Category Archives: INJURY PREVENTION

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Sculpting Better Legs: Simple Leg Workout to Improve Your “Sweep”

vastus lateralisIf you have been following this mess I call a blog at all for the last 5 months you may have heard me whine and whine about my knee. If not, you’re in luck because here I go again.  5 months ago I was getting ready for my first ever MMA tournament.  I know,… shut it! But anywho, I was gonna try. Here’s a shocker: my 42-year-old butt got tore up by a 19-year-old monster.  I tore my medial meniscus and sustained a 90% tear to my MCL.  I was devastated, but now I’m back and I want to not only return to competing, I want my quads bigger and stronger than ever. The area I want to focus on for this workout is the Vastus Lateralis, the largest and most outer portion of the thigh.

How to Improve Your Sweep

Bikini competitors legsHow do we isolate out the vastus lateralis muscle, or as we call it in the physique world, “the sweep”?  Vastus externus or vastus lateralis, depending on your A&P professor, is the largest of all the quadricep muscles. The action of this muscle is to extend the tibia or shin bone at the knee, but I’m here to help you learn how to perform knee extension to isolate out the other muscles that synergistically aid in this action.  In sculpting, it is very important that we learn isolation. Whether we are a bodybuilder, a bikini competitor or a stay-at-home mom that wants to scult their body, we can all use these principles to learn to sculpt nicer legs.

Target Training

target fatFat burn or spot reducing fat  can not be limited to specific areas of the body, no matter what  “bogus science” and pills tell you. However, sculpting most assuredly can be reduced to a single area, action, and in some cases, specific fibers of a specific muscle – all based on how we execute the exercise.  You don’t need a degree in kinesiology to learn these principals, just a little common sense is all.

So, how do we excite and fatigue the fibers of our outer quad to hypertrophy our SWEEP?

Narrow-minded

Leg press sweepOk, so here is one exercise you should be narrow-minded about. Narrow is better when we talk about our stance to accentuate or facilitate the contractile tissue of the outer quad.  So lets think narrow when doing squats and leg extensions.  Whatever exercises you do, stand with a more narrow stance (feet together).  You may stop and ask, does that mean if I stand wide, I will work my inner thigh and medial quads?  Yeppers! Now you are getting it.  (another blog perhaps)  Moving on…

Self-Centered

building better legsWith leg extensions, it’s all about being self-centered – literally. If you point your toes outward, you are working the  vastus medialis, the tear drop shaped muscle on the medial side (inside) of the legs close to the knee. Since we want to work the opposite side of the legs, then (yes, you guessed it) we want to point our toes in the opposite direction, pointing toes together. Note: this doesn’t work by just pointing the feet from the ankle down, the whole leg must internally rotate to the center to excite the appropriate muscles.

Here is an example of my own leg workout where I use these same principles to improve my sweep.

Yesterday’s Leg Workout

Warm up:  4 sets / 20 reps  

Deep weighted walking lunges  (35-50 pound dumbbells) 45 seconds rest btw sets

Couplet: Leg Press & Leg Extension Super Set
(zero rest between super set, 1 minute between sets)

#1 Heavy leg press
5-8 plates each side, narrow stance (4″ apart) and push only on your heels
10 sets / 15 reps

#2 Moderately heavy leg extension
Moderately heavy leg extension (130lbs-160lbs) internally rotate your femur’s in (toes are pigeon-toed), and squeeze your outer quad in terminal extension.
10 sets / 12-15 reps

Repeat Super Set 10 Times

Puke and repeat for 10 rounds(sets) with 1 minute rest between (rounds) sets

Here are some pics from my last show, the Daytona Classic, just 10 days after getting hurt.

daytona classic

Train Hurt or Go Home! (or should you?)

No matter how careful you are in the gym, sooner or later you will be faced with some sort of achy extremity or throbbing appendage.  What you learn next could redefine how you train during injuries.

I got caught in an arm bar last Monday night at the Forge, where I am learning mma.  Yes, apparently I suck; however, after being caught in this rather precarious maneuver,  I thought my elbow had been broke.  Not so much from my arm going numb, or the excruciating pain in my elbow and shoulder, but mostly because of the huge tearing sound that made my opponent let go and say “did I break it”.  Not exactly what you want to hear.  Now the critical point… Am I just “hurt”,  or am I “injured”.  If I’m hurt but not injured, should I continue fighting or should I rest?  How do I know?

Let’s define the difference between hurting and injuring your body.  Here is my own rough definition:  when you are “hurt”, your body has sustained some sort of benign pathology, or an ouchee, that is sensitive to movement or touch.   The integrity of the tissue is usually not compromised to the point where continued movement will cause more or excessive damage to itself or surrounding tissue.  In other words, you’re ok; it just hurts like a bitch.  And then… and then… there is injury.  I don’t like any of the definitions I googled, so let’s look at some cinnamon’s (ha-I crack myself up) destruction, ruin, impairment, mischief… If tissue is destroyed or ruined, it could be said to be “injured”.  I’m not Webster, but let me make this clear.  When part of your body is compromised to the point that further use is unavailable, or attempting to use said body part may cause more damage, I would define this as an “injury”.  Now knowing these terms, how do we distinguish between being hurt, and being injured, without diagnostic equipment like an X-ray or MRI, or one of those cool scanners that “Dr Bones” had on Star trek?

To determine if you are injured or just hurt, in most cases, you can do a quick field assessment to get a rough idea if you should continue training/fighting/playing.  You must take into consideration your pain threshold when assessing your status.  For instance, if you’re like me, you could have a paper cut and think you need stitches or, on the other end of the spectrum, be like my father in law who could have a bone sticking out of his leg saying, “it just a little bump”.   If the pain was acute from a blow or a spasm, or a movement you just did during exercise, you may need to rest at least a day, as pain, adrenaline, and activity can mask your diagnosis.  Even if the incident is acute, you can still use these principals as long as your better judgment prevails.  This assessment is most accurate for a potential injury sustained over time, when the origin of when the pain began is rather ambiguous.  Usually if you sustain an acute, “potential injury” during training, it is usually best to stop the training session at least for the day, observe the pain pattern, and -of course- ice immediately.

If you find yourself hurting, and wanting to determine if you should train through the pain or not, try these simple rules… Read the rest of this entry

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