Bodybuilding contests aren't judged purely on muscle size -- to excel you also need excellent muscle definition and symmetry. One key area judges look at is the separation between your leg muscles -- the quads, hamstrings and glutes. Achieving lean, striated, defined legs takes dedication to your weight-training program, as well as your diet and cardio schedule. Don't let your competition have the upper hand by neglecting your leg separation.
Perhaps surprisingly, your diet plays the biggest role in creating separation between your leg muscles. To get deep cuts between the muscle fibers of your quads, hamstrings and calves, your body fat levels have to be very low. This low level of fat allows you to see the striations in the muscle, and as you can't spot reduce fat from specific areas, your fat levels need to be low over your whole body, hence the need for a strict diet. To get into your best condition, you'll need between 20 and 24 weeks of dieting, according to bodybuilding coach and nutritionist Dr. Joe Klemczewski. If you're already very lean, you might be able to get away with a slightly shorter timescale, or if you're overweight, you may need longer. Look to lose around 1 1/2 pounds a week by reducing your calorie intake, mainly from carbs and fats. Losing fat requires you to burn more calories than you take in. You can achieve this by reducing your calorie intake, increasing your exercise levels, particular cardio work, or for best results, a combination of both.
Training for separation requires a higher repetition range than you would usually use, according to trainer and bodybuilder Delbert Hickman, who uses sets of up to 100 reps to bring out separation in his legs. One way to implement this type of training into your routine is to perform a high-rep burnout set after a heavy set. This hits both your fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers and increases growth hormone production, which may aid separation.
Work your quads and hamstrings together in a workout composed of giant sets. Perform three quadriceps exercises such as hack squats, leg extensions and leg presses back-to-back with no rest in between for three sets each, then three hamstring exercises, such as stiff-legged deadlifts, leg curls and bridges in the same manner. Add in three calf exercises too -- seated raises, standing calf-machine raises and single-legged dumbbell calf raises. Complete this workout once every five to six days.
The week before your contest is known as peak week. While you should already be extremely lean and virtually stage-ready by this time, there are some tactics that can increase your muscle definition and separation. Reduce your carb intake slightly a week out from the show, then start to increase them again two to three days out, advises bodybuilder and nutritionist Dr. Layne Norton. This helps fill the muscles with glycogen and makes them look bigger and more ripped. Some competitors manipulate water and sodium intake, but this should only be attempted under close supervision of a medical professional. Learn how to pose correctly too -- simply by standing and flexing in the right way can create the illusion of more separation.
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