Within the next few months, I will have a complete set of articles, each one dedicated to a different muscle group. Each article will include a super-set and an effective strength building exercise to help you blast through any plateaus and into new and impressive muscular growth and definition.
Properly developed legs will be a strong point of any physique and will help decide the winner at any competitions. Lots of teens have big arms and a big chest, but not many have huge legs. Not saying that my legs are huge, but according to the way they are growing now, they will be.
When I first started blasting my legs in August of 2000, they were a measly 20", and 6 months later they are up to 24.5". I'll admit that when I first started training them, it was a pain in the ass and since they're such large muscles, they can handle unbelievable amounts of weight. After completing my last set of HEAVY squats, I'd have to sit down and chill because I would almost get stomach sick.
It was discouraging me from training my legs at the time, but I knew that if I wanted to be any bit of a threat at my first competition this July, I'd have to suffer through it. Not long after I began dedicating a day for legs, the workout slowly began getting more comfortable and fun. In no time my mind set towards training legs went from "shit, leg day again..." to "Sweet, Its Leg Day!".
The point of this last paragraph is to help you beginners understand that bodybuilding is all about desire, adaptation and success through hard work. Don't be discouraged from pain or anything else, you'll grow to love every bit of it.
Enough of that. Time to get into the information that will help you develop huge quads, hanging hamstrings and ripped calves. As you know, some people are blessed with genetically perfect calves, such as Mike Matarazzo, but others, such as me, aren't. Bottom line, who cares! Different is better when it comes to bodybuilding. Each year in the Mr. Olympia contest you will see the freakiest pros do better then the pros with a classic physique. It all comes down to how your body was trained, and the quality of muscle mass that you posses.
The most important thing I've discovered when training my muscles, especially legs, is to use maximum weight to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible. Obviously using a light weight wont recruit as deep as a heavy weight will. Use a leg press machine to build up your strength, and squats to build optimum mass. The 45 degree leg press is a beauty for building animal like strength. You might not believe it, but I'll see if I can get a picture of me leg pressing 1080 lbs.
There's 900 lbs of weight and my 180 lb friend on the sled. Obviously a one rep max deal. The Quadriceps are a fairly easy muscle group to build. I recommend hitting them using only two different exercises. Squats/leg presses are obviously a good exercise for building leg mass, but they do not focus strictly on the quads. I suggest performing heavy leg extensions to completely isolate the muscle. They will develop good, deep cuts and will build big rounded muscles.
When performing squats, place a loaded a barbell on the trapezius. Stand upright, with your shoulders back, feet about shoulder's width apart, and look straight ahead. This is the starting position. From the starting position, slowly lower yourself by bending your knees and lowering your butt towards the floor. Keep the weight on your heels.
Do not lower past the point where your thighs are parallel to the floor and do not let your knees go forward of your toes. Hold this position for a brief moment and then explosively raise the weight back to the starting position, ensuring you do the pushing with your heels.
Leg extensions are a no brainer to perform. Sit on the machine and place the instep of your feet under the foot pads. A few tips that I can give are: keep your lower back supported against the seat pad, use only the power in your quadriceps to raise the weight, allow the knee joint to completely lock out to ensure you get a complete contraction and never use momentum to raise the weight.
The Hamstrings are much like the biceps of the leg. The quads are as up to 2/3 of the upper leg. In order to have a well developed leg, it is necessary to have large hanging hamstrings. Easier said that done. The best way to develop the hamstrings is to use heavy weight, with strict form at an extremely high intensity.
For the hamstrings I also use only two exercises. Squats/leg press and the isolation exercise I use is lying leg curls. Performing leg curls is also simple. Simply lie face down on the bench and place your heels under the foot pads. Make sure that your hips are flush against the bench and raise your heels as far as you possibly can, then slowly return the weight to the starting position.
The only super set that I use in my leg routing is the leg extension - leg curl super set. This allows you to get an amazing pump and keeps the blood in the muscle during your two isolation exercises.
Calves are a stubborn body part. Not many people have perfect calves, but then again, what is the definition of perfect calves? The best mass building exercise for the calves is the standing calf raise, but to get the sought after perfect contraction, I perform seated calf raises. I find that I must train my calves using more volume training as opposed to intensity. No doubt the weight is still there, but I perform extra reps in each of my sets to completely shock them.
To perform the standing calf raises, stand under the machine, with your body straight and your knees slightly bent. Lower your heels as far as comfortably possible, then raise the weight until you are on your tiptoes. Holding the contraction for a full second is important.
The seated calf raises are performed in the same manner, but adapt it to a seated position. Make sure you hold the contraction and use a full range of motion. These few pointers should allow you to build yourself into Quadzilla in no time. I've listed my current leg routine for those of you who are interested.
- My Current Leg Routine:
- Barbell Squat -------------------------- 4 Pyramid sets
- Leg Presses ---------------------------- 5 Pyramid sets
- Seated Calf Raise ---------------------- 3 sets of 15 reps
- Leg Curls ------------------------------- 4 sets of 8 reps
- Leg Extension ------------------------- 4 sets of 8 reps
- Standing Calf Raise ------------------- 3 sets of 15 reps
Note: I use the leg press to build strength, therefore my last set is usually a one rep max.
Train safely, effectively and most importantly, keep it natural.