There’s a reason that there are so many memes and posts online about the reluctance to train on leg day. It’s hard, not as fun as upper body training, and you’re going to probably be sore after it’s over.
Do you know what separates the truly dedicated lifter from the everyday gym rat? The truly dedicated lifter looks for the program that will challenge them. They know it'll help them succeed and build a masterpiece.
This leg training program involves two workouts that look simple but won’t be easy. You’ll alternate between both programs every week for the next two months.
One workout places more emphasis on the hamstrings as well as the inner and outer thighs. The other places more focus on the quads.
Calves aren’t addressed in this program because the focus is above the knee. There are several great calf programs out there (Give this one a try) and you can use any of them to help you address the calves. My only suggestion is that you train them on a different day than you do these workouts.
Quick Note on Warming Up
There is one common trait with both programs you’ll see. That’s the warm-up.
You should do five minutes on a cardio machine. It can be a bike, elliptical, or treadmill. That’s up to you. Just make sure that whatever you do isn’t anything that leaves you struggling or pushing yourself. All you’re doing is warming up and preparing the muscles in the lower body.
You also should commit around five minutes to stretching. Lunges, touching the toes, holding the bottom of the squat position, and other stretches you feel can help you get loose and prepare the joints.
Don’t neglect this because you want to minimize the risk of injury as well as maximize your performance.
Leg Day 1: Hamstring Emphasis
You know what the biggest mistake is when it comes to leg training? Many lifters throw hamstrings in at the end. The squats, leg press, and hacks are the big lifts where you can use the most weight so are always motivating to do. Unfortunately, the back of the thighs suffer as a result. Hamstring training takes concentration and attention to detail.
To address that issue in this program, one of these workouts will start with and put more emphasis on the hamstrings. Follow the tips on each exercise and you’ll be sore for a couple of days after. While you might not like that when it happens, you’ll be glad you did it when you see the results in a couple months.
|Single Leg Curl||4||10 Each|
|Stiff-Legged Deadlift||3||10, 8, 6|
|Banded Good Morning||3||12|
|A1. Adductor Machine||3||12|
|A2. Abductor Machine||3||12|
*Rest for 90 seconds between sets
Single Leg Curl
You can’t always see the hamstrings working so it’s tough to develop the muscle. You have to feel it working. That’s why we’re starting this workout with a single leg movement.
Start with the leg you feel is weaker. The goal is to feel the hamstrings working on each rep, stretching at the bottom.
It’s tempting to do regular deadlifts as the big lift of the day but remember the goal is developing the muscles with this program. If strength was the priority then deadlifts would be best because the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back would all be involved.
For this workout, going lighter and working the hamstrings is best. If you want to use dumbbells to maximize the range of motion and contraction at the top, that would be preferred. You can also perform these with a barbell if you prefer to go a little heavier. Just remember the goal and don’t let your ego take over.
Banded Good Morning
Using a resistance band with one end around your neck and standing on the other maintains tension throughout the entire rep and helps you keep your form in check. Don’t worry so much about using a stronger band. Moderate resistance will be enough.
If you want to give the glutes a little work, stand completely at the top and squeeze them when you do. If you want to isolate the hamstrings, stop just short of standing tall. Make sure when you bend over you don’t go so far down you lose tension with the band.
These are smaller muscles but they’re important as supporting muscles so don’t neglect them. Most gyms have machines where you can do both in one station. Others have two machines but they are next to each other.
Do these in superset fashion to challenge the muscles and save time.
Now we’ll work the quads and they won’t have much backup now that the hamstrings have been exhausted. So go lighter on the leg press than you normally would.
There isn’t much to say about the leg press because it’s a simple movement to do. Just don’t shortchange the negative and range of motion. Go all the way down. Otherwise, you’re not helping your cause and will look like you're exercising your ego.
This is going to be a killer finisher. If you want to place more emphasis on the quads, place your heels on a pair of small plates.
Make sure you go all the way down when you squat. Shortchanging will hurt your lower back as well as neglect the benefits this movement offers for your legs.
Leg Day 2: Quadriceps Emphasis
For the second session, we’re going to focus on the larger muscle group – the quads. We’ll follow a lot of similar principles we did in the hamstring workout – starting with a single leg movement, challenging the muscles with big lifts, and finishing with the other muscle group.
|Single Leg Extension||4||10 Each|
|Front Squat||4||10, 8, 6, 6|
|Barbell Hip Thrust||3||12|
|Lying Leg Curl||3||15|
*Rest for 90 seconds between sets
Single Leg Extension
There are many knocks on the leg extension because of the toll they reportedly take on the knees. However, they can be a great warm-up exercise and will pre-exhaust the quads for what’s to come. Just don’t go too heavy and make sure the muscles work.
As soon as you have to generate force by kicking, stop, reduce the weight, and go again.
Front squats place more work on the quads and core than the back squats. This is because you have to balance the bar and it’s in front of you; whereas the back squat has the bar on your shoulders behind you.
You won’t be able to do as much weight but the work that these offer the quads are worth making that sacrifice. You can make them even more challenging by pausing at the bottom before coming back up. That’s entirely up to you though.
If your gym doesn’t have a hack squat machine, go with a leg press. I like this better because it’s more of a squat and your body is straight. That means the legs will work harder than if you were sitting.
When you stand up or press the weight up, don’t lock out at the top. Make sure you feel those quads contract for a second before you go back down.
Barbell Hip Thrust
Quads have been blasted so let’s go to the hamstrings. This is most associated with glutes but the hamstrings will work here too.
Make sure your feet are planted firmly and you can hold the weight up at the top under control. When you finish the set, hold the last rep at the top for 10 seconds. The burn will be intense but it’s very effective.
Lying Leg Curl
This isolates the hamstrings and will make a great finisher. Challenge yourself to not pause at any point during the sets.
Consistent movement and constant tension will set the back of your thighs on fire but it will also send more blood to the area which is vital for when you start recovery after this is over.
While weight isn’t the focus don’t go light either. If you can start doing more reps than the set calls for, go ahead and go up.
Bodybuilding is the priority but strength gains are awesome too!
You’re going to do the work so you might as well reap all the benefits.