The Importance of Leg Training
By Sean Mickle, edited by Grant Zalud
When people ask me “how do I improve my bench?” “how do I break through this plateau on pull-ups?” or “why aren’t my arms growing?” I typically respond with a question; “are you squatting/deadlifting?” The answer is typically no. However, upon further investigation, the yes’s lose credibility as the usual routine consists of squats every few weeks, or deadlifting once last March.
I cannot stress enough the importance of these two exercises in one’s training program. I had been bodybuilding and winning for almost two years without consistently squatting or deadlifting. However, I was hitting plateaus and struggling to grow. The institution of these two lifts, as per my trainer’s (Grant Zalud) instruction and prescription, has added 20 lbs. of muscle to my frame in the last four months.
As my trainer explained it to me, squats and deadlifts are cause for heavy central nervous system (CNS) stimulation. This means that the entire nervous system is forced to work at its maximum capacity to complete each rep/set. In doing so, the signals sent from the brain to the muscles, become stronger, more efficient, and more rapidly translated into force. The strength of the signals, in conjunction with their increased efficiency, leads to more force production, and this force production is not limited to the legs.
As the load on the body and mind are increased, the body responds by increasing testosterone and growth hormone production. This increase in hormone production allows for the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones to grow to accommodate the new stimulus. This means that EVERY part of your body is going to grow because it must if it is to withstand the same or greater force in the future.
Every able-bodied individual, when lifting raw/unequipped, should be able to squat more than they bench, and deadlift more than they squat. This said, a man benching 300 lbs. should squat 400 lbs. and deadlift 500 lbs. However, this will vary slightly with differences in genetics, training history, and commitment to squat/deadlift execution (yes, squats and deadlifts are difficult and tiring).
Leg training is one of the most important aspects of any athlete’s training program.