Saturday, June 4, 2011

MUSCLE BUILDING (Circa 1924 ) - Chapter 10 - The Well-Developed Thigh - By Earle E. Liederman


The thighs, when properly developed, are undoubtedly the most beautiful sets of muscles of which the human body can boast. A well-rounded, highly developed pair of thighs will put a professional finish on any athlete.

Well-shaped thighs are most notable on all professional strong men, especially tumblers and weight lifters, for such physical work places direct application on the quadriceps extensor muscles, which constitute the group of muscles covering the entire front and sides of the thighs. Again I am forced to admit that Eugen Sandow had perhaps the finest contour of this group of muscles that I have ever seen. However, the most remarkable pair of thighs, so far as size is concerned, were owned by William Gerardi, whose thighs measure, I believe, over 31 inches.

Sprinters and Jumpers Usually Have Great Thigh Development

Sprinters have exceptionally developed thighs, produced by the heavy exertion of their speedy work. However, endurance runners, as a rule, are lacking greatly in leg development, as the muscles are overworked. Consequently the tissues are destroyed faster than they can be replenished. It is a known and proven fact that prolonged repetition of movement, when carried to the point of absolute fatigue and even beyond that, to exhaustion, causes the muscles to wear away. Therefore, many well-developed athletes are now dead from the effects of prolonged fatiguing exercises.

The student need have no fear, however, or be frightened by the above statement, for the strength of muscles will be ever on the increase, as long as he discontinues the movement when the aching point is reached. At this point you should thoroughly relax and allow the blood to flow freely while in this relaxed state. After a short period of rest, resume your work until the muscles ache again, thus tiring them for the second time during the exercise period. In this way you will make most rapid progress.

The Kind of Exercise Makes a Great Difference

The kind of exercise that the thighs are called upon to perform has a great deal to do with the size and shape of the muscles to be developed. I have found from experience that slow, heavy work is best to develop the quadriceps extensor muscles. The position of the feet must also be taken into consideration. When the feet are placed flat on the floor with the toes pointed outward, the legs somewhat spread apart, say about 18 inches or more, and deep knee-bending is performed (whether this be done with a heavy weight on the shoulders or against some powerful resistance), the sartorious muscle is brought into play. This muscle, when developed, fills in the space usually seen in poorly developed legs under the crotch, and give not only strength, but a pleasing curve to the inside of the thighs.

The sartorious muscle is also known as the "tailors muscle." This term was given it owing to the process of old-time tailors who sat on the floor, and raised themselves with legs crossed and without the help of the hands, relying only on the strength of this muscle.

The vastus internus and the vastus externus, as well as the rectus femoris are the remaining three muscles that give the curve from the knee to the hip, on the inside and on the outside of the thigh. These muscles can be developed to some extent by the common deep knee-bending exercise, but if the student desires exceptional development and extraordinary curves, he must perform this deep knee-bending exercise against a powerful resistance, or else with some heavy weight on his shoulders.

The feet should be parallel with each other when performing this exercise, for the greatest strain is placed directly upon the thighs if the heels are kept flat on the floor. If the heels are raised from the floor, the lower legs or calf muscles are required to share some of the burden.

The Shape of the Legs Largely Inherited

Heredity has a lot to do with the size of the legs. Some people are naturally fortunate in having well-developed legs, without any exercise whatever, while others possess legs that are exceedingly thin and ungainly. A person who inherits a good sized leg has everything in his favor in attempting to convert the flesh into good, solid muscle - and well-formed muscle at that.

However, a person whose legs are thin need not be discouraged, for scientifically applied exercise will give anyone the curves and the strength that he desires. Of course, the small-boned man again must not expect to obtain the strength and the bulk of his heavier-boned competitor. The fact has been proven in hundreds and hundreds of cases of small-boned athletes, whose thighs were exceptionally well-developed, that the small-boned man has just as much of an incentive to work for, and even more than a heavier-framed individual.

