There are show muscles and there are go muscles, and Tyler Holt knows how to build both. This athlete, fitness model, and Bodybuilding.com spokesmodel finalist isn't afraid to pump up his legs—as long as he can still leap over tall buildings in a single bound.
"I want to build muscle and continue to grow," explains Holt, "but I don't want to lose any athleticism in the process. What's the point of big muscles if you can't use them to do real things in the real world!?"
The goal of Holt's minimalist workout is to build muscle without sacrificing power. Targeting every lower-body muscle—from quads to glutes to hamstrings—this simple yet effective lineup combines heavy isolation exercises and compound power sets to build size without sacrificing functional strength.
Don't let the simplicity fool you: Your legs will definitely feel it by the end. If you're ready, go crush some legs!
A good leg workout begins or ends with a squat, and you'll kick this one off with a traditional back squat, but with a slight variation to put more emphasis on building the front of your legs.
Position your feet close together and place your heels on a couple of 25-pound plates. This stance shifts the focus to the outer sweep of the quads, helping you fill out the lines in your lower legs.
Before you get into heavy weight on this exercise, make sure you do some warm-up sets. Holt recommends lighter weight and higher reps on your first set to get your joints warmed up and your back muscles prepared for the workout ahead. Only after you've completed a proper warm-up should you add more weight. Complete 5 total sets, adding weight and subtracting reps each time.
Split squats target the back of the leg, particularly the powerful glute muscles. To maximize your lower-body athletic power, explode up from the bottom, keeping your head and chest up the entire time.
The key to this exercise is to maintain pressure on the heel of your front foot. If you're feeling this move in the quad of the back leg, you're putting too much pressure on your back foot resting on the bench. Shift your weight to your front heel, and make sure you're not leaning forward.
You can use any type of weight for this exercise as long as you maintain proper form.
"I choose dumbbells," explains Holt, "but you could also do these with just a barbell on your back."
Any time you perform a single-legged exercise, make sure you start each set with the same leg so both legs get the same amount of rest on each round. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each leg.
Dead rest leg press—in which you come to a complete stop at the bottom of every rep—builds power and strength. According to Holt, this exercise is easier if you have a pin-loaded leg press. If you don't have access to this kind of press, you can do this exercise on a regular leg press and just pause at the bottom.
You already have a couple of other exercises under your belt, so it's time to up your game and do 3 heavy sets of only 8 reps each. The objective is to build power and strength. By going heavy and using the dead rest method, you're going to generate significantly more leg power.
You can also use this exercise to build size. All you need to do is switch up the position of your feet.
"If you want to put more emphasis on the quads, position your feet a little lower and close together," Holt explains. "If you want to emphasize your hamstrings, place your feet higher and a little wider."
Seated Leg Curl
The seated leg curl is an isolation movement, so make sure at the end of each rep you get a good squeeze in the hamstrings to emphasize your mind-muscle connection and prevent any other muscle from taking over the movement. If you prefer, you can do lying leg curls instead. Just remember to increase the weight on each set as you drop those reps.
Just as you did with leg curls, add weight and drop reps on each set of these extensions. This is another isolation movement, so once again you'll want to focus on that quad squeeze at the top of each rep.
By the end of this workout, every muscle in your legs—glutes, hamstrings, quads—should feel like it got run through the washing machine on the heavy-duty cycle. The entire workout will take you 45-60 minutes. Work it into your split any time you need to hit your legs hard!