Next time you set foot in a gym, take a good and long look around you at your fellow gym-goers. Now take note of their physiques. Do you see anything missing? Of course you do. Ok, maybe the guys have some decent pecs, delts, or even biceps.
However, I'm willing to bet you that most of the guys in your gym are walking on twigs. These are the same guys who do 100 sets of bench presses and curls and wonder why their legs are non-existent. It's not only that, they even try covering up their twigs by wearing sweat pants and walk around the gym with spastic lat syndrome. There's no denying it because you guys know exactly what I'm talking about. How rare is it for you to see a gym-goer with a remotely balanced physique? It is very rare indeed. If you fall into this group that I am referring to, then it is time for you to back off those damn upper body exercises and start training where the truly hardcore body parts: QUADS and HAMS!
If the sound of training your quads and hams is like kryptonite to your training, then you need to quickly develop a tolerance to it because you will NEVER build a truly admirable physique. End of story! I'm not going to sit here and preach to you but rather, I am going to outline some training tips for the quads and hams which will set them on fire and stimulate growth and development like you've never experienced before.
As much as you hate to hear this, doing pansy exercises such as leg extensions will not give you the mass which you truly seek. Sure, leg extensions are important in developing the quads but they should not be the backbone of your quad routine. I know what you're thinking: "Dammit! There goes my quad routine." You need to quickly expel that mentality if you ever want massive quads. Now listen very carefully, the key to building massive quads is none other than heavy compound movements such as squats, hack squats, and leg presses done with good form. I know the mention of the word squat brings tears to ones eyes but you're going to have to suck it up if you ever want to make progress. No one ever said quad training would be easy, now did they? If they did, they were lying straight through their teeth and that person probably owns all of Richard Simmons' videos.
A Date With Destruction
Next time you have a date with quad training, head straight to the bike and bike for a few minutes. I like to bike for 5 minutes at a pace which will get my heart rate slightly elevated and perhaps a drop of sweat or two, nothing more and nothing less. Next you will perform some light stretching for a few minutes wherever it most convenient for you. You can stretch on the bench press machine for all I care so long as you stretch. One note on stretching before quad training: stretching your quads AND your hamstrings AND your glutes. Why? Because proper leg training recruits all of these muscles to work in a synergistic fashion. You should be slightly sweating at this point.
Now head over to the leg extension machine and perform 3 slow and concentrated sets aiming for 15 reps per set. When I say slow and concentrated, I mean squeeze the concentric motion and feel the eccentric motion. After EACH set, make sure you stretch the quads and hold the stretches for about 10-15 seconds. Personally, I like to perform my first set using only 50 lbs, my second set using 70 lbs, and my third set using either 90 or 100 lbs for 15 reps each. Yet you argue that these sets do not build muscle and this is true but my rebuttal is that I am preparing my mind and my quads for the onslaught that is to come. If you plan to train in my world then you will need all of the preparation that you can possibly have.
After your third set of warm up extensions, you will proceed to the squat rack. Note that I said the squat rack and not the other leg extension machine. Slap on a weight in which you can perform 15-20 reps with relative ease using perfect form. Foot positioning when squatting is a matter of personal preference and body type but I have found that by placing my feet 2-3 inches wider than shoulder width with toes slightly pointed outward, I am able to place total stress on my quads. Also make sure you are able to feel the descent in the quads and keep your lower back arched and tight and your head looking towards the ceiling. This will force your body to keep perfect squat form. Bar positioning is of relevance also. You can either place the bar low or high across your shoulders but I have always done high bar squats because it places more stress on my quads. I have tried low bar squats and will leave those to the powerlifters.
Next comes the descent. Make sure you are able to feel the descent in your quads and that you descend slowly and through your butt and hips as if you were sitting in a chair with this heavy bar strapped across your shoulders. Descent to parallel or to slightly below parallel! None of this partial rep crap here! Keep your knees parallel to the direction of your toes. When you have reached what you deem as the bottom of the descent, slowly force your way back up and feel the tension on your quads. There are several schools of thought concerning peak contraction at the to of the squat but I am not a big believer in full contraction in the squat. I have tried it and believe it is an efficient way to quickly wear our your quads. Remember, this is from personal experience and what works extremely well for me may not work well for you. Experiment a little because you have nothing to lose.
Increase The Load
After your first easy set of squats, you will then stretch some more. As you can clearly see, I am a big believer in stretching the working muscle. I have done it since my early days and will continue to do it for as long as I am lifting. Next you will add on enough weight to be make the second set a little harder but still not so hard that you cannot complete 15 reps. Then you will stretch some more. After stretching, you will add more weight to where you can complete at most 15 reps but you will do only 10 reps. No sense in tiring ourselves out for the worksets to come, right? By this point, your quads should be extremely pumped and if they're not, then you're probably not doing them right or you're not taking in enough carbs, water or salt.
Now you will add enough weight to where you can complete 10-12 full reps with good form. After this set, you should be practically dizzy and breathing heavy. You will increase the weight once more to where you can completely only 8-10 full reps with good form. At this point, walking properly should be an issue but you're mentally tough and have one more set to grind out. Add on just a tad bit more weight and perform 6-8 full deep reps. Afterwards, you should feel totally blasted but you are not finished as of yet. Now proceed to the leg extension machine for your actual working sets. Usually, two or three sets here is enough but there is one small trick to the way I perform leg extensions. Use enough where to where you can control both the concentric and the eccentric phase of the lift and hold the peak contraction for a 2 count. Perform anywhere from 10-20 reps per set adjusting the weight accordingly. Personally, I try to keep the rep count at about 15 reps per set.
After each set, stretch and get some water if you dare to fancy your chances at making it to the water fountain without falling. Next you will entertain the hack squat machine for 2-3 sets. I like performing one warm up set, as if I need it, of 15 reps with a relatively lighter weight and move up from there. The trick to hack squatting, that I have found, is to keep your feet high on the platform and push through your toes while keeping your feet flat and work at the knees. This places much more emphasis on the quads than merely descending and pushing back up. Perform a couple of pyramiding sets here using this technique and vary your feet positioning at each workout or each set if you feel up to the challenge. By this point, you shouldn't be able to feel much of your quads. Did I just say quads? What quads? Argh, I can't feel them. That's what you should be thinking if you've done this workout with the right intensity up to this point. But wait, you are not finished yet.
Now you will entertain walking lunges. You can grasp a pair of dumbbells in each hand or you can just lunge with your bodyweight. At this point, I am quite content with lunging with only my bodyweight because I can barely make it. Perform 2-3 sets of 40 alternating steps (that translates into 20 reps per leg). Make sure you keep your chest high and your head up and keep your steps slow and controlled. If you fall over, no big deal. It just comes with the territory. If you can make it through these last sets of walking lunges, then give yourself a pat on the back because you've just endured one of my most prized quad workouts which I still use to this day. It may seem a bit sloppy but it's worked well for David and me.
Now that you have completed the quad part of the leg training, it is solely up to you to decide whether or not to train the hamstrings in the same day. Personally, I give quad training so much intensity that I am physically and mentally unable to train any other body part. I believe that if a person can train something else with quads, then they are not giving forth enough effort to get the kind of growth and development they truly seek. If you've done it with the right intensity, just be happy that you made it through the workout in one piece despite the risk of losing your lunch. Now don't you have a ball-busting quad workout to attend to?