extensions help some people with definition (and separation); so, I would do these after the hack squats and the lunges. I would get right on as soon as you can and pick a weight that you can do 12-15 repetitions and blast away, keeping the pump growing and etching in some deep striations (which are probably mostly diet and genetic, but always see if you can alter your fibers to do what you want them to do). Remembering that short of a muscle biopsy, no one knows how much explosive fast twitch fiber they have; and how much slow twitch fiber that they may have. In a recent study of bodybuilders; it showed that fibers can actually change over a long period of time. That means that no matter what your parents have given you, if there is a will there is a way.
I would emphasize that you may not be “bio-mechanically designed” to do certain exercises for your legs and that is why, without your measurements, I do not know what the optimum leverage advantageous exercises will be; and, more importantly, neither of us will know which exercises cause growth and/or separation until they are tried over and over. The great thing about bodybuilding is that it is a true passion about your mind with your body. I don’t mean this in a narcissistic way; rather, the more that you experiment, the more you get to know your body and how it responds to various movements. Remember too that a lot of definition and to some degree, separation are dietary responses along with proper training. I believe that your diet should stay fairly tight all year—ensuring that you get enough protein, carbohydrates and good fats each day and not eating any processed foods or grains (with the exception of rice). Most grains are not fit for human consumption, but that is a story for a different day. For now, try these few variations and see what your legs do—you never know until you try.
About the author :
Paul T. Burke has a Master’s Degree in Integrated Studies from Cambridge College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is presently in a Doctorate Degree Program at A. T. Still University, and will be a Doctor of Health Education upon completion. Paul has been a champion bodybuilder and arm-wrestler; and, he is considered a leader in the field of Over-40 and Over-50 fitness training. You can purchase his book, “Burke’s Law,” A New Fitness Paradigm for the Mature Male, from his website, or the Home Gym Warehouse, call (800) 447-0008, or visit www.home-gym.com. ** His second book: “The Neo-Dieter’s Handbook,” A Guide to Finding Your Nutritional Root; Past, Present and Future, will be out in March, 2009 and his third book, “Burke’s Law II,” Reaching Your Muscular Potential through Musculoskeletal Designation (Book Surge/Amazon Publishing, 2013) will be available soon.
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