Project WHEELS: The Ultimate Hybrid Program for Leg Size and Strength

Project WHEELS: Hybrid Routine For Leg Gains
Build both your leg strength and solid legs muscles with this workout program that's heavy on squats, but highly effective at delivering results.

Workout Summary

Build Muscle
Single Muscle Group
Intermediate
6 weeks
5
45-60 minutes
Barbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells, Machines
Male & Female

Workout Description

It’s generally true – training for two goals at the same time is not a simple task – and I’m not here to tell you otherwise.

However, when it comes to training for strength and size, there are certain ways to train for both as there’s slightly more overlap between the two goals. 

For those of us with a bad case of the chicken legs, it’s about time something like this came around.

Lower body workouts can become redundant; a few sets of squats, followed by a couple of supplementary workouts (like leg press and lunges), and you call it a day.

You may even be quite sore from such workouts for the days that follow – but you’ve been a gym rat for a significant period of time now. Your body needs more.  

Often times, when lifters think about the term “high volume”, they only refer to the amount of exercises in terms of sets and reps and overall workout time pertaining to one session.

Complete Line of MHP Supplements

However, volume can also pertain to workouts in a cumulative fashion – that is, how much attention a muscle group or exercise choice is given over the course of an entire week. 

This adjusted thinking is your golden ticket to getting ahead of the game, and the nexus of this workout system. But first, a couple of other ground rules.

A Working Philosophy

Ok, I can’t take all the credit for the inception of this idea. Studying the great Joe DeFranco’s methods for football off-season athletes had a lot to do with this inspiration.

Related: HIT MASS Program - 3 Day High Intensity Training Split

Applying similar logic to guys after strength and size, I like to alternate a high – lactate week (exercises for “reps”) with a  CNS emphasis week (high weight, low reps) in order to tackle more than one energy system and challenge the muscular system as well as the nervous system. 

Building Legs with Deadlifts

The week one system is working overtime, the other system gets something of a “break” since its demands aren’t directly in priority.

For the purposes of this program, geared towards getting big, strong legs, I’ve laced a consistent amount of cumulative volume in there to get the body used to heavy loads, and to give the muscles the stimulation they need to keep getting bigger and stronger.

The Tricks

Here are some things to keep in mind while performing the exercises in this routine - they'll definitely help maximize your results!

Trick 1: Squat for Full ROM

This goes without saying, but squat for the deepest, safe range of motion you can. You’ll get the most bang for your buck in every department (strength, size, and functionality) by not cutting your range short. If you’re a half-repper, take a phase to improve your range of motion before starting this training system.

Complete Line of MHP Supplements

Trick 2: Squat Every Day

First off, to help your strength, your go-to training method will come in the form of taking a page out of the Bulgarian Olympic training method and front or back squatting to a daily max.

At the end of each workout (that doesn’t involve legs, of course), choose one of the two squat variations above, and perform single and double rep sets, ramping up to a max effort for the day. The good news about this: You’ll be able to get under very heavy squatting loads up to 4 or even 5 times each week, without enough daily volume to leave you sore, or to fry your nervous system.

Just to clarify, this instruction doesn’t mean you should strive to hit your all-time PR every single time you get under the bar. That’s unrealistic and rather dangerous.  You have to use your training discernment, discipline and general logic to make a judgment call as to what your thresholds are for the day.

For reference, my all time PR back squat to full range is 420lbs. In the video below, I perform my daily max with 385. Check out my explanation to clarify this method a bit more. 

As the video mentioned, that weight is not what we started with. Ramp your way up using sets of 1-2 reps and going through a logical progression in load until you reach your comfortable daily max.  You’ll be tired from your workout that came before this, so gauge wisely what weight to use as your top end set. Be aggressive in pursuing a heavy max, but don’t be unrealistic. As a guide, the number should always definitely be at least 85% of your true max. 

Trick 3: Use Advanced Lifting Methods for Extended Sets

Nothing pushes the lactate system better than extending your set. That goes beyond simply training for sets of 15 – 20 straight reps. That’s okay, but usually forces you to use significantly lower weight than what’s ideal for building muscle. Here are better alternatives:

1.5 Reps – To pump up the quads and have them work overtime, make the knees have to go through a double extension. Slowly lower yourself to full depth once, and ascend to the halfway point in your squat. Pause, and lower yourself once more to the bottom, and then proceed to explode to the top. That’s 1 rep.

Perfoming sets of 6-8 reps using this method will leave your legs screaming. Check out the video for a visual:

Ladder Sets – This is equally as challenging, but even more simplistic in its execution. Take your 12 rep max, unrack it and perform 2 reps. Rack the weight and rest for ten seconds. Unrack again, and perform 3 reps, followed by another 10 second break. Then do 5 reps. Rest for 10 seconds, and finally do 10 reps. 

