Lower Body Hypertrophy Guide
Learn to squat and deadlift
The two most crucial exercises for any lifter are the squat and deadlift. They require stability throughout the body and allow the lifter to move very heavy weights. If you’ve got mobility issues, muscular imbalances, or hidden injuries, you’ll find it through squatting and deadlifting. If you can perform these exercises with good technique and without pain, then load up the barbell and lift some heavy ass weight. If you’re able to squat and deadlift heavy ass weight, you’re going to be able to build a lot of muscle on your legs.
Lagging Body Parts
The squat and deadlift work every muscle in the lower body. However, due to people’s individual differences in bone and muscle lengths, as well as pre-existing injuries and mobility issues, the squat and deadlift may not build the legs symmetrically. If you’ve got short femurs and short arms you’ve probably got a great squat and huge quads, but a poor deadlift and weak glutes/hamstrings. If you’ve got long femurs you’ve probably got great development in your glutes and hamstrings. Even though everybody’s built differently, there are ways to even out development across the legs. Every person is likely to have dominant muscle groups, here’s how to bring up the weaker ones:
What to do when your quadriceps are lagging
If you’ve got big ole’ glutes but your quads aren’t so impressive, you’re going to want to find an exercise or two that stimulates the quads more than a normal squat. Some good exercises to try out could be a safety bar squat, front squat, leg press, or hack squat. To know right away if your quads are being stimulated, try to feel a mind muscle connection. Can you feel your quads working throughout the exercise? Do your quads burn toward the end of the set? Are you getting a good pump? If you’re still struggling to feel the quads working, a leg extension machine is great to build a mind muscle connection.
What to do when your hamstrings are lagging
If you’ve built a nice set of quads but your legs don’t look so meaty from the back, you need to add in some isolation work to build your hamstrings. The first thing you can do is add a variation of a leg curl to your program. There are seated, lying, and standing leg curl machines. All are useful, just find the one that’s best for you (or available). You can also modify your deadlift to stimulate your hamstrings more. Stiff-leg and romanian deadlifts take stress off the glutes and add to the hamstrings, plus you don’t have to use as much weight, so the exercise isn’t as taxing.
Men and women generally approach glute training differently. Men typically want glutes that compliment the rest of their physique, and a lot of women just want a big butt (by the way, there ain’t shit wrong with a man who wants a juicy booty or a woman who doesn’t give a shit). If you’re using the squat and deadlift as your main lower body movements, it’s highly unlikely your glutes are going to be a lagging body part. But if you do want to grow a big ole’ peach emoji on your backside, add some hip thrusts into your programming. This exercise is great because it stimulates the glutes at the contracted position rather than the stretched position, where the glutes are taxed by the squat and deadlift.
And an extra for the peach chasers - add some glute kickbacks into your program. Do lots of reps (20-30) for this exercise. Focus on the contraction of the glutes and train hard.
What to do if your left and right side are uneven
Most people will likely notice an imbalance in strength from left side to right. Maybe you feel more drive coming from your left hip when deadlifting, or notice you sit a little bit to one side when squatting. This means you’ve probably got some muscular imbalances, and you can probably see a difference in muscle size if you look closely.
To bring up a weak side, perform unilateral exercises (one side at a time). Start with your weaker side, perform as many reps as possible, and then match that rep count on the other side, even if you can do more. This will ensure both sides get equal training and will bring the weaker side up to par.
What to do if your quadriceps are uneven
Add in a unilateral leg press, bulgarian split squat, or single leg leg extension to your program.
What to do if your hamstrings are uneven
Add in a single leg dumbbell deadlift, offset stance deadlift, or single leg hamstring curl to your program.
What to do if your glutes are uneven
Add in a single leg dumbbell deadlift, offset stance deadlift, single leg hip thrust, or glute kickback to your program.
Training calves is pretty straightforward. Calf raises and slight variations of that exercise are really the only way to focus growth on your calves. The different variations: strict seated calf raise, strict standing calf raise, and standing calf jump. Put all three of these into your program. It’s important when training calves to always move through a full range of motion. Feel a stretch at the bottom, and a full contraction at the top. Train to failure, yes you’ll be sore the first few times you train your calves, but they recover quickly (any time you walk you’re using your calves - they’re accustomed to being used a lot). Also, do a ton of sets. Not at first, but there’s nothing wrong with doing 6+ sets of calves 3 times a week if you’ve slowly worked your way up to it
Okay, now what?
Go learn to squat and deadlift, and do your calf raises. Train hard as fuck. Remember, master your technique before you try loading on the weight. If you find a lagging body part, train that extra. If one side is weaker or smaller than the other, do some unilateral exercises. Lower body training isn’t easy, but it’s incredibly rewarding. Here’s one to having big wheels *clink*