The thighs play an important part in feats of strength, and work in unison with the muscles of the hips, especially in performing lifts and in carrying and working with heavy objects. The common exercise of deep knee-bending is a very good one to begin with for improvement of the thighs. However, I would not advise its continuance except as a warming-up exercise, after a period of about three months, for then the thighs are in a state to receive heavier work.

The student should then endeavor to perform deep knee-bending on one leg, or run upstairs tow or three steps at a time, thereby giving the thighs additional work. After a month or two of this, you should adopt more vigorous methods, if you expect further improvement in the thigh muscles.

Don't Neglect the Biceps of Your Leg

One of the most sadly neglected muscles in the body is the biceps femoris, below the buttocks in the back of the thigh. This muscle contracts the leg and is an exceedingly stubborn one to develop. Sprinters as a rule are well-developed in this part. But in order to develop this muscle to its limit, one has to resort to special exercises.

The lifting of heavy objects from the floor while bending over and keeping the knees stiff, and then bringing the object to the waist, while straightening up to an erect position, will place pressure on this biceps femoris muscle. Unless the muscle is properly developed the thighs lack the finishing touches of harmonious development.

Next time you attend the theatre, pay particular attention to the acrobats, the strong men or the dancers, and if you are fortunate enough to see these men's legs either with or without tights on, you will have an excellent opportunity of noting what a vast improvement a beautiful curve behind the thigh makes in the appearance of the legs.

Classical dancing will also develop this muscle. The juggling of a weight placed on your foot and held in an upright position while lying on your back, will also develop the leg biceps. The common limbering-up exercise practiced by toe dancers, which consists in grasping the heel and raising the leg forward and upward, until the knee is stiff, will also put a strain upon this muscle, and help its development.

In practicing exercises for the thigh you must be exceedingly careful in the beginning and not put too much strain upon the legs or hips, or work with too much enthusiasm. For harmful results, such as a rupture, might come from such thoughtlessness. Progress gradually; do not be impatient and expect to see results all at once. You must never try to lift heavy objects until your legs are somewhat developed, and capable of the extra strain. Then when you do, be sure that you stand pigeon-toed; that is, with the toes inclined to turn toward each other. Never stand with the toes pointed outward, when lifting heavy objects. For when the toes are pointed outward, the strain is placed mostly on the sartorious and adductor muscles, and too great a strain on these muscles may prove serious. When your toes are pointed inward, the strain is placed on the vastus internus and vastus externus muscles of this quadriceps extensor group.

Exercises for the Thighs

As I said before, the ordinary deep knee-bending exercise is a good one for beginners to use as a limbering up movement, but it is much too light an exercise to yield any marked results in development. It won't be long before you will be able to squat down and up hundreds of times. Instead of adding strong muscular tissues on your thighs, you will tear the tissues down quicker than they can be replenished, by overwork.

Although the thighs should really be worked similarly to the arms and shoulders; that is, tiring the externsor muscles within ten repetitions, nevertheless, caution should be used in performing leg work, owing to the fact that overstraining may result in a hernia. I, therefore, suggest that the student perform at least twenty or twenty-five repetitions, in order to tire the muscles thoroughly. In order to get the quadriceps extensor muscles aching in twenty-five counts, artificial resistance must be resorted to.

The best means of securing additional resistance for these exercises is to place a bar-bell upon the shoulders. Perform the deep knee-bending exercises with this weight adjusted to suit the strength of your legs. If you are good for twenty-five repetitions, and your muscles do not ache as much as they did in the beginning, you should increase the weight. If you have no weight, I suggest you perform deep knee-bending exercise on one leg at a time. In this manner you will be able to tire your muscles more readily,

To make the movement still more difficult without the use of a weight, you can step up on the edge of a table until you are standing in an erect position. Then lower yourself again, until one leg touches the floor. This gives the muscles a little more work than if you performed a one-leg deep knee-bend on the floor.

