1. On Leg Extensions – Don’t focus on foot position for emphasising different regions of the quad – Instead, focus on internal or external rotation of the femur at the hip joint. Foot position will be dictated by femur angle – the reverse is not true.
Logic – Yes, it’s true – you can place emphasis on different regions of the quads through different femur angles. Source – Soutenberg M, Pluchino AP et al, The impact of foot position on electromyographical activity of the superficial quadriceps muscles during leg extension. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 2005
2. On Stiff Leg Deadlifts – For adductor and overall hamstring recruitment, stick a small plate between your feet. Throughout the motion, isometrically dig your heels into the plate, while shoving your knees out. For pure hamstring isolation and emphasis on bicep femoris & semitendinosus, flex your VMO hard. You’ll be humbled by the minimal range of motion when you do this.
Logic – The hamstrings aren’t involved in just knee flexion and hip extension – they play an integral role in rotation of the lower leg both internally and externally. Placing a plate between your feet as an external cue allows you to push against a fixed load – creating an isometric contraction through the hamstrings.
3. On Lying Leg Curls – Squeeze your glutes to shove your hips down into the pad throughout the entire range of motion. At the peak contraction, thrust your hips forward even harder and lift your quads off the pad by about an inch. Stretch your quads between sets.
Logic – Locking down the glutes allows for complete isolation of the hamstring in their knee flexion function – to the exclusion of any extraneous pelvic rotation. Stretching the quads helps with firing and activation of the hamstrings via Reciprocal Inhibition.
4. On Calf Raises – Perform them barefoot. At the peak contraction, try to get your pinky toe up off the step. Between sets, sit on the balls of your feet in a Seiza position.
Logic – Training barefoot allows for better articulation of the feet, toes and ankles – think of it as wearing mittens and trying to perform upper body work – your proprioception and activation is severely limited. The Seiza position helps to open up the heel cords and improve blood flow through to the plantar fascia – a common issue amongst many individuals that causes excessive pain through the arches of the feet.