Hitting a leg plateau is a common occurrence for most men (and some women) who have been weightlifting for several years. Here are the 3 reasons your legs haven’t grown since 2006:
3 Reasons Your Legs Haven’t Grown
1. You’re doing the same exercise routine over and over again
When was the last time you didn’t perform bench press as your first exercise on a Monday morning? When the last time you did an exercise other than bicep curls to work your biceps? If you have to scratch your head and think about it, then it’s been too long. One of the best ways to bust out of a strength plateau is to switch to new exercises for a certain muscle group.
For instance, if you’ve been consistently using standard squats to work your legs over three months, then switch it out with Romanian deadlifts. Both exercises work the legs, but your body will not be adapted to doing deadlifts. The only way it will adapt to that new exercise is by getting stronger at it; which in-turn means your legs will get stronger. The best part is that since your legs are getting stronger with the slightly different exercise, you’ll almost always be able to do more weight with the original exercise. Go figure!
2. You’re not training hard enough
The people that keep doing the same exercise routines week-in and week-out are usually the same ones who don’t train hard enough. Your body (especially your legs) is meant to adapt to whatever stimuli that it’s presented. In layman’s terms: if you keep doing the same exercise, your body will no longer grow or get stronger.
How can you train hard enough to bust out of a strength plateau?
Stop doing the same reps and/or using the same weight. For instance, if you’ve been stuck squatting 155lbs for 3 sets of 8 reps since 2008, no wonder you haven’t noticed your legs getting stronger. It’s time to add more reps, more weight, or both!
In this example, you might switch to 3 sets of 6 reps with 160lb or 3 sets of 10 reps with 145lb. Believe us…your body will recognize the difference.
3. You don’t give your legs enough time to recover
Even if the first two reasons don’t apply to you, not giving your leg muscles enough time to recuperate from a strenuous workout could be your downfall. Your legs are your biggest muscle group; thus they take longer to recover from a grueling exercise routine than every other muscle group. Not giving them proper rest can result in stunted muscle growth (as well as over-training and injury).
In other words, when your legs are given enough rest, they grow.
Bonus Training Tip
Doing too many leg exercises is detrimental to busting your plateau. For leg-specific training, do no more than 5 exercises per session.
Okay, now you know why you’re experiencing leg plateau. Here are 8 exercises you can use to bust through and increase muscle growth, plus a sample workout that you can use to get started.
8 Exercises To Help You Break Through Your Leg Plateau
Barbell Jump Squats
While most people have done regular barbell squats, few have done jump squats. This explosive movement will shock your leg muscles and unlock new growth. It builds on the classic barbell squat and adds a more explosive component. If you love your squats, this is a great variation to try out.
Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
The Romanian deadlift is a variation of the straight-leg deadlift. It’s an ideal movement if you prefer constant tension on your lower-body muscles. With RDLs, you bend your knees rather than keeping them straight(er) and you’ll feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings. Be sure to keep your back straight through the movement, lowering the barbell (or weight of your choice) to about the middle of your shins rather than to the ground.
Doing this body weight movement will feel like you’re climbing a mountain, especially if done at the end of a leg workout. This is a great exercise because it’s multi-dimensional. It will help build strength but it’s also an aerobic exercise. Plus, it calls on other muscle groups to help, such as your abs, shoulders, and more.
Strength imbalance (i.e., one leg is stronger than the other) could be a reason you’re battling leg plateau. Lunges are perfect for equalizing strength in both legs. Since lunges are a common leg exercise, you can add to it by trying variations of standard lunges.
One option is to perform jump lunges; similar to the jump squats, you’re simply adding a more explosive element to the exercise.
Another variation which helps target each indiviual leg is to rest the top of your foot on a bench or chair behind you while stepping forward and bending at the knee of the other leg. You can perform the lunge with the front leg and having your back leg up on a bench will force you to use more muscles to stabilize.
No, you’re not going to deadlift a sumo wrestler. This exercise is good if you want to emphasize the legs instead of the back. While the weight is in front of your feet, spread your legs out to the side (in a sumo stance). From there, lift it like a regular deadlift.
This is a variation of the deadlift that a lot of people don’t do in the gym. Basically, it’s a reverse deadlift where your body is in front of the bar. The hack deadlift will emphasize the quad muscles more than other variations.
Dumbbell step-ups will help step up your leg strength. This movement places great emphasize on your quad muscles. It’s a simple exercise to perform and it provides a surprising burn for your legs. You’ll probably want to go higher in reps with these using lower weight.
When it comes to building mass for legs, most people don’t think of machines, and for good reason. Many of the leg machines are more suited for toning and not lifting heavy weight or packing on muscle. The leg press isn’t one of those machines though. This exercise is great for providing constant tension to the leg muscles and, with the right leg press machine, you can add on a good amount of weight.
Tip: If you don’t want to add too much weight but you want it to be more challenging, you can switch to one-legged presses.
High Intensity Workout Routine For Breaking Through Your Leg Plateau [Sample]
Sample Training Frequency
With this workout, you’ll train legs 2 days per week. Ideally, the training days at the gym will be on Monday and Friday to give your legs at least 3 days to rest.
Note: Alter exercise order, reps and weight in each session to keep the leg muscles guessing and prevent future plateauing.
Exercises with weights are based on a percentage of your 1-rep max (1RM). So, if you’re doing 3 set of 10 (75% 1RM) with 90 seconds rest, you’ll use a weight that is 75% of your 1 rep max and rest 90 seconds between sets.
Sample Leg Training Routine
Warm-up Routine (do each exercise in order for 1 minute)
- Jog in place
- Jumping Jacks
- Lunge Walks
- Arm Circles
|Exercise:||RDL||Barbell jump squats*||Dumbbell Step-ups||Mountain climbers|
|Sets and Reps:||3 x 10 reps||3 x 10 reps||3 x 12-15 reps||3 x 30 seconds|
|Rest time:||90 secs||90 secs||60 secs||60 secs|
|% of 1RM:||70%||70%||60%||Bodyweight|
*Only squat halfway down before jumping up