Take Off Your Pants And Train Your Legs

My lower legs are relatively skinny.  I don’t look like a marathon runner, but I’m not winning a body building contest any time soon.  I’ll care about my calves when they help me deadlift more, so I’m content with farmers walks, sprints, single-leg work, and having a workout that sucks less than the dude who’s super setting calve exercises.  Waste of time, Bro.

My upper legs, are a different story, and they seem to be growing.  I don’t remember drying my pants on high heat, but most of my old pants rebel when I try to get them over my thighs.  Unfortunately though, I see ‘slim fit’ every where I turn:

What’s up with that, fashion industry?  Adding to my frustration was a website that one of my trainer friends e-mailed me a link to earlier this week, called the “Abercrombie Workout“, which as you guessed, is about achieving the ‘look’ of an Abercrombie model.  As I first perused the site, I tried to stay open minded, but my emotions quickly progressed from curiosity to discomfort, to anger, to rage.  Maybe it was because of lines such as this:

Are You A Victim Of Squats, Dead Lifts, And The Bench Press??


Note: I’m sure you noticed that I didn’t include training legs. Abercrombie and Fitch models don’t have thick, tree-like, legs. Your lower body has a much larger growth potential so it is very easy to build the legs up with weights. You can create much sexier and defined legs with a tough HIIT workout.

According to the site, squats and deadlifts are undesirable.  Squats “do a great job of adding a lot of mass to your thighs and butt”, while deadlifts “also does an incredible job of adding mass to the midsection, thighs, and butt.” According to the site, “You do NOT want this! Abercrombie models don’t have huge butts or thighs because it will ruin their look. They also won’t be able to fit into stylish pants.” Additionally, “Adding mass to your midsection will ruin the natural “V” in your upper body. Take a moment and study their physique. They all have nice wide shoulder that tapers down to a small and lean waist.

Thank you, Google, for this example:

Based on the picture, let’s assume that the Abercrombie look is relatively lean, low but noticeable levels of muscle mass, and no legs.  Seriously, when you search “Abercrombie Model“, it’s all pictures of skinny guys with six packs.  When you add “Abercrombie Model Legs“, you get one additional photo of a female model, unless you scroll for days, which nobody does.  At this point, I realized, this is a male version of the female waif model look:

Seriously, this is ridiculous.  Sure, I’m bitter about not being able to fit into pants.  But more importantly, we’re a nation of inactivity, of obesity, of knee pain and lower back injuries.  Most of us spend a good majority of the day not moving.  We’re sitting on our butts when we eat, commuting to work, at work, taking bathroom breaks to Tweet at your friends during work; we’re always sitting.

You mean to tell me that it seems like a good idea to avoid working muscles that never work, just in case they get to big to fit into your precisely tapered jeans?  Let me tell ya’, that sounds like a terrible idea.  In fact:

You shouldn’t give a shit about being an Abercrombie model.

If you do, get off my site and go to another one.  I’m here to help you be healthier, stronger, and more confident, not to be concerned with if a model’s legs are too big or too little.  There are other people who care about that.  Find them.  I’m here to help you realize that moving well, picking up heavy shit, and feeling competent with a variety of movement-based exercises will help you feel better, be healthier, and perform better, with looking good naked as a desirable side-effect.

Now that we’re on the same page, let’s address this whole training-your-legs thing.  Perhaps you’ve fallen victim to the same don’t-train-your-legs mentality, but you’d like to the see the light.  Let me share with you two of my favorite bang-for-your-buck lower body exercises, the Trap Bar Deadlift and the Valslide Reverse Lunge.

The trap bar deadlift allows you to pick up some heavy shit, while providing room to address mobility deficits; you can turn it into a squat pattern, you can perform them in a Romanian/Stiff-legged style, but I’m not concerned with the squat vs. deadlift semantics.  Regardless, you should be doing it.

The ValSlide Reverse Lunge is my favorite single-leg variation because like the aforementioned deadlift, it allows for many variations, and each of them are awesome.  Simple tweaking allows you to turn it into a knee-dominant or hip-dominant lift, you can load it in a variety of positions, and you can perform them from a deficit.  Here are some of my favorite variations in the order I’d recommend progressing them in:

Body weight like Jen Grasso:

When you feel comfortable with the body weight reverse lunge, load it in the Goblet position until the dumbbells get too big.  Here’s a set of 120lbs x 20 by Ben Bruno:

Eventually, you’ll have to move on to two dumbbells, each held in your hands:

By the time you progress to the barbell, you’ll be pretty damn strong:

I’m really sick of this don’t-train-your-legs nonsense.  Running is fine, and sprinting is better, but neither create the metabolic stimulus or strength gains that you’ll see from dedicated lifting.  Proper training will go the furthest for helping you reach your physique and performance goals, but more importantly, it will give you a greater sense of accomplishment, and will better preparing for kicking ass at your daily activities.

