How to Increase Leg Vascularity

Doctors use the word vascularity in connection with the venous system, or veins. For bodybuilders, however, the word takes on a specific meaning concerning the visibility of your veins under your skin. Ideally, they stand out in sharp relief against your muscles, giving your body a rugged, fit appearance. With good leg vascularity, the femoral and tibial veins -- the main veins in your leg -- are particularly well-defined. Although the way in which your veins lie under your skin is influenced by genetics, specific techniques allow you to enhance and highlight your natural leg vascularity.


A man is flipping a tire. (Image: fotokostic/iStock/Getty Images)

Training for Vascular Muscles

To have vascular, muscular legs, you must engage in a training program designed to build muscle, particularly in your quadriceps and calves. Many experts recommend strength training with heavy weights at low repetitions to stimulate muscle fibers and increase vascularity. Leg presses, leg extensions and seated and lying leg curls on a weight machine are examples of exercises to incorporate into your routine. According to Unique Bodyweight Exercises, one-legged squats -- in which you squat with one leg extended straight out in front of you -- are particularly effective for building leg muscle. Unique Bodyweight Exercises also recommends working the quadriceps muscles with isometric stretching, in which you contract the muscles while they are being stretched. Consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen; a qualified trainer can suggest a workout tailored specifically to your needs.

Kicking up Your Cardio

Boost the blood flow throughout your body by adding cardio to your game plan. Cardio exercise improves the capacity of your blood vessels to dilate, boosts the flow of oxygen to your muscles and improves vascularity by reducing water retention. Add in moderate-intensity cardio exercise such as walking or light calisthenics for 30 to 60 minutes, five days a week. If you do more vigorous exercises -- such as running, cycling 10 mph, boxing and swimming -- aim for 20 to 60 minutes, three days a week, to give you similar benefits.

Eating for Results

Most bodybuilders eat a specialized diet to achieve the low body fat that is essential for vascularity. Dr. David H. Freidenberg, a physician in Seattle, Washington, advises eating six small, protein-packed meals a day. Professional bodybuilder Anthony Ellis concurs and advises consuming 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily. Ellis says you also should avoid saturated fats in favor of polyunsaturated fats, found in flaxseed and fish oils, and monounsaturated fats, found in nuts and avocados. Drinking sufficient amounts of water can help increase vascularity. Check with your physician or a dietitian before embarking on a bodybuilding diet.

Enhancing the Vascular Appearance

If you have progressed to bodybuilding exhibitions and contests, there are techniques you can use to enhance your leg vascularity before going onstage. Muscular Enhancement Tips says you should shave your legs with a conventional or electric razor two days before the event; smooth skin helps to provide a contrasting surface to highlight engorged veins. Boost vascularity by warming up immediately before the contest with light pumping, flexing, posing and exercises, including calf raises and squats. Eating a small amount of sugar 10 minutes before going onstage also can help veins to stand out. Finally, using a posing oil on your legs can enhance the appearance of protruding veins. Personal trainer and professional bodybuilder Jeff Behar recommends a mixture of almond- and menthol-based oils to warm the skin and increase vascularity.

REFERENCES & RESOURCES Muscularity Enhancement Tips: Justin Leonard Preparing for Your First Bodybuilding Contest T-Nation: Questions of Strength: Vol 43 Unique Bodyweight Exercises: Leg Exercises That Build Power and Strength Advice With Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee: Muscle Building Tips Circulation: Exercise and Cardiovascular Health American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Issues New Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise