Thanks to Liam Tweed!
For the majority, the thighs are a relatively easy section of the body to develop, but whilst it will mainly interest those of you who find thigh development difficult this article will also serve as a form of variety in exercise for the more fortunate ones.
You will have gathered from my previous articles that I am a great advocate for the squat or deep knee bend as a power building and weight gaining exercise, but it is also the finest exercise for thigh development, because there are so many forms of squat which be performed by the trainee. Most important of which is the:
No. 1. Full Squat. Take at least one good deep breath before going into the full squat position, and breathe out as you return to the starting position. Do not round the back but keep it flat and hold the head upright throughout. Try not to go down too fast, but get just a slight rebound and then recover to commencing position. Don't be afraid to work hard and increase the weigh as soon as the repetitions feel easy. Wear weightlifting boots with heels on when squatting.
No 2. Half and Quarter Squats. These are performed in exactly the same way as the full squat but since you do not go as low you are able to handle heavier weights. For example, I have in the past performed repetition quarter squats with 1,000 lbs., whereas my be squat is 550. These two variations and in particular the quarter squat are used more for power building than for thigh development since a full range of movement is not involved.
No. 3. Bench Squat. This was at one time my own favorite thigh exercise but now I prefer the full squat, however, it is one which I feel is partly responsible for my present standard of thigh development. More weight can be used in this type of squat than in the orthodox deep knee bends. The upper and outer sweep of the thighs are vigorously influenced, imparting great power to them and a pleasing display of impressive development. Marvin Eder, sensational young body-builder of New York City can use well over 600 lbs.
Take the barbell off the racks just as if you were performing regular squats. A very strong bench or box should be directly behind you, and the height of this bench should be about 18 inches, or such a height that when seated on it your upper thighs are level or parallel to the floor. Squat down to the bench FEELING your way down CAREFULLY and as soon as your buttocks touch the bench return AT ONCE to upright position. Do not look down. Look up and straight ahead. Try not to lean forward too much and try to keep the back as straight - perpendicular - as you can manage without losing your balance.
The first time you try this exercise you may find it hard to use a heavy poundage; in fact, a commencing poundage of approximately what you use in the regular squat will be just right. As you get used to the movement, you will find that your exercising poundages will increase rapidly. It is also wise to have a training partner watch you until you are used to working with this exercise, for there is a certain amount of danger of losing your balance. The position of the movement is clearly illustrated. Breathe in as you sit down and out as you rise from the bench or box. Again, wear weightlifting boots with heels.
No. 4. Front Squat. This exercise is exactly the same as the regular full squat, the only difference being that the bar is held in front of the neck. At first you may experience pain in the wrist and forearm but in time this will leave you. Remember to keep the elbows high and the head upright. Start light, and add weight once you get used to the movement.
No. 5. Alternate Lunge. This exercise cultivates speed, power and flexibility in the hips and legs, and will build coordination. Start the exercise as shown in the silhouette of the illustration. Now lunge forward, dipping deeply as in the drawing, and then returning the foot that is forward to the starting position and immediately lunging forward with the other foot. Continue this alternate forward lunging until 10 repetitions have been performed with each leg. Do not use a heavy weight in this movement until you are thoroughly versed and used to its method of performance and can confidently keep your balance. Make certain that the back is always erect.
Lifters can also utilize this exercise for improving their recovery on split cleans, and can perform it either as shown or in the front squat bar position.
No. 6. Straddle Lift with Harness. The power of the legs, hips and lower back so greatly exceeds that of the hands and forearms that it it necessary to use a harness for this next exercise. All you need for this is a suitable length of rope hitched over the shoulders as shown in the illustration. With such an arrangement it is possible to use hundreds of pounds in the movement and to tap a rich source of all round power. Start as in drawing. Straighten the thighs until you are completely erect as shown in the silhouette. Lower to the floor and repeat.
No. 7. Thigh Curl. Too many body-builders tend to neglect the biceps of the thigh -- that great sweeping curve of muscle that makes the rear of the leg round and firm. Commence the exercise as shown, curling one foot at a time. While lowering the foot to the original position commence to curl the other foot, making each repetition alternate.
Well, there you have seven excellent thigh exercises -- or eight, if you include both the quarter and half squats, which are, again, more for power than for bodybuilding. However, I do feel that these partial types of squats should be performed periodically to help overcome any mental limits you may have.
For the beginner -- I would suggest 3 sets of 10 on the full squat. Leg curls can also be performed.
For the intermediate -- 3 x 10 of either the bench squat of front squat, plus 3 x 10 on the stradle lift.
For the advanced -- 3 x 10 full squat, plus 3 x 5 alternate lunges and 3 x 8 leg curls.
For the very advanced -- 4-5 sets of 5 full squat, plus 3 x 5 lunges with bar held in front. For variety perform front squats and/or half, quarter, and front squats.