Colossal Legs Unleashed: The Secrets To Powerful Legs & Powerful Athletic Performance

Ever been to the Vatican museum? One of the most fascinating aspects of my journey to Italy was the sculptures that were on display at the Vatican. These sculptures were not just masterpieces of human hands. They were fascinating renditions of the strength and power of the human body. One of the main things that stood out for me was the aesthetic of the body....and those strong, powerful legs! It seems to me that the ancient world was an amazingly active place to live in. Monolithic structures, and regimented routines, plus loads of wars that were played out by men who were highly drilled and fantastically strong.

Now let's fast forward to today, and you will be able to make your own piece of history by increasing the performance of your leg routine, for colossal gains in power and strength. In this article I will unlock for you Da Vinci-like secrets that will propel your athletic performance to the next level!

Leg Training, It's a GAS: Like all great masterpieces, strong legs take time to build. General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) looks at three different components that help to increase muscular strength and prevent overtraining over time:

1. Shock Phase: This occurs when you are exposed to a stimulus, and there is a corresponding drop in performance.

2. Resistance Phase: The body adapts to the training stimulus.

3. Maladaptation Phase: when the stress in the workload is too much, or there is no variety in a given stimulus that leads to a drop in performance.

Now we've primed your legs up to understand what it takes to create strength and power. With the power of adaptation we can create overcompensation. This is the period where the most strength gains occur, if we add another stimulus to our leg training then we might overtrain. If no other stimulus is added at the optimal time, then we might lose strength. It's a balancing act. But to gain some serious strength in our legs, without overtraining, we need to periodize.

Bompa (1994) came up with the protocols or a standard of westernized training principles that helped increase strength over a period of time. Now there are certainly other periodized training methods, but we will stick to the textbook (Bompa) version so you can understand the basics for great gains in leg strength. Periodization looks at a planned variation of acute program variables (Source: Fleck & Kraemer, 1997). Periodization revolves around the following issues:

1. Adaptations are achieved progressively over a long period of time.
2. A high degree of fitness can only be maintained for a relatively short period of time.
3. Overload provides the stimulus while recovery provides the adaptations. (Source: Richardson, A. Advanced Resistance Training, 2001)

Therefore, periodization will help plan and organize your leg training regime for powerful performance. So letís start looking at the phases of strength that will help increase our little twig legs to Herculean pillars!

Get Functional: The functional stage focuses on high volume repetitions, with low training intensities (%RM). An emphasis here will be to gain lean body mass and a good all round balance of strength for the legs. Experienced athletes will look at gains around a period of four weeks. Where inexperienced trainers could stick to this phase for up to 10 weeks.

Maximize It: The focus here is big loads, with a reduction in volume and an increase in intensity. We should be aiming to work up to and over 85% 1RM. This is really taxing, and should possibly be performed once or twice a week with 1-3 sets. This period lasts about 4-12 weeks depending on the athlete or trainer.

Convert It: Strength and power come into play here. With the emphasis on high intensity and speed of movement. Specificity should also come into play, with movements that should mimic the bio-mechanical pattern of the trainee's particular sport. This should last for four to 6 weeks.

Cease It: Here strength and power are increased through greater intensities and a mixture of speed of movement, reactive training (plyometrics) and technique of the particular sport. This lasts for 1-2 weeks.

Maintain It: Volume is low, and intensity is moderate, to keep the gains we have made in our leg training throughout all the above periods. Maintenance last for 20 weeks, depending on the sport and allows the athlete to not overtrain.

Get Some Active Rest: Take it easy with very low work loads and intensities. Doing other activities that are not akin to your target sport would be a good option. Instead of soccer, try some basketball?

Now that you know how to create strength and power with a periodized program, let us look at some of the best compound movement exercises for total leg development. The winners are (drum role please):

- Barbell Cleans (like the Olympic clean and jerk...without the jerk)
- Barbell Squat (the grand daddy)
- Dead lift (works mostly the back, but your legs will feel it)
- Hack Squat (utilize more poundageís, and vary your routine)
- Stiff Legged Dead lift (works the hamstrings)
- Leg Press (good option if your lower back hurts, good for maximum poundageís also)

There are other exercises but these are the best for maximum power output and strength for the legs. Also, try to use these training systems for maximum gains and variety so as not to overtrain the legs:

- Super Slow (Reduces the role of momentum)
- Negatives (Extreme soreness, take a longer recovery)
- Single Set (If you run out of time, max out with one big set)

So there you have it, you have created legs that would be the envy of Da Vinci, and perhaps echoed in the annals of sports for ever. Go out there and power up your performance with strong powerful legs!

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John Stevanja is an Aussie born, internationally certified fitness instructor, who has played competitive soccer at the highest levels in the position of goalkeeper. Being well travelled, John has worked in the leading corporate and private gym environments in the UK.

John offers a unique twist on goalkeeper specific nutrition and performance. His site, http://www.keeper-skool.com is updated daily and gives advice for not only the competitive soccer goalkeeper, but for athletes and fitness enthusiasts from all walks of life.

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