A couple of days ago a guy came up to me in the gym and accused my training partner and I of being on the juice. My training partner happens to be the reigning Natural Mr. America, and I've won quite a few natural contests myself. We pride ourselves on training as hard as we possibly can on ever rep of every set of every session. Nevertheless, this guy was convinced that we were chemically enhanced.
I simply said to him, "Have you ever seen us train?"
He looked at me kind of confused and said no.
I invited him to work out with us, and he reluctantly said he'd love to. When I told him to pick his favorite bodypart to train, he blurted out with a smile, "Legs!"
As usual, John and I started with our favorite exercise, squats. Unlike most bodybuilders, we do a different squat routine at every workout. On that day we happened to be doing one we call D-Day. Our new training partner still had that smile and swagger when he said he liked the name.
John and I just looked at each other.
We started with a warmup set of 135 pounds for 10 quick reps. We told our new training partner we only did 3 sets after our warmup, and once again he looked at us like we were sissies. Our next set was actually another warmup, with 185 for 10 quick reps to get the blood flowing. Then came the big one, a set in which we squat 225 pounds for 51 reps.
Yes, you read that correctly. We stop at 51 reps or when the weight crashes to the catchers, whichever comes first.
I stepped up to the bar and got through my first 35 reps with some discomfort, but I was determined to get 16 more. With each rep came more excruciating pain. I got to 48, and the weight dropped to the safety rack. I was exhausted and had tears running down my face.
John was next, and I could tell he was feeling good. He went all out and blasted 52 reps, then fell to the floor.
After that our new training partner, with a look of sheer terror, positioned himself under the bar. To our surprise he did pretty well. He got 32 good reps and then racked it.
I said, "Wait a minute. The rule is that you end your set at the safety bars at the bottom, not the top pins."
With sweat running down his face, he just snarled at me.
After that we put 315 on the bar and did a final burnout for 10 reps. Our new training partner squeaked out four. We were not finished with out leg routine - not by a long shot.
Next up was the leg press. When we told our new training partner that we were only doing one set, we saw the first smile on his face since the routine began. What he didn't know was . . . the set would be 100 reps: 10 sets of 10 without taking out feet off the pressing platform.
I went first and was nearly dying when I got to my 70th rep. I knew I had to get another 30 or more or John would be yelling so loud that the whole gym would watch me suffer. I got the 30 and collapsed on the floor until the lactic acid slowly left my quads.
John went next and didn't feel excruciating pain until he got to about the 85th rep. After that it was a dog fight, but he won. Our new training partner tentatively sat in the leg press and started in. John and I could see he was suffering beyond what we'd seen at the squat rack. He ended up getting 30 reps before the platform crashed to the bottom position. He was done and in agony.
Before we began our third and final exercise, leg extensions, our new training partner went into the locker room. This is where the story gets a little scary.
He went to the bathroom and collapsed, hitting his head on the floor. Someone happened to see and called for help. An ambulance took him to the emergency room and I haven't sen him at the gym since, but, needless to say, he hasn't volunteered to train with us again.
As you can see from the above, John and I don't mess around when we train legs. It's my opinion that a great physique is built from the ground up. The following includes routines for both quads and hamstrings. It's entirely up to you whether you choose to work the two bodyparts on the same day.
Keep in mind that these are intensity-loaded programs for experienced bodybuilders. I don't recommend that you try to do them fully on the day after you read this article.
Adjust the volume to your own level of experience and work your way up.
The only requirement is that you give it all you've got on every rep of every set.
All-Out Quad Assault
Squat routine 1: D:Day
This routine, which is guaranteed to shock your legs into growth is described above. Here's the complete workout:
Barbell Squats -
2 x 12 (warmup)
1 x 50. Use a weight you can handle with perfect for for 50 reps.
1 x 8-10. Use the heaviest weight you can.
Leg Presses -
1 x 100. You may pause after every 10 reps, but don't remove your feet from the platform.
Leg Extensions -
3 x failure. Continue the reps as follows until your legs are burning:
- On set 1 perform one fast extension followed by one with a 3-second contraction (hold) at the top.
- On set 2 do three fast reps followed by one 3-second pause at the top.
- On set 3 do three fast reps followed by one slow rep.
All till failure.
Squat Routine 2: 10 Till You Topple
This program is guaranteed to get your legs and your heart in great shape. As with all of these routines, I recommend that you use a spotter. You'll also need a flat bench and a watch with a second hand.
To complete the routine do 10 sets of Squats for 10 reps each. The tough part is that you can't fool around between sets. You perform each set 30 seconds after your partner's set.
While your partner does his set, you should be stretching the fascia in your quads on the flat bench. You do this by putting one foot top down on the bench -- that is, on the shoelaces -- and sitting on it. Your bent leg should be hanging off the bench with your knee pointing at the floor. Stretch your quad. Your quad should feel as if it's going to explode out of your skin.
Note: If you train alone, simply time a set of 10 and give yourself 30 + that length of time to stretch/rest between sets.
Remember, you should be going down to slightly past parallel on every squat rep. If you can't go down that far on every squat repetition, lighten the weight until your form is perfect. But don't let yourself start doing shortened reps subconsciously so you can lower the weight! And don't guess on the time between sets. Use a stopwatch or a sweep hand wall clock.
