Small Changes, Big Results | Erin Stern
This month starts a new series, which focuses on making small changes to ordinary exercises in order to make them more effective. I'm excited to share the little training details with you, as they can have great effects when implemented over time.
Leg extensions and lying leg curls are two common exercises in people's training routines. For sculpting, I love isolation exercises. I typically place these towards the end of the workout, after the big compound movements (squats, leg press, deadlifts, etc.). Leg extensions focus on the quadriceps, while lying leg curls focus on the hamstrings, but what if you want to focus on building the quad sweep and the hamstring peak?
Lets take a look at tweaking the leg extension. This exercise is easier to start with because you can see the muscles working during the exercise. Begin with the normal range of motion and tempo you usually do. Your quads will be firing. Now, decrease the amount of weight you're lifting and turn your toes in slightly. You'll notice the outer quads firing more, and you should feel that this is where most of your force is coming from. Pause mid-rep to really focus on the quad sweep. You can also feel the muscles firing with your hand, if you'd like. We'll use the same slower tempo and pause with the leg curls, as this can help strengthen your mind-muscle connection. This will also make each exercise more effective!
On the lying leg curl, the machine manufacturers recommend lying flat against the pad. I have found that I'm able to target the hamstrings more effectively if I'm resting on my elbows instead (see video below). Using weight a little lighter than you would normally use, dorsi-flex your feet (toes go toward your shins) during the concentric portion of the exercise. Pause mid-rep, then point your toes down for the eccentric portion of the rep. The pause allows you to really feel your hamstrings contract, and pointing your toes on the way down helps to keep your calves from pulling the weight.
Focus on not using momentum and performing the exercise with just the muscle group you're focusing on. The last few reps will really be key for making overall progress. Stay present and mindful! I love PEAK ATP because it helps me get more reps overall - more volume can equate to better progress!
Thank you for reading! Please check out the video for exercise demonstrations! Train hard, y'all!
-Erin Stern, 2x Ms. Olympia/USATF Competitor