I’m calling half of you out.
I’m betting that at least half of you reading this are regularly skipping leg training, or neglecting to train every muscle group with equal frequency and intensity.
I see far too many people in the gym training to exaggerate their most prominent muscles while disregarding other parts of their body.
It’s no coincidence that there’s almost always a queue of people waiting to use the bench press, while the leg press lies empty.
I’ve found there to be three main reasons as to why people neglect certain muscle groups;
- A desire to build the most visible muscles in order to look good in a t-shirt – facing front.
- Primarily working muscles they enjoy training and avoiding uncomfortable exercise.
- Believing that the smaller muscle groups will receive sufficient growth stimulation by training large muscle groups.
Guess what… squatting heavy shit isn’t meant to be comfortable, but it is necessary to go through some discomfort in order to build a complete muscular body.
If you’re only motivated to curl dumbbells like you’re sipping tea then you’ll never achieve that whole bodybuilder, or muscular Spartan body.
Your goal should be the complete package, even muscularity from head to toe. Otherwise you could end up looking like a meat head with chicken legs.
From the Front to the Back
When you look in the mirror you see the front of your body reflected back at you. It’s possible of course, to take a gander at how you look from behind, but craning your neck to look over your shoulder doesn’t give the same effect as seeing yourself dead on from the front.
The trouble is – and this problem is compounded by the wall of mirrors which often face the free weight section at the gym – that it’s much easier to concentrate on the muscles you can see than those that you can’t.
Too many people think that this front silhouette is how the rest of the world sees them, but it’s just a small percentage. People are looking at your body from a wide variety of angles in daily life.
This is where the problem of neglected muscle groups begins.
For example, triceps get neglected in favour of biceps, and back muscles are forgotten while you work on getting a killer set of pecs or big shoulders. Legs, calves and forearms don’t get a look in.
Don’t Become an Online Meme
You’ve seen them – the unfortunate photos of guys who are all muscle up top and disproportionately scrawny below the waist. These online memes feature captions such as “Every day is arm day,” “Maybe if I walk flexed, they won’t see my legs,” and “Upper Body Every Day”
The message is clear: focus on just your upper body – or worse yet, just your arms… or even worse, just your biceps – and you’re going to end up looking like a meat head with chicken legs.
Don’t be “that guy”. Don’t become the subject of online and real-life derision.
Similarly, picture how you might look with big biceps and flabby triceps. Consider the locker room jokes which could be made about undersized forearms and stick thin calves.
Imagine being checked out from the front, your pecs bulging, your arms radiating strength… and then you turn around, the illusion crumbling with one glance of your flat back and wobbly butt.
Perhaps you’ve been told, “Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.” Well, that’s good advice if you’re considering which career to choose, but applying the same principle to weight lifting will eventually turn you into a walking meme.
Certainly, make good use of the assets you have – but put an equal or greater effort into correcting your deficiencies to build a well-balanced physique that looks great from any angle.
A well balanced workout program and Isolation exercise matter!
Appearance Matters – But There’s More
So far we’ve talked about the detrimental effect that imbalanced muscular development can have on your appearance. It’s certainly an important consideration, affecting both your self-confidence and how others perceive you, but it’s not the only issue.
From a strictly functional perspective, having imbalanced muscles can increase your risk of injury.
Let’s talk about antagonism…
Defined either as “active hostility or opposition” or “inhibition of or interference with the action of one substance or organism by another”, antagonism is all about working against something – but in our case, that’s exactly what we need.
Consider the example of a powerfully built chest and a weak upper back. Not only is such an imbalance aesthetically displeasing, it represents a lack of desirable “muscular antagonism”.
If the upper back were sufficiently developed, it would exert an opposing, or “antagonizing” force against the chest and surrounding muscles, preventing the shoulders from sloping forward. Without a strong upper back “pulling” everything into alignment, you would run a greater risk of back or shoulder injury/pain due to inevitably poor form, posture and muscular weakness.
Now, imagine you’re training your legs. You’ve warmed up, maybe done some weighted calf raises. It’s time to hit those quads! Hell yeah, you are absolutely nailing your quadriceps with lunges, leg extensions and squats. A new personal best!
Whew, but boy are you tired out now. You execute a few sloppy deadlifts, throw a light weight on the machine for a quick set of hamstring curls and call it a day.
Repeat this pattern week after week and you’ll have big thighs, small, floppy hamstrings and quite possibly, poor posture, knee pain and an increased risk of injuring your anterior cruciate ligaments.
Insufficient muscle antagonism – an unequal balance of opposing forces – doesn’t just make you look bad – it can make you hurt bad, too.
The next time you’re at the gym, don’t just work the muscles you can see in the mirror or enjoy training – treat your body as a whole and give every part the respect it needs.
What are the most commonly neglected muscles?
- (legs) Quads and Hamstrings
- …And the really lazy ones don’t even train their back muscles.
Now, if you’re following a good workout program consistently and entirely then you shouldn’t be missing any muscle groups, apart from maybe having to add in some isolated forearm work.
If you’re chosen workout program calls for a leg training day and you’re simply skipping that part of the routine then you have a motivation problem.
There’s a simple solution to ensuring your legs develop in proportion with every other muscle group on your body – TRAIN THEM!
Half arsed leg training or putting it off… “Let’s leave legs till next week” is going to have you looking like a meat head with chicken legs in no time.
Treat your legs day as seriously as your chest day.
Best Leg Exercises:
- Leg Press
- Leg Extensions
- Hamstring Curls
Best Way to Grow Bigger Calves
Calves are one of those muscle groups where genetics play an important part on their size and muscularity. I fall into the fortunate category of having well developed calf muscles, without having to pay much attention to training them.