Finish the workout with leg extensions. Perform 5 sets to failure, taking turns with your partner on the machine, with one jumping on as soon as the other is finished.
The complete 10 Till You Topple routine looks like this:
Squats - 10 x 10. Stretch your quads while your partner is training, then rest only 30 more seconds.
Leg Extension - 5 x failure. Rest only only long enough for your partner to do his set.
Squat Routine 3
This workout, if you do it properly, may be the toughest of the three. It's based on the tempo of the repetitions. Once again, the routine starts off with a set/rep-style variation of the squat. You perform 6 sets with a very slow cadence: 6 seconds down and 6 seconds up. When doing your reps, have your partner count to six until you reach a point slightly below parallel, then count to six again as you come up. In this case, however, you don't stop at the top. Instead, start the next rep immediately.
Get as many reps in this manner as you can until you absolutely have to rack the bar. Perform one warmup set and then do 5 work sets. Go Slowly! Your legs will soon be burning to the point where they'll start to shake. Make sure you use a safety rack when you do these squats so you can go all the way with them.
The next exercise in the routine is walking lunges. For some reason bodybuilders don't like this movement. My guess is that they think it looks goofy . . .
Try three sets back-to-back with your partner. In other words, trade off and don't waste time. Simply take two moderately heavy dumbbells and lunge from one end of the gym to the other and back to the starting point. Your legs will burn, and you'll feel like you're going to collapse. That's good! It means you're training with intensity.
Here's the complete workout:
6 x failure. Slow cadence, 6 seconds up and six seconds down.
Walking Lunges -
3 sets. Two lengths of the gym floor equals one set.
Some Final Thoughts on Quad Training
The three routines outlined above are extremely demanding. You probably noticed that none of them takes a lot of time to complete. In order to stay focused and train with the intensity these workouts demand, you must keep your workouts short.
In addition, there's nothing wrong with throwing in an extra exercise, depending on your particular weakness in leg development. The key is not to overdo it. If you can perform many more exercises after going through any of these routines, you didn't train hard enough.
I haven't figured out the reason so many bodybuilders neglect their hamstrings, but I assume it's because they can't see them. The irony is, they can't see them because they don't train therm hard enough. As I said above, I leave it to you to determine if you like to work hams and quads on the same day. For me it depends on how much working quads takes out of you. Usually, I end up training them on different days.
On this routine you start with lying leg curls. Begin with a weight you can handle for about 12 reps, and use that as your warmup set. After that you jump into some killer drop sets, a.k.a. descending sets. Make sure your cable guy hammies are properly warmed up so you don't pull or tear a muscle. Start with a weight that you can get 4 to 5 reps with, then drop the weight and repeat, continuing the progression all the way down over around 6 sets. On the last set use a light enough weight to get about 10 reps. Perform three of these extended sets.
The next exercise is stiff-legged deadlifts performed for 4 sets at a schlo-o-o-ow tempo. Start with a warmup set, stretching your hams at the bottom of the movement. After you're properly warmed up, add some weight to the bar. The rep tempo for the second set is 3 seconds down and 6 up. Get as many reps as you can in this manner.
You finish off with seated leg curls. Instead of just performing a curl and then letting the weight swing your legs back to the top of the movement, use the following cadence: Stop halfway down and hold for 3 seconds, then go to the bottom of the movement and hold for 3 seconds. Do not let the weight swing to the top; instead, stop halfway up and hold for 3 seconds. Perform as many reps as you can in this manner until your hams are fried.
Here's the complete workout:
Lying Leg Curls -
1 x 12 (warmup)
3 drop sets (4-5 reps; 10). Do 6 drops down the weight stack for each set, performing 10 reps on the last drop of each set.
Stiff-legged Deadlifts -
4 x failure. Slow cadence - 3 down and 6 up.
Seated Leg Curls -
3 x failure. Cadence: Hold for 3 seconds when you get halfway to the bottom of the rep, at the bottom of the rep, and at the halfway point on the way up.
Unfortunately there's not as much variety when it comes to leg biceps training, but that doesn't mean you can't make it intense and interesting. For example, instead of doing lying leg curls, throw the following exercise into the above routine.
Dumbbell Leg Curls -
Lie face down on a flat bench with your knees at its end. Have your partner put a dumbbell you can handle for 10 to 15 reps between your feet, with your feet close together and holding it up at one end. Curl the weight just as you would on a lying leg curl machine. Instead of quitting after this set, work all the way down the rack. Have your partner drop the weight by 10 lbs. until there are no smaller dumbbells on the rack.
Some Final Thoughts on Hamstring Training
Just because you can't see them doesn't mean they're not there. If you choose to train your hamstrings on the same day as your quads, you may try alternating the order, working hams first at every other leg session. If you're lagging in hamstring development, however, be sure to put more emphasis on that bodypart.
As we all know too well, there are so many factors that contribute to muscle growth. Few factors, however, are as important as training intensity. I'm willing to bet that if you give the above routines a good try for a length of time, you'll experience good gains, providing the rest of your bodybuilding bases are properly covered.
Don't be afraid to experiment with varying the routines to fit your specific needs.
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