Leg training is brutal – there’s no question about that.
But serious, intense, muscle building leg sessions are downright excruciating. And that’s what it takes to get real results. A few sets of leg presses, maybe some squats, and finishing up with some nice and easy leg extensions just won’t cut it if you want to keep adding size to your legs.
Most people think they’re done when they have finished the exercises listed in their workout. Take your quad training to the next level by adding one of these finishers and train to complete failure. Even better, surprise your training partner on your next leg day. Try these 5 moves for a truly punishing leg day.
1. 3-Way Mechanical Complex
Most think of finishers as light bodyweight exercises that induce nothing more than a slight burn in the targeted muscle. Why not go big? Exercises like squats and lunges are at your disposal for whatever you want to use them for.
Mechanical complexes are set up in such a way to take full advantage of angles of difficulty. For example, it will take more balance and coordination to perform a lunge than it would a back squat. Utilizing this technique will not only create an intense burn but will also tap those last few untouched muscle fibers and get those gains rolling!
Here's How: For an effective mechanical complex to work, you must start with the most difficult exercise and then gradually move on to easier moves which require less coordination and/or more total muscle involvement. For quadriceps this means starting with a lunge movement. This can include a host of options such as static barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell variations, walking lunges, Smith machine lunges, etc.
Next you will perform barbell front squats – these can also be subbed with goblet squats. For the final leg (pun intended) you will perform a barbell back squat. Notice how as the complex progresses you will require less balance and stability and utilize more muscle mass to help move the weight. Go for 3 total complexes.
2. 100 Rep Goal
100 reps sets, or century sets, are nothing new. Requiring intense effort and stamina, these sets not only challenge your grit, but are actually quite fun in a competitive way – with yourself or with your training partner.
100 rep sets force you to get way outside of your comfort zone and tap into both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers. After all your heavy lifting for legs, this will present a new and uncomfortable, but welcome challenge from the norm.
Here's How: Your best bet is to stick with a machine, preferably a leg press where balance, coordination and stability are less of a worry than a free weight squat, for example. Load the leg press up with a light load. You may need to use less weight than you think your first go-around since this will be a completely new experience.
Begin your set at a moderate pace. If you reach failure (or run out of breath) before you reach 100, simply hold the weight in the top position with your knees unlocked and rest in seconds for however many reps you have left. So if you made it to 60 reps and have 40 left, rest 40 seconds. Each time you pause, simply rest in seconds according to how many reps remain.
The goal isn’t really to finish the 100 reps in one unbroken set your first time. Give yourself a few weeks to adapt and get into the groove of super high reps before adding weight. 1 all-out set is enough!
Check out Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler's tips on leg press technique in this video filmed at the Muscle & Strength headquarters!
3. The Sissy Superset
If you aren’t quite ready for a brutal loaded barbell quad complex, consider a friendlier, but just as intense, bodyweight superset that requires little-to-no equipment. Bodyweight training done the right way can be just as challenging as the equipment variety with advantages to boot.
There's no equipment necessary, it doesn’t take up much room, and it can be done pretty much anywhere. Throw in intensifiers such as supersets to the mix and you will have one serious quad scorcher.
Here's How: The sissy squat is not only an excellent finishing move, but also one of the only exercises to truly impose an intense stretch to the quadriceps muscles. Some enable you to load your legs with a lot of weight, and others will allow you to contract for an intense squeeze, but few exercises actually stretch the muscle quite like the sissy squat.
Combine that with another classic bodyweight move and your legs will be toast. Perform a set of sissy squats (you can support yourself if needed) and then immediately perform a set of bodyweight prisoner squats. Shoot for 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 15 reps for each move.
4. Ballistic Complex
If functionality is more your style, why not add in some ballistic power moves to your finishing routine. This may be something even the traditional lifter will want to incorporate for the sake of variety.
Breaking up the monotony of a program will not only spur new enthusiasm, but also spur new growth while having a little fun. Need more advantages? In addition to more muscle, how about better cardiovascular health, dynamic movement improvements, and a feeling of total body conditioning.
Here's How: For this finisher choose 3 solid ballistic/power moves that require little equipment but a lot of output. For example let’s start with 10 jump split squats, move on to 10 box jumps, and end with a predetermined length of sprints. Rest for 2 minutes and repeat.
The goal isn’t to go to failure on the jump split squats or box jumps, but it is to go all out on your sprints. You can go about this in two ways. You can either complete a specific number of rounds, or you can challenge yourself to complete as many rounds as you can in a certain amount of time, 10 minutes for example. The choice is yours.
5. Farmer's Walk/Walking Lunge Superset
Going back to the roots of weightlifting, farmer’s walks are often overlooked for leg training. Most of us think of grip strength or conditioning when we visualize carrying heavy dumbbells across the gym.
When combined with other challenging exercises, farmer’s walks can be utilized as a great machine-free leg finisher. Adding walking lunges to the mix and you will soon realize the impact on your quads.
Here's How: Find a clear path for walks. Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells and walk toward a predetermined point. Turn and walk back without dropping the weight. Be sure your posture is straight and you aren’t tilting your head down or with slouched shoulders. When you return to your starting point, put down the dumbbells and begin bodyweight walking lunges. Again, you will walk to your predetermined point, turn around, and return to your starting point.
Depending on your experience level, you may have the option of performing walking lunges with a barbell or dumbbells – but start with your bodyweight just to get used to the supersets at first. As with the ballistic complex above, you can go for a certain number of rounds (3 or 4) or shoot for as many as you can muster for a set amount of time such as 5 to 10 minutes. Rest as long as you need to between supersets.