Don't Skip Leg Day - Part II: The Athletic Regression
So I had just graduated from high school and...
Going into freshman year at Uconn (go Huskies!!), I was brimming with confidence. No parents, tons of girls, and lots of free time. My roommate happened to be my buddy from high school and he also worked out, which meant the first day on campus had “gym” written all over it. I distinctly remember that day. We both chugged pre-workout while blasting some tunes in the dorm room. Once the jitters from whatever chemicals were in our system hit, we made our way to the rec center. I’m not sure how my buddy felt, but I felt like I could walk through a brick wall on the way to the gym. However, that all changed once I stepped foot inside the weight room.
Just FYI, there’s a big size difference between a 17 year old and a 21 year old, just as there’s a big size difference between a freshman in high school and a senior – that’s not a revelation. The revelation was going from the top of the fitness chain in high school, right back down to the bottom. The guys at the gym in college (who were dedicated) had me reevaluating my routine. Bottom line: my biceps weren’t big enough. I recommitted to putting on some size. I ate more food, lifted longer and harder, and even started incorporating abs…because ladies liked those too, so it seemed. The (upper)body was shaping into form…which is just around the time I started to notice something was off.
I first noticed that some of the inherent athleticism I had was stymied. This occurred to me one day when I started to get the itch to play some basketball and tried to find my game. I noticed something was different. I hadn’t really played competitive basketball since junior year in high school and I felt heavier, slower, less explosive. Well, that makes sense, I had put on some size. But, I also felt some knee stiffness and leg pain. As I became more aware of my loss of "functional movement", I knew the time had come: it was time to start doing the other half of my body. I know, this story seems pretty anti-climactic - a kid did a bunch of arms, couldn’t move as well, and started doing legs. If only it was that simple. When I say “started doing legs”, I began doing a couple exercises every week or two - just enough to get the knees hurting and feel a burn for a few days. I’d throw a plate on the bar and do half-squats, use the leg press machine for a couple sets, and then do some leg extensions. If any progress was made, it was infinitesimal, and I was probably doing more harm than good. I used poor form, had no warm-ups, no cool-downs...but hey, I was doing legs.