I have a similar physique to my training partner, but my calves are naturally 2 inches bigger in diameter over his.
Most people have genetically average, small calf muscles that need to be trained properly.
However, calves are treated like second class citizens, as a thrown in extra after a grueling leg workout. But the calf muscles are the pillars your body stands on and should not be neglected.
They’re there for all to see in your summer time shorts and should be worked with the same intensity, focus and consistency as every other muscle group you want to grow.
Nothing says “lazy amateur” like a well built upper body resting on pencil stick lower legs.
Typically, people will train their calves at the very end of a leg workout, right after heavy barbell squats, leg presses and lunges. Training legs can be very taxing and doesn’t leave much juice left in the tank, which is often the reason calves receive a subpar workout.
If this is something you’re struggling with and the main reason you’re calves remain underdeveloped and not getting the attention they need then try this; train your calves at the beginning of an upper body workout, or with upper body muscle groups like chest and back, biceps and triceps, chest and arms.
Hit calves first in the workout. Like calves, chest, then biceps, or calves, chest and back… you get the idea.
This will allow you to maximally train calves with a full tank. It will allow you to really focus in on stimulating the muscle for growth, and it won’t burn you out for the rest of your workout – In fact, this would make a good warm up before hitting your upper body muscles.
Sitting vs Standing Calf Raise
Some people have naturally big calves, while others struggle to add even an inch. There is a debate as to which exercises are best for calf development – sitting or standing. Before we get into that you need to understand a little about the anatomy of the calf muscles.
The calves are actually called “triceps surae” and are made up of three main muscles heads;
- Medial Gastrocnemius, making the upper inner calf
- Lateral Gastrocnemius, making the upper outer calf
- Soleus, located behind the gastrocnemius muscles.
The gastrocnemius medial and lateral muscles are the largest of the three and make up the bulk of the calf. The soleus is a small monoarticular muscle that is barely visible, being located under the main gastrocnemius muscles.
Now, here’s the biggest mistake people make when training calf muscles… they do a lot of seated calf work.
Why is that a mistake you ask?
Because the bulk of the calf, the medial and lateral gastrocnemius muscles are only recruited sufficiently when the leg is straight. When you’re in a seated position the leg is bent at the knee to 90 degrees. This relaxes the large gastrocnemius muscles of the calf and isolates the smaller soleus.
Not the ideal situation if you’re trying to grow your calves.
Most of your calf exercises should be standing, such as the donkey calf raise, which is an excellent exercise because it works the entire group of calf muscles, particularly isolating the gastrocnemius muscles, maximizing calf development.
• Sitting calf exercises hit the smaller soleus muscles
• Standing calf exercises hit the larger gastrocnemius muscles
Exercises to Build Big Forearms
The forearms are made of a many overlapping muscles. Some bodybuilders used to intentionally neglect their forearms so that it would accentuate the muscularity of their biceps.
This is not a tactic used today. Just marvel at the forearm development of Phil Heath, Lee Priest and Frank McGrath and you’ll see just how much attention is put on forearm growth. Bodybuilders more than ever must focus on forearms to stand any chance of winning a show, and the average gym rat needs a set of fairly muscular forearms to avoid looking skinny and weak.
The brachioradialis is one of the main forearm muscles and plays a supporting role in biceps movements. This particular muscle makes up a good part of the arms thickness.
It’s common for people to train the upper arm and completely neglect this muscle. But if you really want overall impressive arms then you must train this muscle in harmony with the upper arm.
Having large muscular upper arms and thin weak forearms will look less than impressive. I mean, it would be like having a well-built upper body mounted in skinny legs – not cool.
Here are three great exercises you could add to your arm workout to bring up the forearms.
This is an isolation exercise that mainly targets the brachialis, brachioradialis and to a lesser degree the biceps. It can be performed using dumbbells or rope attachment on a cable machine.
This exercise is performed using a neutral grip (thumps facing up) which puts the brachialis muscle in a more direct line of pull, maximizing recruitment and development of the brachialis.
This is an isolation exercise that targets the brachioradialis, and to a lesser extent the biceps.
Performing a reverse grip curl (palms facing down) with an EZ-Bar or Barbell closes off the attachment point for the biceps, placing them in an inefficient line of pull. This means that the biceps lose their mechanical advantage, transferring a strong line of pull to the brachioradialis (forearm) muscle.
When curling with this pronated grip the brachioradialis muscles do most of the work. Because the small brachioradialis muscles are doing most of the work you won’t need to use a lot of weight for this exercise.
Barbell Wrist Curls
This is a good exercise that targets the muscles on the inside of the forearm, namely the Palmaris and Flexor Carpi Radialis.
Kneel down in front of flat bench, pick up a straight barbell and rest your forearms across the bench so that your hands are hanging over the edge. Now curl your wrist and the bar upwards, towards your body. Slowly lower the bar down to the starting position and repeat for 8 – 12 reps.
Bear in mind, forearm muscles are worked indirectly when doing pulling exercises such are when training back, and also biceps. Therefor you only need to perform 2 – 3 direct sets of the above forearm targeting exercises. Ideally you
Don’t neglect important and very visible muscle groups. It could have you looking like a fool, or injuring yourself. Calves, forearms, legs and back are muscle groups that need just as much attention as chest, shoulders and biceps, and in a lot of cases even more focus is required for these muscle groups.
Don’t skip exercises, muscle groups or workouts if you’re serious about building the complete package. Get the work done – all of it – and build a body you’ll be proud of, instead of the embarrassment associated with underdeveloped and imbalanced muscle groups.