Many years ago your average bodybuilder trained his legs with a few sets of heavy squats, leg curls, and donkey calf raises, and that was it. No thigh extensions, leg presses or fancy hack squat machines because, down in their dungeon gyms, they didn't have any. These new inventions, whether they were better or not. would be exclusively available for the next generation of bodybuilding hopefuls.
But, let's be honest here.
The squat is still the undisputed king of thigh massiveness and strength, which no other leg exercise can match, no matter what your current gym has. Even Arthur Jones, the creator of Nautilus, had extreme difficulty building a machine whose results were better than the squat.
This is what Dr. Ellington Darden, PhD, who worked directly with Arthur at the Nautilus plant in Deland, Florida, told me recently: "Arthur struggled for more than 10 years until he finally came up with a leg machine that he considered better than the regular squat. The secret, according to Jones, was the invention of the negative cam, which he came up with in 1982."
In 1982, I flew to California to visit Vince Gironda, the new master trainer behind many great bodybuilding stars of the 1960's, and I can tell you from personal experience that he had a passionate detestation of regular squats. In fact, Vince wouldn't even allow squat racks in his gym, and if you even mentioned that dreaded word, you would set him off into a verbal rage, bordering on uncontrollable anger! "Squats build wide hips. Anyone seen doing them will be kicked out of the gym!" the Iron Guru would often declare.
The funny thing was, Vince had the widest pair of hips I've ever seen, courtesy of Mother Nature, and one day I actually heard him remark behind my back, "Lund has no goddamn hips!" Which is hilariously ironic because, for 20 years before I met him, I had done regular squats religiously at least three times a week.
While it's certainly true that today's bodybuilding champs display far superior leg development than their counterparts of 50 years ago, the average hard-gaining non-competitive young bodybuilder should still set his sights on building huge powerful legs using a minimum of exercises. I also believe that he should become really good at squats if he wants to become bigger and stronger.
When I had personally reached my own plateau using heavy 20-rep breathing squats, I read somewhere that the legendary Reg Park was doing 5 sets of 5 reps on regular squats, followed by 2 sets of 10 reps on front squats. Anything Reg Park did was fine by me, so I decided to give it a shot, and I was absolutely astounded by the results I achieved from such a simple, but effective training routine.
5 x 5 is pure, progressive resistance training, because there is always an increase in reps or poundage or both, every time you train. Here is how to do them . . .
If your best 5-rep poundage on the squat is 225 pounds, then do the following: For your first set, do 5 strict reps in perfect style with 135. For your second set, add 50 pounds and do another set of 5, with 185. For your third set, increase the weight by 50 pounds once again and go all with 225 for 5 in perfect style. For your fourth set, stay with 225 and try your absolute best to do 5 reps once again. This might be very difficult and you only manage 4 reps, but still try your absolute best.
For your fifth and final set, go all out for that 5-rep target with 225 once again, even though you might only manage 4, or even 3 reps. The trick here is this: When you can eventually do 5 good reps on all three heavy sets with 225, your muscular strength will have increased slightly, which means that you must increase the poundage by 5 pounds next workout. Your new target poundage would then be 230 pounds.
Continue training like this for at least six months and the increase in your upper thigh size and strength will absolutely amaze you. You will even feel as though your thighs are growing on a weekly basis, and when you eventually find yourself doing sets of 5 with 300 pounds, your thighs will be much more massive and powerful.
After your 5 sets of 5 on the regular squat, prepare yourself for the second and final thigh exercise which Reg Park recommended. Front squats for 2 sets of 10. When was the last time you saw someone do front squats? Probably never, would be my guess.
Front squats can be a challenging exercise to master at first, but try to get good at them and you will not regret it.
Here, there follows a description of how to do front squats with that Genie, crossed arms bullshit approach. Fuggedabout it. Get the real deal and get it down good.
Okay . . .
Do not be overly concerned with using a lot of weight at first, until you get used to the exercise and racking the weight solidly at your shoulders with just a few of your fingertips on the bar.
Just concentrate on doing each rep as strictly as you possibly can, even though your thighs should be burning like hell during every rep do you.
It's sad but true, but nobody does front squats nowadays. They do leg presses and hack machine squats, which are A LOT easier, even though (in my opinion) they are not as effective. [Note: This usually happens with the strictly cosmetic "lifting" lot, those interested only in what they look like and not what they can do. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaawn.)
When you have just finished 5 x 5 on the regular squat with all the weight you can handle in good form, front squats will be the icing on the cake.
Because your thighs are already more than warmed up from your 5 x 5 of regular squats, go right into your first set of front squats, with your best training poundage for 10 reps.
In perfect style.
Every single rep will feel like hell because your thighs have already been pre-fatigued from those 5 sets of 5 reps of regular squats. Just grit your teeth and fight through the pain barrier as best you can and then some. Each rep should be a near-maximum effort. Rest only until your breathing has returned to normal, then do a second set with slightly reduced poundage.
If you feel the need to continue this thigh workout by adding hacks, leg curls, extensions etc., then you have most definitely not worked these two exercises hard enough. In fact, your should probably have difficulty walking properly after your first few hard workouts.
Do one work set, 10-12 reps, for the rest of your major body parts, then finish off with this thigh specialization routine.
DO ONE WORK SET, 10-12 REPS, FOR THE REST OF YOUR MAJOR BODY PARTS, THEN FINISH OFF WITH THIS THIGH SPECIALIZATION ROUTINE.
TRAIN ONLY TWO DAYS A WEEK.
Enjoy Your Lifting!