There is still another method of developing the thighs, if the student has no bar-bell. That is, to have someone sit on your shoulders, straddling your neck, and perform your deep knee-bending exercise in that way. Progress can be made by having heavier and heavier individuals help you out.

When performing deep knee-bending with bar-bell or with someone sitting on your shoulders, keep the feet flat on the floor. Do not raise the hells off the floor when reaching the squatting position. This will enable you to squat further down and almost sit on the floor, thereby giving complete contractions and extensions to your muscles. Keep your toes pointed in front and your feet about 12 inches apart.

A Great Exercise with the Bar-Bell

Another exercise that will greatly build up the belly of the extensor muscles and, at the same time, give strong play to the sartorious muscle, is as follows:

Stand with feet abut about 20 inches apart or more, depending upon the length of your legs. Then, with a weight on your shoulders, and toes pointed outward, with feet flat on the floor, perform a half-squat; that is, bend the knees about half way. This can also be done with a bar-bell held with both hands between your crotch. In performing this movement, be sure to keep the body erect and tire the muscles within twenty-five repetitions. Care should be taken by the beginner in this exercise not to use too heavy a weight or resistance. For when the toes are pointed outward, there is more danger of a strain or hernia than when the toes are pointing straight forward, or even inward. However, you need not fear a strain if you go about it systematically and do not let your ambitions and enthusiasm get the better of you.

Almost every athlete who has well-developed legs also has an excellent lung capacity, for you cannot develop the legs without developing the lungs at the same time. You will find this out for yourself as you progress with the work. It is a good thing to do a little breathing exercise after you have finished your leg work, for then you will be out of breath, and when you are out of breath, deep breathing will do you a world of good.

Exercising the Leg Biceps

The muscle behind the thighs, known as the biceps of the legs, as I told you previously, is a sadly neglected muscle and is very seldom prominent, even on many professional athletes. There are dozens of movements that you can perform to work this muscle, but here are two of the best. Bend over with the knees stiff and pick up a heavy weight from the floor, bring it to an erect position in front of you, and lower again. Repeat this until the muscles at the back of your legs are distinctly tired. Lie on your stomach, bending your knees until your heels almost touch your hips, and push one leg with the other until your legs are straight, forcing yourself to work against as much resistance as your legs will permit.

Also, in picking up a bar-bell from the floor, exercise should be made progressive as you become stronger in the leg biceps, by standing on books or low stools and picking the weights up from the floor, with the knees stiff. If you bend your legs at all in this exercise, you lose the most important part of it.

By keeping the knees stiff at all times, you will feel the strain directly upon the biceps of the legs. The simple exercise of bending over and touching the floor with the palms of your hands, without bending your knees, also affects this muscle, but you will not make much progress by continuing this light movement. You should progress in this exercise until you are able to stand on a strong chair that will not tip over, and with the bar-bell held in front of you, bend over with knees stiff until the weight hangs down below your feet as far as possible, and then straighten up again as far as possible. By adjusting the resistance you work against, you should very easily tire your leg biceps muscle within twenty-five repetitions, or even less.

In the exercise where you lie on your stomach and resist with your legs, you must concentrate strongly on this movement. Otherwise, the amount of resistance you work against will become lighter and lighter, in which case you will not progress very rapidly.

Lying on your back and juggling a bar-bell placed on your feet when your feet are extended upward, will also benefit this muscle. But I do not advise this exercise except to advanced students who have become used to handling a bar-bell. For the beginner is liable to allow the bell to slip off his feet and fall on him, thereby resulting in an injury.

Short sprints will also benefit the thigh muscles, for they put direct strain on these muscles and give them definite work to do. However, as I said when speaking of the hips-and the same thing applies to the thighs - if you want to be a developed athlete, with a well-rounded physique, perfect in all its proportions, don't neglect your hips and thighs. For lack of care in exercising these muscles will be apparent, at first glance, to any trainer or teacher of physical culture, and will invariably detract from the harmonious appearance your body would otherwise have.

Iron Nation
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