I have been lifting in some fashion for 25 years. No doubt about it, I’m still weak as shit, and I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t even know how to train legs until about 5 years ago. I “squated” in high school – that is, I lowered the bar about 1/4 of the way to parallel. With a traditional gym membership post-HS, I would do occasional leg presses, leg curls, hamstring curls. No rhyme or reason. Mostly I focused on the bro muscles – bench, tris, bis, shoulders. Notice no back in there, except for some lat pull downs. And surely no real leg work. Weak sauce. Then I got into endurance sports, biking, running, where I was certainly using my legs, but not lifting. Ironically, my legs got a lot bigger, as pushing big gears on a bike sometimes does, but they were still small.
Today, I lift to be healthy and strong, and to look good. A big part of that is doing lower body work. Mainly I’m doing squats (front and back), deadlifts, and lunges. And I actually learned how! A big part of this was Rippetoe’s Starting Strength, as well as the Crossfit gym I was a part of for awhile that actually emphasized strength and the big movers of weightlifting.
Now I’m not one of those squating zealots or anything, but when you see someone who focuses most of their efforts on upper body and hardly any legs, it’s apparent. Coming home yesterday evening I saw a dude who from the waist up was built like a brick shithouse. Huge. But tiny little bird legs. Kind of like this guy, but the dude was wider and stronger up top. A huge discrepancy.
Squats and deadlifts are great exercises for building all around strength. If you lift, and I think you should, make sure you just aren’t doing the bro lifts. If you don’t know how to do squat or dead correctly, learn. Here’s a nice beginner post on 10 benefits of the squat.
I like to mix up front and back squats in my workouts. Vary sets and reps is also good, but a good old fashioned 3 x 5 or 5 x 5 linear progression program (start low, squat 2x per week , add 5# per workout) will go a long ways. After that, something like a Hatch Squat program is pretty fun, and something I’ve done a few times. And don’t forget those lunges. Put on a 45# vest and lunge a few hundred yards. It’s a great leg workout as well as a workout in general.
So get out there, hit your key lifts (bench, squat, deadlift, shoulder press, bent over barbell row) and everything else is gravy. My workouts are about 90% key movers, with some supplementary work and some metcon work like heavy kettlebell swings. With some consistency, a solid diet and sleep, you’ll be stronger, hopefully increase your testosterone naturally, and lean out some. Maybe you’re not going to end up with 6 pack abs, but stronger, healthier, better balanced with some new muscles are all good things.
Keep on keeping on folks. Get out there and squat!