Nothing can fill you with enthusiasm like a new idea. We who have chosen bodybuilding as our labor of love find ourselves twice fueled by this powerful need for something new. Our restless minds hunger for new ideas that haven't been thought and out body yearns to be freed from the monotony of sameness.
We struggle to find new exercise techniques that will enchant new growth from our static physiques. Especially is this true with our lower limbs. The range of expression of our legs is imprisoned by the lack of grasping appendages. They have to be content with what they can push and pull with a blunt limb. Consequently, the available exercises are less than 1/20 of what the upper body can use.
The thigh biceps, for instance, has only five exercises from which to draw its size. They are:
- wide stance squats
- leg press
- leg curl
- stiff legged deadlift.
Furthermore, of these five, the leg curl machine is used 75% of the time. To compound matters, the leg curl won't let you use enough weight to build mass. We can't use enough weight on the favorite thigh biceps exercise and we are fenced in by so few exercises our gains are suffocated by lack of variety.
What we need is a whole list of new exercises for our thigh collection. Unfortunately, I can't give you whole bunch of new movements but I do have one beauty that quite possibly could be the best one of the whole lot. Why? Because it is one exercise that will allow you to handle some serious weight. It is called the "Hips Off Hack Machine Leg Pull."
Dennis Madsen, a good friend and former training partner and I came up with the idea from reading a book called Kinesiology and Applied Anatomy by Rasch and Burke.
I first came across the informative textbook while doing a seminar in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A fellow by the name of Jim Phillips was in attendance and he stayed for a while after the show to share something with me.
He said, "Larry, you go into so much detail on an exercise, I think you would be interested in a textbook I used while attending classes at the University of Michigan. Would you like to see it?"
"Yes, I would," I said with some interest. I'm always looking for new ideas on training."
"Do you want me to bring it over to your hotel?" he asked.
"Well, sure, I guess so," I said, a little surprised to see that he was intent on getting this book into my hands so quickly.
Later, at 30,000 feet over the plains of Nebraska, I settled into my seat and began to sift through the contents of this unexpected gift.
It was loaded with oodles of training gems, furthermore, the featured models were right out of the pages of Muscle & Fitness in the 60's. There was Paul Wynter, Bob Walker, Tony Sansone, Tommy Kono, Otis Johnson, Bill Golumbick and a host of others with whom I was quite familiar. I soon felt right at home and my usual prejudice towards bodybuilding textbooks melted away as I started to pick up some interesting insights. I began to learn some things that I couldn't have discovered without the benefit of the formal training that Rasch and Burk had accumulated before writing this book.
I began reading about the action of two joint muscles and it was then I stumbled onto "Lombard's Paradox," [when rising to stand from a sitting or squatting position, BOTH the hamstrings and quadriceps contract at the same time, despite them being antagonists to each other.]
Dr. Lombard suggested that while sitting in a chair if one should grasp his thigh so the thumb palpates the belly of the rectus femoris (top of the thigh) he will discover the following: As one rises from the chair by means of hip and knee extension, one will feel both the rectus femoris and the hamstring muscles spring into action. It may surprise one to discover that all of these muscles are active. Further, one might expect that the rectus femoris and the hamstrings would neutralize each other's action so that no movement would be possible. But they don't. This seemingly contradictory situation is known as Lombard's Paradox.
So what does all this mean to those who are interested in finding a new way to build the hamstrings. Perhaps you can already begin to sense where we are heading. If not, be patient. We are almost there.
If both the quads and hamstrings are working while doing something as simple as getting up out of a chair, the question is, how do we make an exercise like squats (similar to the getting up out of a chair motion) pinpoint the hamstrings rather than the quads?
Dr. Rasch's book expends several pages explaining that the rotational torque for each muscle is equal to the force of its pull multiplied by its perpendicular distance from the axis of rotation. He further points out the difference in the length of the lever arms has a lot to do with which muscle predominates. The essence of what he is saying is as follows: It depends on the position of the hips with respect to the knee as to which muscle group is going to work the most.
It was about this time the light flashed inside my head. The idea was something like this: "The key to working the thigh biceps is to position the hips and thighs in such a way that we can pull with the thigh biceps to help us extend the knee rather than press with the quads. We obviously can't play around with squats because if we move the hips and thighs around we can injure our back or drop the weight.
The Hack Machine, on the other hand, provides a perfect exercise to move the hips with respect to the knees because our balance is not in jeopardy. The Hack Machine keeps us traveling in a set plane regardless of what we do with the hips or thighs.
Specifically, we need to do the following: Place the feet at about a 45 degree angle from straight front, and at shoulder width.
Once in position on the hack machine, slowly lower the body down to the low position of the hack slide. Then, right at the bottom of the movement, thrust the hips off the sled so the thigh biceps have the mechanical advantage over the quads and pull the legs together to straighten them out. Eureka, we have a new exercise for building the thigh biceps. Furthermore, it is one with which we can use a lot of weight. The quads help us getting down into position but when the hips are thrust off the sled the thigh biceps are brought into action as we straighten out the legs. We need to concentrate on pulling the legs together in order to get back up into starting position. No muscle group can get us back into starting position but those good old hams. It's very similar to the pulling portion of pedaling a ten speed bike. We press down with one leg but we pull the pedal back up with the other leg.
It's not as difficult as it sounds and you will find you can soon master the movement. Once mastered, you will find you have not only added a new exercise to your thigh program but more importantly, you will discover the Hip Off Hack Machine can add some real size to your hams. Try it, you'll find a friend for life.
An Exciting New Exercise
If you're looking for something new and exciting to build a great set of "drivers" this exercise is for you . . . especially if your thighs are giving you a bad time. Furthermore, you can make it easy or tough just by changing the angle of the body. That's why I'm hooked on it. I first saw this exercise in Dennis Weis' Anabolic Muscle Mass. His book is full of novel exercise ideas.
You can do this exercise on a regular situp bench with a strap as shown in the photo. It's easier, however, if you have a situp bench with a hump for the legs. Kneel on the hump, place your heels under the strap and you're ready to build some hams. Lean over at the waist and out over the bench. The closer you bring your head to the hump the easier it is. The further you lean out over the harder it is. This makes it easy to change the resistance right in the middle of the exercise.
You'll be stronger on the way down so lean out a little further. Then once you get down to the bottom, move your whole body in closer to your legs and lift your body up again. Wait till you try it . . . it's a killer.
Not everyone has a situp bench built like this so we designed a bench that would not only work hams but we also included a quad (Roman chair) portion so you can work both the quads and the hams on one piece of exercise equipment.
I'll admit . . . this "Quad Ham Roaster" is tough. I used extra thick, high density padding to make it pain free and . . . man, does it blast the quads and hams! Try it, you'll find a friend for life.
Enjoy Your Lifting!