Finally, if you have any idea where I can find jeans that fit but don’t look like bell bottoms, please let me know!  I’m having trouble finding them.

8 Replies to “Take Off Your Pants And Train Your Legs”

  1. Size up and get relaxed/full cut jeans. Won’t fit in the waste, but it won’t make you look like you’re wearing JNCO’s from back in the day. I don’t think tailors can bring jeans in at the waist, but it could be worth a shot.

    1. David, the JNCO’s look is what I’m trying to avoid, sometimes I feel like the lower leg of the relaxed fit looks like that. It works well for khakis, but the jeans…I’m still working on it. The tailor is a good idea, I’ll have to try that out!

  2. HA! This is hilarious. I can’t believe they actually publish that crap. Yikes. No wonder most guys don’t train their legs. I’m not complaining because it makes me look great when I squat and deadlift heavier than them! Haha.

    I just started training a new client who has been working with a trainer for two years, but refuses to do any kind of heavy lifting. He will only do circuits with 15+ reps, and he has never squatted or deadlifted before. Why? He is overweight, but his main concern is that he doesn’t want to get ‘bulky’. You bet your ass I had him doing squats during our very first session.

    1. Tara, does it happen as much in England, and did it happen in Australia? Seriously, guys every where have been telling me that they just run, or they’ll do some isolation work and call it a day. Weak.

      How have you addressed the ‘heavy weight’ issue with your client? I speak with a gym member on a regular basis who is scared of heavy lifting. (He was the inspiration for the ‘Heavy Weights…’ post, and I’ve been trying to pitch it as something that will make his metabolic workouts more efficient. My biggest issue with the light weight/more reps/ conditioning-only approach is that the movement patterns are usually horrendous! Just plain old ugly squats and lunges, etc!

      1. Australia is obviously a beachy place, so a lot of guys just do upper body. I overheard numerous men saying that training their legs was a waste of time. They were grossly disproportional, but couldn’t see it. London is a little better, but not as many people work out. Most Europeans are super thin so don’t see a need in lifting weights. I went out to a bar last night and all these skinny guys were checking me out. Whenever a guy starts talking to me, my response is “how much do you deadlift?” 99% say: “what’s a deadlift?” Haha

        What I have noticed is that not a lot of guys train back. I actually have one client who was working with a trainer for a year before me, who NEVER did a single back exercise. He had a leg day, chest and shoulder day, and arm day. WOW. Fixing his muscle imbalances was a lot of hard work.

        My new client was easy to convince. He probably has about 50 pounds to lose. I asked him how long he’d been training in the low weight, high rep manner (two years, with a trainer!! What is with all these terrible trainers, by the way!!?!) and how much weight he had lost (nada). His trainer actually told him he’s just big boned. I just told him his workouts will take less time, feel easier, and will make him feel unstoppable. We’ve now done moderately heavy squats and deadlifts, and he is already loving it. He doesn’t have a fear of lifting heavy per se, but just doesn’t want to bulk up. I told him that would only happen from eating too much.

      2. That is mind boggling!!!! Australia seems to be considered one of the fitness capitals of the world, I’m surprised that the back training has gone the way of the dodo. It’s no wonder most people have knee, back, and shoulder pain! If I could, I’d do deadlifts and rows every day, and deal with pushing as little as possible.

        Most folks usually seem surprised when you start swapping out their beloved cable flies for push-ups or rows, but I’m always amazed at how little upper back or lower body work people do. I’m glad I haven’t run into anyone who was told that they’re big boned, but it’s nice that your client understands that heavy lifting helps and that diet keeps weight gain in check!

        Whenever I meet a girl, I’m always tempted to ask, “Do you deadlift?” If I ran into a girl like you in a bar, I’d be a very happy camper. Although, I’ve been in 3 bars in the past year, all this past weekend. I’m pretty sure wearing an EliteFTS shirt to two of them wasn’t my best fashion choice.

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