THE THEORY: PROBLEM: All too often I see serious gym-goers with shocking body imbalances; vastly chiseled torsos sitting majestically on top of two quivering twigs. As my first post for the DailyHiit, I want to draw attention to the plight of our fantastic legs! They're the largest muscle group in the body, responsible for the most intense calorie burn during workout, for explosive movement, and for the highest release of natural human growth hormone amongst all our muscles; it's so worth keeping them conditioned (something they will thank you for as your body matures!). BENEFITS: Strength-training legs has a huge range of surprising health benefits, which stretch far beyond the aesthetics. For example, it stimulates bone re-calcification, enhances tendon and ligament durability and improves overall joint strength, as well as promoting the release of dopamine and endorphins for a mood boost . If you're looking to raise your metabolic rate, this large muscle group burns more calories during exertion, and then burns the highest number of calories at rest, thanks to the thermogenic effects of training legs hard. A 30min leg session can burn between 500-1000 calories (depending on intensity), which is 25-50% of what the UK Government thinks is my recommended daily intake! My preference is to maximise the intensity and minimise rest where possible :) WHY? Most cardio engages the legs, so by increasing your strength and/or size, that helps to fuel the workouts while burning more calories simultaneously - it's a virtuous circle of exercise. Also, training legs encourages the release of natural testosterone and other HGH compounds, promoting overall strength and mass throughout your whole body - not just the legs. Unless you want to end up looking like a comically imbalanced gorilla, add some additional variation to your regime; stimulate optimal muscle adaptation and growth, and train some legs! Here's how... THE WORKOUT: Warm-up: Forgetting to warm up for this session is unwise and more likely to cause injury. By including a quick warm up it prepares the muscles not only for the hard session ahead, but also kickstarts the central nervous system so that the muscles contract faster, fortifying the body for the session. A warm up doesn't have to mean a 5 minute jog; instead, I aim to target the area which is about to get worked. Below is a 5minute timed body weight / mobility circuit, which should get you sweating! - 1min x Body weight jumping squats - 1min x Step ups - 1min x Kicks at a punch bag - 1min x Walking push ups (remember to keep the legs as straight as possible) - 1min x Lying get up (lying down, get up, keeping feet firmly aligned on the ground. Once standing up, get back down and perform the same sequence in reverse). Exercises: Below are three great exercises which work all of your lower body. Each set should be as near to maximum intensity as possible! To make sure the muscles are really pushed to the edge of comfort, I've included an exhaustion set with each exercise. Go through exercises 1, then 2, then 3, and following that, repeat 3 more times. It took me almost an entire hour to complete all 4 rounds the exercises, by which time I was in need of a good cold shower! After this session you should be feeling pretty famished (if not you probably didn't train hard enough). Try and grab some protein and carbs within 30 minutes of the workout to help speed up your recovery, rebuild and prevent over-eating later. I had my dinner shortly afterwards - a grilled tuna steak (medium rare), sweet potato and salad -yum! 1 a) Barbell Squats (as per below pics) 12 reps, 1 set, 30 seconds rest Targets: not only the legs but also the abs, as they have to stabilise your bodyweight during the squat. How to: position the bar on your upper back, with feet about a shoulder-width apart. Keep feet and knees pointing outward slightly. Bend the knees and lower the body (under control) until your thighs are about parallel with the floor. Finally push the weight up until you reach the starting position. If you're used to the exercise, then do a full squat. Avoid: shifting weight forward or backward. Keep: abs tight (thus supporting your lower back). 1 b) PowerJump squats (as per below pics) Until failure or 1 min continuous Targets: legs, abs + inner thigh - all the adductors How to: feet approx. a shoulder-width apart, point knees and toes outward . Bend your knees lower you body (again, under control) until your thighs are about parallel with the floor. Explosively jump back up, then repeat! 2 a) Straight leg dead lifts (as per below picture) 12 reps, 1 set, 30 second rest Targets: the lower back, hamstrings and glutes + arm/trapezius strength gripping / lifting the heavy weight. How to: Grasp the bar using an overhand grip. Stand up straight, legs narrow/shoulder width apart. Keep knees slightly bent. Keep knees stationary throughout the motion, and slowly lower the bar over the top of the feet. Bending at the hips. Maintain a straight back throughout. You should feel a stretch along you hamstring. Slowly return to starting position. Attention: I suggest starting with a lighter weight and performing higher repetitions to safeguard the lower back. It's always better to do more 'light' reps than to slip a disc! 2 b) Lying hamstring curls (as per below pics) Until failure or 1 min continuous Targets: the lower back, hamstrings and glutes. How to: Lie flat on your back, and place a swiss ball under your heels. Lift your hips and hold the position through the entire exercise. Place your arms by your side for support. Roll the ball towards your body and curl your knees. Keep: abs tight, engaging the entire core. 3 a) Calf raises (as per below pics) 12 reps, 1 set, 30 seconds rest Targets: the calves How to: Using a smith machine, place a step-up box underneath the bar. Standing on the box with the balls of your feet, place the bar on the back of your shoulders. Raise your heels as high as possible by pushing off of the balls of your feet. Hold the contracted position for a second before and the slowly return to starting position. 3 b) Jumping Ballerina (as per below pics) Until failure or 1 min continuous Targets: the calves How to: with feet about a shoulder-width apart, point the knees and toes outward in a squat position standing on your toes. Jump up and land back down on your toes, working those calves!