You just performed 20 reps with your 12 rep max by taking advantage of mini-breaks to restore just enough ATP to give your muscles the energy they need. If this sounds easy, think again – you can view my torture with 225lbs below:

Putting It All Together: The Program Structure

Remember – I’m helping with the leg portion of your workouts to add size and strength. The exercises, rep ranges or weights you decide to use for your other muscle groups are up to you, and my input is best saved for a separate article.

Week A

This is the week where you lift heavy. Personally I would stick to bodybuilding rep ranges for other body parts during this week, since you’re preparing for lots of heavy squats (I’d save heavy upper body work for the high lactate leg week that follows). But it won’t kill you if you do other heavy large movements during this week either.

Day 1 - Back Workout Sets Reps
Complete your entire back workout and then squat to a daily max as described earlier. If you deadlifted in your back workout, then use front squats to ensure a more vertical torso and less shearing forces on the lumbar spine.
Day 2 - Chest Workout Sets Reps
Just as you read above, complete your entire chest workout, and then squat to a daily max. This time, back squats are OK.
Day 3 - Leg Workout Sets Reps
Back Squats or Front Squats 5 5
- Ramp appropriately until you reach your work sets. Once reached, rest 3 minutes between work sets.
Reverse Lunge From Deficit 4 10
- Remember to make the trailing knee touch the floor to take advantage of the added ROM. Use a box no higher than 8 inches off the ground to start. Rest as long as needed between sets. (See video.)
Romanian Deadlift 4 10
- Focus on a bit more speed for this, and exclusively target the hamstrings by making sure they stay contracted and full of tension for the entire set. Rest as long as needed between sets.

Note: Of course, there are no squats to a daily max after your leg workout. Be sure to structure one of your rest days to follow this workout day.

Day 4 - Shoulder Workout Sets Reps
Complete your entire shoulder workout, then back squat to daily max.
Day 5 - Arm Workout Sets Reps
Post workout squats are not needed on this day. You’ve squatted heavy 4 times for the week, which is worthy of a day off of squatting. Enjoy your curls for the girls!
Week B - High Lactate Week
Day 1 - Back Workout Sets Reps
Complete your entire back workout and then squat to a daily max as described earlier. If you deadlifted in your back workout, then use front squats to ensure a more vertical torso and less shearing forces on the lumbar spine.
Day 2 - Chest Workout Sets Reps
Just as you read above, complete your entire chest workout, and then squat to a daily max. This time, back squats are OK.
Day 3 - Leg Workout A Sets Reps
Back Squats (Ladder Set) 4 1
- Rest up to 3-4 minutes between rounds.
Rear Leg Elevated Split Squat 4 10
- Rest 15 seconds between legs, and 2 minutes between rounds. (See video.)
Leg Press 3 20

Note: It's recommended to take a 20 minute post-workout walk or bike. Be sure to schedule a day of complete rest following this workout

Day 4 - Shoulder Workout Sets Reps
Complete your entire Shoulder workout, then back squat to daily max.
Day 5 - Leg Workout B Sets Reps
Front or Back Squats (1.5 Reps) 5 6
- Rest 3 minutes between sets.
DB Walking Lunge 1 20
- Strides. Rest 2 minutes between sets.
Romanian Deadlift 4 8
- Rest as long as needed
Prone Hamstring Curls 4 10
- Rest as long as needed
Day 6 - Arm Workout (Optional) Sets Reps
Post workout squats are not needed on this day. You’ve squatted heavy 4 times for the week, which is worthy of a day off of squatting. Enjoy your curls for the girls!

Related: Why You Need to Have More Leg Days (Workouts Included)

Summary

This workout system is hard. It goes without saying it’s not for complete beginners, and it will require a strong dose of will power to get through it.

But the dividends it pays will be tenfold for your aesthetic appearance and for your strength. The amount of squatting involved will even carry over to the strength of other lifts.

One quick note: This program is not to be performed as an extended program. Your body will not be able to keep up with its intensity for long periods of time. Focus on 4 to 6 week stretches using this program, and then go back to something less aggressive for a phase after each stretch.

Train smart, and your body will thank you.

2 Comments+ Post Comment

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 05/18/2015 - 11:35
Jack

Wow, this looks a lot what I've been toying with the idea of.

Squatting to a daily min/max 4 days a week with alternating push/pull days twice a week for upper body hypertrophy.

Do you see any issues with this variation?

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 04/22/2015 - 11:40
Waseem

Is this something that can be applied to other muscle groups, i.e. chest or back ?

Thanks !