Doug Hepburn down in the U.S.A.
Original Photo courtesy of Jan Dellinger
A Complete Leg Workout, Part Three
by Bill Starr
Parts One and Two are here:
"How long should I stay with this routine?"
"As long as you're satisfied with it. I've had some athletes use it year round while others do it for only three months. Then they want more variety. The best program is one that works for you."
"Let's say I'm a more-variety-type. What would I do?"
"You could start doing some lunges, front squats, and leg presses. If you want to stay with the three days a week idea, substitute one of these on your light day. Or you could substitute a couple of sets of leg presses for your back-off sets on Monday or Friday. Front squats and lunges make ideal light-day exercises because you can't handle nearly as much weight as in the regular squat, but they are very demanding. Front squats and lunges have to be done correctly, though, or they will not be useful.
"Correctly on the front squat means raking the weight on the front deltoids as in the conclusion of a power clean. The current trend of using the cross-arms method just isn't effective because when the weights get heavy the athlete cannot control the bar correctly. And the weights have to eventually get heavy or the exercise isn't going to get the job done. It's merely a matter of spending some time stretching the shoulders to gain the necessary flexibility. Many find, to their surprise, that they are quite proficient in the front squat. You have to go low in the front squat and stay perfectly erect. This technique activates some different muscles from those used in the back squat - particularly the glutes, hips, leg biceps and the medial part of the quads.
"One reason so many of the old-time bodybuilders had such amazing quad development was that they did front squats as a regular part of their programs. They competed in Olympic weightlifting competition, so they did the front squats to help recover from the heavy cleans. It makes an ideal light day. If you are using 325 in the back squat, you're going to be hard pressed to use 245 in the front."
"I can rack the weight all right. I used to do lots of power cleans. Still 5 sets of 5 in the front squat?"
"No, the sets and reps are different because the bar tends to slide on the shoulders with heavy weights, no matter how firm the rack. Do 2 sets of 5 as warmups, the 3 or more sets of 3 to limit. For you, do 135 and 185 for 5, 205, 225, 235 and try 245 for 3. No back-off set for a couple of weeks, but after that you can add in one back-off set of 8 with a fairly light weight.
"Lunges are also useful for a complete development, for they, like front squats, hit the leg muscles in a slightly different manner from back squats. Most feel lunges the most in their leg biceps. But for lunges to be a true strength exercise they have to be done differently from the way they are demonstrated in most magazines. Typically the model is shown merely bending his real leg toward the floor. This is not nearly as productive as keeping the trailing leg as straight as possible and forcing the hip into a low position. The dipping, bent-leg method is no more than a poor excuse for a partial squat, while the straight rear leg method activates a great many muscles very directly.
"Lunges fit in the light day nicely as well. You'll find 6 sets of 4 reps per leg work best, but these have to be thought of as a strength movement, not just a token exercise. You should plan to be using 225 for 4 reps on each leg once you master the form."
"Where would I fit in leg presses?"
"Do them behind your squats on Monday or Friday in place of your back-off set - 4 sets of 5, working moderately heavy. That will be enough. Don't hammer a full leg press workout after a hard squatting session or you'll overtrain."
"How can I possibly fit all these into a week's program?" Gene wondered.
"You don't have to," I replied. "You can select a few different exercises for variety, do them for a month or so, then switch off and try something else. If an exercise gets you sore, that's a good exercise for you because it tells you you're hitting some weaker muscles. Or you can alternate exercises every other week. Do front squats one light day and lunges the next."
"And this program will make me bigger?"
"If you gain weight. There's no way you're going to get bigger if you don't increase your caloric intake. It's simply not possible."
"Should I start taking any supplements?"
"That's an economic consideration. Sure, if you can afford them, try one of the newer designer supplements like creatine monohydrate, but they don't come cheap. A basic milk-and-egg protein powder might be worthwhile or, if money is very tight, just use dried milk solids. They provide ample protein in a milkshake for a very small cost.
"I've seen lots of athletes pack on 15 extra pounds merely by eating more of what they usually eat. More milk, an extra sandwich at night, and fruit snacks all add up. But you have to eat the best you can and make sure you are getting plenty of rest. Rest is one of the more important factors in gaining size and strength- and it's free."
"I have no trouble with that one. I love to sleep. Well, you gave me plenty to work with. Think I'll come up here for a few weeks so you can show me the correct form on some of these lifts. I'll bring some Gatorade."
"Deal. If this weather keeps up, you'd better buy a case."