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2. Depth of Squat
Chances are you’ve seen a guy at the gym who puts a ton of wheels on the leg press to impress people, but he only allows the carriage to descend just an inch or two. Doing partial reps like this clearly shortchanges results, but that doesn’t mean partials are completely ineffective, especially when combined with full-range reps.
But doing partials solely, as these chicken-legged imposters do, is especially counterproductive if you’re trying to build up your glutes and hamstrings. Those muscle groups actually work harder the deeper you go.
Consequently, if you don’t bring your thighs to a point in which they’re parallel with the floor when squatting, they don’t get as much activation. Shallow depth-of-squat moves more predominantly target the quads, which are more active over the top half of the move.
By selectively doing partial range-of-motion squats with heavy weight in conjunction with full-range moves, you can build up bigger, thicker frontal thighs than just doing full-range or partial reps alone.
In the partial-rep hack squats in these workouts, you perform sets of just 6 reps so you can really pile on more weight than what you normally use for full-range reps.
3. Exercise Selection
Some moves are simply better than others when focusing on a particular body part. The front squat and hack squat are considered better quad builders, even though with the latter repositioning your feet higher on the foot plate allows you to shift some of the emphasis to other areas of the lower body.
And the inclusion of single-joint exercises like the leg extension and the lying leg curl also allow you to better isolate a particular muscle group. You typically do these single-joint moves last in your workout.
4. Turning Your Foot/Leg
On a single-joint move like the leg extension, turning your feet inward more strongly activates the muscle fibers of the outer quad, allowing you to better focus on, but not totally isolate, the outer quad sweep.
Similarly, on the lying leg curl, you can turn your feet slightly inward or outward to shift some of the muscular emphasis to the inner or outer portions of the hamstrings.
So, Why Legs Again?
A big upper body paired with anemic leg development is about the most ridiculous sight since suspenders with shorts, but if that still isn’t enough to get you in the squat rack, then consider the following perks to leg training:
- Bigger everywhere. The movements used in serious leg training elicit a significant anabolic response that affects the whole body. So if a bigger upper body remains priority numero uno, you still want to make lower body training part of your plan.
- Improved athleticism. It’s hard to think of a sport or activity that doesn’t benefit from added strength and expression of power from the glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
- Babes. Those aforementioned fitness tarts hold a special place in their hearts for guys with thick legs. Trust me, I’ve done the research.
My old man used to always say, «You have to spend 6 hours at school, you may as well learn something.» So, to paraphrase my Dad’s advice, if you just spent 4 weeks following my arm specialization phase, you hopefully learned something, because we’re going to use a lot of the same techniques in this program.
Furthermore, I’m going to throw in some more tried-and-true yet brutal finishers to crank up the volume and muscle-damage even further. You’re welcome.
The key to success in any specialization phase is reducing volume in all your other lifts and focusing on the task at hand. In «4 Weeks To Big Arms» that was easy, as I was essentially telling you to back off the squats and lunges and focus on biceps curls and skull crushers. Boo hoo.
Now I’m telling you to do the exact opposite, which is like telling you to get out of bed with Mila Kunis and start organizing your sock drawer.
In any case, if you want to be successful in this program you’re going to have to back off the other training (there will still be a one day per-week upper body maintenance workout) and focus on adding volume to your legs.
In this program you’ll train four days per week. Three of those will be «leg» days, with the fourth being a maintenance day for upper body lifts.
Ideally your week will be set up with Monday, Thursday, and Saturday being the lower body days, Tuesday as your maintenance day, and Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday as off days. Of course, you can always move things around to suit your needs, but try not to schedule leg workouts on back-to-back days.
We’ll be using one of my favorite forms of periodization for hypertrophy, which is weekly undulating, meaning the sets and reps will change from week to week.
Try your best to complete all the reps prescribed while having one or two reps left in the tank. This will insure you don’t go to failure and burn out your CNS, a real concern when training the lower body this frequently.
Also, it’s critical for your safety (and your results) to use good technique and full range of motion on all lifts. If you can’t do either, you’re not ready for a specialization phase. Get good at the lifts and come back to this program when you’re ready. There’s no shame in knowing your limits.
- Tempo, rest, and time-under-tension are all things that should be paid attention to during a hypertrophy phase. Make sure the eccentric (lowering) phase of all movements is done with control and always try to perform the concentric (lifting) as quickly as possible.
- Rest periods can be a bit longer for the compound «A» lifts (75 to 90 seconds) and between 45 and 75 seconds for the remainder of the program. While complete recovery between sets is great for a strength training program, it’s not ideal for hypertrophy, so don’t extend the rest periods.
- If you’re keeping the tempo of the lifts as prescribed above, your sets should last between 40 and 60 seconds («D» finishers not included). That’s what you should be shooting for.
- For the Two Minute Leg Press goes, you should try to increase the amount of reps you can accomplish from week to week, so keep track. Also, the compressive forces of the leg press are often underestimated due to the backrest, but they can be significant. Manage this by keeping a natural arch in your lower back for the entire set (easier said than done).
- The 20-Rep Squat set is brutal, especially after crushing your legs with the amount of volume in the program that precedes it. Be sure to keep your ego in check. If your squat form starts to break down to the point of being risky, end the set and come back to the lift another day.
- To say rest, recovery, and nutrition are critical in this phase would be to underestimate how important they are. We’re talking about serious volume in some major lifts throughout the week. I’d suggest upping your protein, getting between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and trying to minimize other athletic activities for the 4 weeks.
- I also highly recommend getting on board with a very good peri-workout protocol. This program can lead to very rapid gains in lower body mass, but only if you have the raw materials available to build muscle and recover for the next session. It’s going to be an exhausting four weeks anyway, so why not get the most out of it?
How many times should I train legs every week?
We’ve seen it, heard it (and most likely said it) all…
“Squats just make me big and bulky…”
“Running and jogging are my leg workouts…”
“Squats are bad for my knees…”
There’s a famous saying that says that an excuse is a lullaby to soothe a guilty conscience. Enough with the excuses already! It’s time to conquer your fears, excuses, and phobias that are holding you back from some true gains.
Leg training isn’t fancy, frilly or sexy. It’s hard, and by that, I mean leg training is exhausting, gruelling, and sometimes nausea-inducing. However, the positive effects your body will experience from leg training – especially twice per week – will pay back ten-fold.
There’s a TON of reasons why you should be training legs with hardcore mentality: