Thursday, May 8, 2014

Developing the Thighs - Larry Scott

I'm really pleased that you've decided to do something about developing your legs. Thighs are extremely important in bodybuilding . . . they are the largest muscle group in the body and the legs themselves are just about half the body. If your thighs are skinny, then your whole body looks weak and underdeveloped. 

I learned painfully the importance of well-developed thighs. The first year I entered the IFBB Mr. Universe contest I lost the title to Harold Poole, and the margin that divided us in the judges' minds was has legs versus mine. Joe Weider himself took me aside after the show and advised me to really hit my thighs hard, so that next year no one could beat me. Well, I took his advice, and the rest is history . . . I won the contest and received much flattering praise on my leg development.

I hope this course can do as much for you. I used most of these same exercises in my contest training, and if you can get just a portion of the benefit I did then my efforts in writing this book will have been well rewarded. 

 - Larry Scott 

Some Comments

All of the exercises I will recommend can be done at home if necessary, but this is pretty difficult to do as a rule, for the required equipment is usually not found in an average home gym. Only so much good can be done with only a barbell and some dumbbells . . . as a rule, the auxiliary equipment is more important than the weights in leg work.

My training buddies and I noticed this early in our training careers, so we built a good leg press, a calf machine and a leg curl/leg extension machine. Later on we added a hack machine by simply using a blanket against a slant board. 

Why all this specialized equipment? Unfortunately, you cannot build good legs with squats alone . . . and that's all you can do without specialized equipment. If this were true, there would be plenty more lifters around with breathtaking leg development.  

Ask any contest winner what he thinks and I'll bet dollars to donuts he'll tell you the same thing . . . it takes specialization and exotic movements to build all the areas of the leg. The list of necessary exercises is long and varied, and you will need all of them for truly complete thigh development. 

Three Basic Areas 

There are many facets of thigh development, but these can be condensed into three main areas for the sake of expediency: upper thigh, lower thigh, and thigh biceps.

The Upper Thigh:

This area consists of the muscles just below the hips and buttocks. Unfortunately, activating this area usually means the buttocks must come into play also, so you have to watch your exercise style very carefully if you don't want a big butt as well as large thighs!

The best exercise for developing this area is the old standard, the squat. Just make sure when you do them  that you do not dip your rear end too low or bend your back too far forward, or your hips will start taking on the thick look seen in so many weightlifters. A big butt is great to get those heavy weights up, but all aspiring bodybuilders are advised that heavy hips do not count too much in the judges' eyes.

The Lower Thigh:

This is the area roughly up to 6 inches or so above the knees. Muscular development in this area can be overdone, but in all my years in bodybuilding I've seen it done only once. Don't worry about too much muscle in this area!

This area is much harder than any other in the thigh to develop, but real effort and concentration will leave you blessed with, I think, one of the most attractive muscles on the human body, superbly developed.

Steve Reeves was on of the most ardent advocates of developing this muscle area. He recognized the beauty of the lower thigh as opposed to the usually overdeveloped upper thighs. Small hips and amazing lower thighs were his trademark, and his 'teardrop' muscle stood out in bold arrogance even when his legs were relaxed. No wonder he was such a great champion.

So, lower thigh work is a must for shapely legs. Otherwise, you'll just have a big blob of muscle hanging there . . . and that doesn't even sound, let alone look, appealing!

The Thigh Biceps

This is one of the most neglected areas of the thigh, an unpopular muscle mainly because it doesn't contribute anything to overall thigh size.

In a way this is understandable, for if early in my training someone told me to do an exercise that would give me some shape in a large muscle such as the thigh but no size at all, I really doubt I would have listened to them much. But there comes a time in every bodybuilder's training career when he must take stock of his training, look at himself honestly and ask, "Where am I weak? Where do I need more work?"

The answer for me was the thigh biceps, and since that time I've never ceased to include it in my leg routines. Why? Even though the thigh biceps does not contribute to the size of the thigh, it is absolutely essential for a well-balanced look. Too many times I've seen fellows with thighs that looked great from the front, but like popsicle sticks from the side. Once I ventured to ask one of these fellows if he worked his thigh biceps and his reply was, "Huh?"

That was all he needed to say, anything I could have said would have been useless, so I figured if he was content with third place finishes who was I to say anything. Are you content with a third place for all your efforts? I think not, and if you want to vault into that top spot, then you'll be sure to include thigh biceps work in every leg workout you take.

All right, suppose you've worked the upper, lower and thigh biceps areas and still are out in the cold physique-wise . . . not what? You have left out of your leg training schedule another essential - training for cuts and separation.

Now, you don't want thighs that look like fire plugs, do you? Then you see what I mean. Thigh shape, separation and definition are as fully important as size, for contests or just strolling at the beach. I can think of nothing more impressive than a thigh, bulging and flexed, still showing sensational cuts as you casually stroll along.

Before you work for shape you must have some thigh size . . . you can't have shapely thigh bones, can you? But don't think that by some "size" I mean you should get your thighs as big as a house before you consider shape and cuts. By then it'll be too late, my friend. What I am saying is that as soon as you begin adding decent size to your thighs, you should begin adding shape exercises to your training routine. In time you will add more and more to your routine, until you are doing mainly shape and cut movements, and your legs look out of this world. Like that idea? Then let's get started on your routines . . .

      Group # 1       

The exercises in this exercise group are mainly intended to add size to your legs, so you will have something to work with when you venture into your later shape program. Since the purpose of this program is increased size and weight in the thighs, you will need to watch your diet closes. Do away with junk foods that won't do you any good, and add nutritious foods such as dairy products and meats to your daily diet . . . they are especially high in protein and fats, which you need. Trying to gain weight and muscle without a good diet is like building a brick wall without bricks, it simply can't be done. So, a good diet is a real must.

Exercise #1 - Squat

This is the most basic leg exercise and one that is particularly good for the upper thighs. Done in correct form, this movement will start you on the way to a sensational pair of legs.

This is a power movement, so don't be afraid to pile on all the weight you can handle. Your thighs are big muscles, so they need big weights to develop them. Hold the bar on the shoulders, take a deep breath (this will help to expand your ribcage), and go down. You will notice I have a block under my heels. This serves to help me keep and balance better and also takes the strain off the lower back a bit. Also, be sure to keep your back upright so the strain will be off your rear and directly on the thighs.

Sets and Reps:
Beginners, do 3 sets of 10 reps.
Intermediates, 4 sets of 10.

Exercise #2 - Jefferson Lift

This is another real power movement, so you can pile on all the weight possible. Be careful not to be too enthusiastic and strain yourself, though.

This exercise works the upper thigh and lower back also, and will really give bulging size to the thighs. Grab the bar with a comfortable grip and keep the back upright so there is not too much strain on the back. Remember, it's the legs we're working.

Sets and Reps:
Beginners, 2 x 12.
Intermediates, 3 x 10.

Exercise #3 - Leg Press

This is another power movement, and your strength will increase very rapidly as you get used to the movement. Before long you will be handling poundages you never dreamed of, for you will be able to use more weight in this exercise than any other.

The upper thigh is directly activated by this exercise, and the back of the thigh to an extent also. However, you must be very sure your hips are placed directly under the feet while you are doing the movement. If the hips are allowed to stray, then the buttocks are called into play, and again, who wants a big butt?

Sets and Reps:
Beginners, 3 x 10.
Intermediates, 5 x 10.


Exercise #4 - Front Squat

The weight is not so important in this exercise, but form is. Properly done this movement will do more for your lower thigh than any other in this routine, but you must remember to keep your back straight and your elbows high. Try to balance the weight across your shoulders rather than hold it in your hands, as this will strain your wrists too much.

You will need a block for this exercise, also, for balance, and again take a deep breath between every repetition.

Sets and Reps:
Beginners, 2 x 10.
Intermediates, 3 x 10.

Group #2

These exercises are primarily designed for shape, but they will also give you a bonus of added size if done properly. In order to build shape and cuts it will require more effort and fortitude on your part than the previous exercise group. Most of the following exercises will require that you go to the maximum, when the muscles burn and cry out for rest . . . but you must ignore this and keep working away if you want the very ultimate in thigh development. You will find it well worth it.


Exercise #1 - Hack Squat

This was one of the great favorites of Steve Reeves. He would do hacks until his lower thighs burned and he could hardly stand. And if you want lower thighs like his, this is the exercise for you . . . it will make your teardrop muscle stand out like someone chiseled it in there.

In the illustration I am doing the movement without a hack machine, for the benefit of you who do not have access to one. If you do have one by all means use it!

Hold the bar behind you, with a slight break in the knees maintained throughout. Lower yourself just to the point where it feels as if the strain is being taken off the knees . . . this is usually just before the weight touches the ground . . . then start moving up again. When you get to the top, don't lock your knees out but keep that slight break.

Sets and Reps:
Beginners, 3 x 10.
Intermediates, 4 x 10.

Exercise #2 - Dumbbell Hack Squat

This is done in much the same manner as the preceding exercise . . . keep the back straight and never lock out the legs to give them a rest. Keep the strain on them at all time during the movement. 

The weight is important in this movement, so do all you can handle while still using the chosen form. Be sure to use a block under your heels also.

Sets and Reps:
Beginners, 2 x 10.
Intermediates, 3 x 10.

Exercise #3 - Leg Curls

You will need a leg curl machine in order to do this exercise properly. I've seen it done with a dumbbell between the feet, but that way is definitely lacking in effort.

The weight is not so important in this movement, but you must do the exercise correctly for good results. Do it just as it appears in the photo . . . keep the hips down at all times and curl the weight up and down again.

Sets and Reps:
Beginners, 3 x 12.
Intermediates, 5 x 12.

Exercise #4 - Leg Extensions

This is one of the very best movements for cutting up the thighs and giving you that desirable separation and definition. It will not contribute much in the way of size, but the cuts you will receive will more than make up for it.

As the exercise is not for size the weight is not so important. It is the burns you're after in this movement, so you will do more reps than normal and keep in constant motion throughout the set, not giving the thighs a rest until you are completely done. Be sure to extend the legs up as far as they will go, hold it for a split second, lower and immediately come up again.

Sets and Reps:
Beginner, 3 x 15.
Intermediate, 4 x 15.

In Closing - 

You will find that thigh work is hard work; it will probably entail the most sweat and energy use of any bodypart you exercise. But, the end results will far make up for it in giving you sensational legs, thick, powerful and cut-up legs you have earned.

You have only to determine that you will do it, you will push yourself and work away until you reach the desired results. All the routines in the world will not make up for pure and plain determination on your part, but with this magic ingredient you are sure to be successful.

Be sure your determination extends to your diet also. Determine to throw out all the junk foods, do away with childish foods and eat only nutritious foods that will complement your training.

With all this going for you, you can't help but succeed!


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