Regardless of which strength sport you pursue, there is one thing in common among all of them. You can’t skip leg training. It might not be as fun as the beach muscles like arms or chest and yes, doing it correctly means you will likely be sore and have trouble walking without a limp for a day or two.
Think about the feeling of accomplishment that comes with wearing shorts or being in a gym and sporting a pair of well-developed legs though. It’s similar to people that are into cars that have awesome looking tires and rims. They matter.
Another issue that comes with leg training is there are some athletes that have worked hard and lifted heavy and can’t seem to make them grow. Week after week they make the most of leg day but are frustrated.
If this appears to be you then either you need to re-boot your program or you have hit a plateau and are stuck. Either way, this program can be the ultimate solution to help you finally see the results you’re after.
There are two ways to approach this program. For beginners and intermediates, you will train hamstrings on one day and quads three days later. This means you’ll specifically focus on hamstrings once and quads once. That special attention can be the key to growth.
Advanced lifters can do this in one day with one workout in the morning and the other at night. If you do this, stick to training legs once a week.
For both workouts, you should do three sets of 15-20 reps on both adductors and abductors so you can target the inner and outer thighs. Make this a part of your overall warm-up before you start the workouts below.
|Single Lying Leg Curl||3||12, 10, 8|
|Walking Lunge||3||12 Each|
|Lying Leg Curl||3||15**|
*Rest for 90 seconds between all sets.
**Drop set on final set
1. Single Lying Leg Curl
Since you can’t see the hamstrings working, you’re dependent on how they feel while you’re training to determine how effective the session will be. That’s why we’re starting with an isolation movement that will focus on each leg.
Aside from that, you’re accomplishing two other goals. First, you’re warming them up for the workload that you’re about to place on them. The hamstrings are a large muscle group so warming them up matters.
Second, you’ll be pre-exhausting them so you don’t have to use as much weight in future exercises. This will decrease the chances of injury. You won’t be as strong on the next movement as you would be if you started with it but you will get stronger nonetheless.
Whichever leg you feel is weaker is the one you should start with since you will have the most energy to commit and you might need to devote a little more time to feeling that connection.
2. Romanian Deadlift
This is your big lift for the hamstrings portion of the workout. The protocol here is for five sets of five reps. Yes, the legs normally respond to higher reps for hypertrophy but remember, we want to get stronger too and heavy weights are a part of that process.
Your first two sets should be feeling out sets. Focus on the execution of the reps and use lighter weight. This will help you gauge how strong you’re feeling and what kind of weight you will need for those last three work sets.
If you need a belt or straps to hold on to the bar, feel free to use them. Make sure that in between sets that you stretch out the legs and that you don’t sit down. Stay standing so that you won’t have to worry about the muscles getting tight between sets.
3. Walking Lunge
Don’t worry so much about using big dumbbells here. As a matter of fact, if you feel you don’t need weights at all for these to be effective, that’s okay. The main purpose here is to make those hamstrings fire with each step.
If for whatever reason, you don’t have access to a long space to do walking lunges, find a platform that is about shin height and perform platform lunges. You’ll feel the glutes more doing this version but the hamstrings will still be challenged.
4. Lying Leg Curl
This is your finisher and it will be intense. That’s because I don’t want you banging out reps in a hurry. There will be a tempo for this one. Take two seconds to perform the lifting (concentric) phase of the exercise. Hold that contraction at the top for one second. Take two seconds to perform the negative (eccentric) phase of the workout. Hold the stretch at the bottom for one second.
Yes, that is a six second rep. So you’ll have to use less weight for this since the name of the game is control. On the last set, perform a drop set at the end. When you finish the 15th rep, subtract some weight and try to get more reps. Five reps should be the minimum goal. If you didn’t get five, strip more weight next time.
|Single Leg Press||3||12, 10, 8|
*Rest for 90 seconds between all sets.
**Drop set on final set.
1. Single Leg Press
The leg press gets a bad rap in some lifting circles because people like to pack the plates on and do short reps so the only thing getting worked is the ego. But this machine can be very useful and one of the ways is as a warm-up/pre-exhaust movement.
Like the leg curl, start with the leg you feel is weaker. Don’t be surprised if you find that the leg you need to start with isn’t the same as you did with the leg curls. There could be an imbalance. Fortunately, this program can help you improve on that.
As with the standing leg curl, we’re going one leg at a time to prepare each and to make sure we can feel those quads firing. Place your working foot on the sled in a position that you feel the quad working the most. This can vary from lifter to lifter so worry about what you feel works best on this.
2. Pause Squat
You might be asking why pause squats? When you stop at the bottom and have to power your way up, those quads are going to have no choice to but to work hard. This will also help you get stronger with your traditional squat too.
Choose your weights the same as you did for the Romanian deadlifts. Sets #1 and 2 are lighter to maximize form and gauge strength. Sets three through five are the work sets. Knee sleeves and belts can be used here but wait until you get to the work sets before you put them on.
Here’s a bonus tip. Use wrist wraps too. You will be holding the bar on your shoulders with your hands and the weight can take a toll on the wrists. Supporting them can be a benefit to that area and the more stable the weight is, the more likely you will be successful with the rep.
3. Hack Squat
This movement is great for working the quadriceps from top to bottom while you have the benefits of a machine to help you focus on the movement. Different gyms have different versions of this machine but regardless of which one it is, use it and your quads will be rewarded.
Smooth and consistent reps are key here. Don’t stop at any point throughout the set. You know how sometimes people stop a rep or two short to gather themselves? If you have to do that, it’s too heavy. It isn’t just about doing the rep, it’s about doing quality reps.
4. Leg Extension
Everything about the lying leg curls for the hamstrings applies here for the leg extension. Use the same tempo and perform the same drop set at the end. This movement is the best isolation you will get for the quadriceps and finishing them off in this fashion will have them primed for growth once you start your recovery process.
Doing the reps slowly will make this easier on your knees if you have any knee issues. There are also tips you may have read or heard about turning your toes a certain way to work a different part of the quadriceps. If you want to do that, it’s fine but it’s not mandatory. These will work the muscles effectively regardless of how you position your feet.