During strength and endurance training, you can train several different body parts at the same time. In fact, many trainers believe this should be the way to go since this allows you to rest one body part as you work on another.
This process of working out and resting is crucial for ensuring safe gains and to yield great results. One way to work both the upper and lower body and achieve proper proportion is to perform a tandem of leg and shoulder workouts!
For more information about how this works and the best workouts you can try, continue reading below!
Why You Should Train Your Legs And Shoulders Together
The symmetry of the lower and upper body built of a person is important in achieving a perfect balance of appearance and strength. This is why many trainers and fitness experts suggest working the legs and shoulders at the same time, two prominent muscle groups in the lower and upper body, respectively.
Thankfully, there are many exercises designed specifically to meet these needs. While each bodybuilder has a particular Achilles heel when it comes to muscles they work on, most would agree that the shoulders and legs are some of the hardest muscles to build and develop.
Your genes may play a part as well. They can make it extra harder to bulk up or strengthen these muscles. So, you might be wondering why on earth you should put the legs and shoulders in one workout session when they are that hard to train.
Well, fitness advisors say that training your legs and shoulders together allows you to conserve both your energy level and your strength, which is more efficient than working them out separately.
Since the shoulder and leg muscle groups are far apart and do not compete with each other, you can also train them both with maximum intensity at the same time. It’s also best to perform leg and shoulder workout routines along with exercises for other parts of the body.
Leg And Shoulder Workout Exercises
Now that you know the why’s, let us get into the how’s of working out your leg and shoulders. Below are some of the exercises that you should and should not perform along with the reasons why they can be harmful or beneficial.
Most of us dread the leg day because the exercises involved can be tough and long. However, if you know the right moves, you can make the most out of your effort and reap maximum benefits.
Avoid Leg Extensions
When doing only leg exercises, leg extensions are among the most effective movements. However, these can cause an increase in the grinding and reaction force on the knee joint, even putting connective tissues at dangerous positions.
Leg extensions, like any other open chain exercises, pose damage on the knees which are the primary joints responsible for leg movement, thus reducing the legs’ range of motion.
And because it isolates certain muscles by nature, this movement can neglect other muscles like the hamstrings and put too much stress on a few muscles that are better used in conjunction with primary movers.
Avoid Leg Presses
The leg press is similar to the leg extension in many ways except that the leg press is a compound exercise that uses both the hip and knee joints while the leg extension only uses the knee joint.
I have to admit, leg presses are not entirely bad or dangerous. However, it does come with a few risks if not done properly or if you load up too much. Because there are two joints involved, there is also a double risk for getting hurt or injured.
When using lighter weights, leg presses are actually safer and better for training the slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers of the glutes and quads. Sadly, they do not hit the hamstrings very much.
Also, the leg press machine is the only thing that provides all of the external stability so the stabilizer muscles are not challenged. This can be a problem when building strength because the stabilizers are important in performing compound movements.
In his book, “Low Back Disorders”, Dr. Stuart McGill, Professor Emeritus of Spine Biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada wrote that the leg press may sometimes cause the pelvis to twist away from the back rest when working with lighter weights. This can result in a herniated disc due to lumbar flexion!
In other words, you can hurt your back and maybe even suffer from permanent damage.
Do Squats Instead!
Unlike the leg press, the squat allows your own body and stabilizer muscles to provide internal stability and control over the movement. This prevents you from falling on your face or tipping over.
So, when doing squats, almost each and every muscle of the body plays a role and is engaged including the small muscles at the bottom of your feet, your core, upper back, hamstrings, glutes, quads, and erector muscles.
Training the legs this way also triggers the body to produce more testosterone, which benefits and energizes the whole body. Because of this, squatting is more practical and functional in equipping more of your muscles with strength for everyday performance. The coordination skills you develop alse help against knee injury.
How To Perform It:
- Stand with your feet slightly wider apart than shoulder-width. Hold a barbell on your upper back using an overhand grip but do not rest the weight on your neck.
- Engage the muscles of your upper back by hugging the bar into your traps.
- Brace your core and lower into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor or your knees are aligned with your hips. Make sure you backside is out, your back is straight, and your head is facing front. (Note: doing lower and deeper squats is better but it’s best to enhance your flexibility and strength first).
- Pushing your heels into the floor, explosively push yourself back up. Maintain the proper form until you are standing straight. This counts as one rep.
Pro-Tip: You can perform the squat just with your hands folded behind the head and no bar so you can get a feel of the movement. For an added challenge without the stress, use a weighted vest.
Avoid Upright Rows
Upright rows are among the most common and widely recognized exercises in the gym. While these are meant to target the muscles of the upper back and shoulders, they can unfortunately cause shoulder problems especially for beginners. The most common risks are biceps and neck tendon pains brought about by repeatedly doing upright rows using improper form.
Do Barbell Hang Clean And Presses Instead!
The barbell hang clean and barbell press stimulate the same muscles that upright rows do, but with much less risk of muscle pain and injury.
How To Perform It:
- With a straight back, squat down and grab a barbell using an overhand grip.
- In one quick, explosive movement, bend your elbows and lift the barbell up to your shoulders. This is the barbell hang clean.
- Then, maintaining a squat position and with your heels firmly pressed on the floor, extend your arms to raise the barbell above your head.
- Lower the barbell onto your shoulders and drop it back to thigh level. Always keep your back straight.
Pro-Tip: You can add an overhead shrug for better stimulation. Just lock your arms out when you pull the bar over your head. Then, lower and elevate your shoulders in a shrug without bending your elbows. 5 shrugs for each rep will help strengthen and shred your shoulders quicker.
For a more detailed information on how to perform this exercise, please watch this video:
How Often Should You Train With A Leg And Shoulder Workout?
Depending on your skill level and prior training, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) suggests different levels of intensity and frequency of doing strength training for the legs and shoulders. Here is a quick guide:
The NSCA recommends two to three days of training per week for beginners or those who are new to strength training. Ideally, each day should be dedicated for specific and selected exercises for working on major muscle groups.
However, in this case, you can do a split routine where you can do combinations like triceps and chest on day one, biceps and back on day two, and shoulders and legs on day three. Just make sure to get a day of rest between each workout session.
For Advanced Weightlifters
As you improve in terms of strength and endurance, the NSCA says you can progress to four to six days per week. Obviously, this kind of training reduces your rest day to only once a week.
You can still use the same split routine that you used when you were a beginner. Group your triceps with your chest exercises, the biceps and back exercises, and the shoulders and leg exercises. However, this time, you will be going over each exercise group twice instead of just once per week.
Specific Strength Training Goals
For those who simply want to strengthen their legs and shoulders, you can work on these two muscle groups thrice a week during the same day. Give yourself a whole day of rest in between to allow for muscle recovery.
According to the NSCA, the best resistance or weight is something that is light enough for you to complete twelve repetitions and something heavy enough for you to perform at least 3 repetitions.
You might find that during most days, your muscles would be tired after the eight repetition. Just aim to perform 2 to 5 sets of leg and shoulder exercises per session.
The best leg and shoulder workout will help you develop endurance and strength without posing a risk of injuring or hurting yourself. Now that you know which exercises to avoid and try, I hope you achieve your fitness goals more easily.
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