Friday, April 28, 2017

A Complete Leg Workout, Part Two - Bill Starr (1998)

A Helluva Good One: 
Check it Out! 

Continued from Part One:

Your first step to increasing your workload will be to add in one back-off set on Monday and Friday - One set of 8 reps with 50 pounds less than you handled on your final heavy set. 

"No back-off on my light day?"

"No back-off because you want to keep that a relatively light workout. The two back-off sets, which you can start on your second week, will push your workload up, in your case, another 4,000 pounds, and that's enough of an increase.

"Should I also do more work on the machines?"

"Not yet. The increases in workload need to be incorporated gradually. Do too much too fast and you've become overtrained." 

"I'm assuming that when you say squats, you mean full squats?" 

"Absolutely. Full squats are much more beneficial than partials. Full squats involve so many more muscle groups, including those of the hip, leg biceps and adductors. And, contrary to what most people believe, full squats are much less harmful the the knees and lower back. Do the full movement from the very beginning and you'll avoid problems later. Also, you'll get a lot stronger in the long run because you have strengthened all those muscles that are neglected with partial squats."

"All right," he said, "let's see if I've got this. Run my top-end weight up steadily and at the same time increase my total workload. That it?"

"Not quite," I replied with a laugh. "If it were that simple, there would be lots of people squatting over 500, but I'm sure you've noticed that in most gyms no one even handles 315. The next step is to identify your weaker areas and do something to strengthen them. Two groups which typically fall behind and hurt the squat are the lower back and adductors. About half the people I put on programs have inadequate adductor strength. Those are the muscles situated on the insides of your thighs. They are often taken for granted, but they are extremely critical to building strength and size in the legs. It's rather easy to spot a weakness in the adductors. Your knees will turn inward on the heavy squats or the final reps on the back-off set. If this weakness is not corrected, not only will the squat stop improving, but you will also experience knee problems - not because of the squat itself but because of a disproportionate strength factor. The adductors play a major role in stabilizing the knee joint and if they are relatively weaker than the quads and leg biceps, the knee will move from its normal position during any exercise that involves it. This included heavy pulling movements like the deadlift and bent-over rows as well as the squat."

"The obvious question is, how would I go about strengthening my adductors?"

"The very best way is to use an adductor machine. There are two machines that I am very high on, the calf machine and the adductor machine. If you do see that your knees are rotating inward on your squats, start doing 2 sets of 20 on the adductor machine three times a week. In most cases the adductors respond very quickly, in a matter of a week, but it's still a good idea to include them in the program. You know they got behind strength-wise once, so in all likelihood they will again."

"There no adductor machine in here. What would I do if I'm training here?"

"Wide-stance squats also work, You have to use a moderate poundage at first because balance is a factor and you have to make sure you go very, very low since the deep bottom position is where the adductors do their work. A moderate weight for high reps, 12s or 15s."

"So would I substitute these wide-stance squats for my regular back-off sets?"

"That's right. You wouldn't do both, just one or the other."

"But never on the light day," he added with a grin.

"Yes and no. No high-rep work on the light day, but you can incorporate wide-stance squats in that workout.

"Eventually you'll be doing 3 work sets with the same weight on Wednesday (the light day),  instead of just one. For example, using your current starting numbers, you would be doing 135, 225, 275, 275 and 275 for 5 in your light-day workout. Again this allows you to move your workload up a bit without too much stress. Now, if you feel the need to add the adductor work, do all three sets with 275 using a wide stance. Even if you don't need additional adductor work, still do at least one of the top-end light day sets with with a wide stance. Do one with a normal stance, one wide, and one narrow. This plan provides a very complete leg development session.

"The other area that needs special attention from the very onset of this program is the lower back. Without strong lumbars you will not be able to maintain correct position on the heavy squats. The lower back is really the cornerstone of strength for the entire body.

"The three best exercises to strengthen the lower back are back hypers, good mornings and stiff-legged deadlifts. I suggest you do one set of back hypers before you squat. Most people can do 20 right away. Then try to move the reps up to 50. This may sound like a lot, but all you have to do is add 2 reps per week and you'll reach your goal.

"Good mornings are the most hated exercise of all, but they do work. Do 5 sets of 8 and slowly increase the weight. To maintain proportionate strength, the good mornings need to be done with half the weight you plan to squat with. This means if you are doing 325 for 5, you shoiuld be handling 160 to 165 for 8 in the good morning. Once again, you may not be able to do this right away, but you should move them up until you meet that ratio. Once you do that, moving the good morning up along with your top squat should be easy."

"I remember those," he grumbled. "We called them 'tomorrow mornings.'"

"If you do them right, you will be reminded the following morning. Now, there are several variations of the good morning, so you can switch around or pick the one form you find the most beneficial. You can do them with a very flat back, a rounded back, or while seated on a bench. They not only hit the lumbars very directly, but they are also great for strengthening the leg biceps. This is another area that falls behind on some people, and nothing works better than good mornings in bringing them up to par.

"You might want to alternate good mornings with stiff-legged deadlifts. They are also great for lumbar and leg-biceps development. By alternating the two exercises every other week, you'll find that neither is so hateful."

"I always liked stiff-legged deadlifts. I did them standing on a bench, but they wouldn't let us do them in that way at the gym I trained at. Couple of guys dropped the bar and it bent on the bench."

"I don't allow my athletes to stand on a bench either. Or on a block for that matter. It's not necessary. I have them use 25-pound plates on an Olympic bar and do them on the floor. Much safer and very effective. One thing to keep in mind when doing these: Stiff-legged is a misnomer. You should never pull a bar off the floor with stiff or straight legs. Slightly bent deadlifts is more correct."

"Any number guidelines for these?"

"The stiff-leg deadlift should be right at 75 percent of your top squat for 8 reps. That translates to 245 for 8 for you since you're at 325 in the squat. Like the good morning, if you move the stiff-leg deadlift up at the same rate as your squat, all the important muscles will stay in proportion."

"I follow. Any other smaller muscle groups that need special attention?"

"The abs, especially the lower abs, take a great deal of stress during a heavy squat, so they should be worked from the very beginning. If they are allowed to fall behind, they can get pulled, and pulled ab muscle is an absolute bitch to get back in shape. Simply do an exercise for your abs as part of your warmups and you'll be fine.

"I mentioned calf raises earlier, but I need to elaborate a bit more on those.Do them twice a week. Start with 3 sets of 30 and move up to 6 sets. One day use the seated calf machine and the other day use the standing calf. The standing version hits the gastrocnemius more directly while the seated isolates the soleus more. Both are important for strength and size. Also, try to vary your foot positioning at least slightly on each set: toes in, straight ahead, and out. The subtle change will force the muscles to work differently and result in a more complete lower leg."

 - In the next and final installment, Mr. Starr deals with squat varieties and spends a little time on nutrition.      

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