They can also be referred to as “Toothpick Legs” and “Skinny Legs”.
We’ve all seen the guy in the gym with a big, massive muscular upper body reminding us of a super hero, but then one glance below the waist reveals a horrible epidemic amongst gym rat types; chicken legs. How can some guys be so impressive and intimidating from the waist up, yet so weak and weary looking from the waist down? Most skinny legs can be attributed to simple neglect.
In particular, the back of your leg in between your butt and knees, which is called the hamstring muscle group, is 2/3 of your leg muscles. So, it’s very important to focus on building up those muscles to change the appearance of your lower body. And of course, your quads, which are the front part of your leg between your groin and knees completes the puzzle.
To build up your leg muscles and say goodbye to those “chicken legs”, do heavier weights with lower repetitions, and perform at a slow tempo.
In this booklet, I’ve concentrated on listing exercises that you can do anywhere, anytime without the need for expensive equipment or machines. However, for this particular set you will have to find a gym somewhere to use. Pump up with these exercises and watch your legs grow into “tree trunks”!
Lying Hamstring Curl
1) Lie face down on a leg curl machine bench with the pad/lever arm adjusted to fit behind your ankles. If the machine does not angle your upper torso downward, you can place a pillow underneath your stomach.
2) Position your knees below the bottom edge of the bench or pad so that they are free to move and not inhibited by the bench. Your legs should be straight and hands grasping the handles or side of the bench.
3) Raise the lever arm by flexing at the knees (curling up) just past 90°.
4) Return back down to the starting position.
5) Remember to keep your hips in contact with the bench at all times. Do not hyperextend your lower back (excessive inward curve) during the movement.
1-Leg 45 degree leg press
1) Sit in the machine and place one foot on the foot plate, positioned off center towards the side of whatever leg you are using.
2. Bend your knee and lower the sled down until your knee is bent to about 90 degrees.
3. Press your leg back up to full extension and repeat. Remember to do both legs!
1) Grasp the bar with an overhand grip (palms forward) and slightly wider than hip width apart. Step under the bar and position the bar across the posterior (rear) deltoids (shoulders) at the middle of your trapezius muscles (shoulder shrugging muscles). DO NOT rest bar the bar on your actual neck. Lift your elbows up, pull your shoulder blades together, and lift your chest up to create a “shelf” for the bar.
2) Using the legs, remove the bar from the rack. Stand with your feet slighter wider than hip width apart. Your back should be straight in a neutral position.
3) Lower your body by flexing at the hips and knees. Your upper body can flex forward at the hips just slightly (~5°) during the movement. Be sure to “sit back” so that your knees stay over your feet.
4) Once your thighs are parallel to floor, return back up to the starting position.
5) Remember to keep your head and back straight in a neutral position – hyperextension or flexion may cause injury. Keep the weight over the middle of your foot and heel, not the toes.
6) DO NOT allow your knees to go past the big toe or deviate medially (inward) or laterally (outward) throughout movement. Keep your abdominals tight throughout the exercise by drawing your stomach in towards your spine.
Some additional tips on preventing and curing “Chicken Legs”:
-While weekly cardio is very important to heart health, weight loss, and positive outlook; however, excessive running, jogging, biking etc. will be counterproductive to building muscle mass and bulking up in your legs. It will generally thin and tone your leg muscles. Balance your cardio out with your leg resistance training to keep your muscle growth optimized.
-As I mentioned, perform your leg routine with heavier weights, doing lower amounts of repetitions, and use a slow tempo. You’ll really feel the burn, the lactic acid buildup, and the growth happening.
-Get a good, quality night sleep after an intense weight lifting session. Your muscles repair themselves and grow while you are sleeping. A lack of sleep throws all of your hormones levels off balance, such as testosterone and growth hormone, thus preventing optimal muscle tissue growth. At least 7.5 hours sleep is recommended!
Jack Witt, MS, CPT
Fitness and Health Coach