If you have been on Bodybuilding.com for at least a few minutes then you should already understand that if you truly want to build a lean, muscular and powerful physique then you absolutely MUST train legs. You must train them hard and be consistent if you want to build that body that everyone will admire.
Fortunately, you can learn not only how to train the legs but do it in a way that will help you gain size, strength and muscularity like you have seen all over Bodybuilding.com and in all the magazines and there is one exercise that will help you do it.
The Squat is the ultimate exercise for the lower body. It is the undisputed king of leg exercises and if you want the powerful quads then this is a must in your leg routine. It is a tough exercise and if you train hard enough it could lead to some major DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) but the results will prove it is all worth it.
How To Squat
It may appear basic but check out how to properly squat so you know what to do in the gym and more importantly what not to do. This exercise is best performed inside a squat rack for safety purposes. To begin, first set the bar on a rack to just below shoulder level. Once the correct height is chosen and the bar is loaded, step under the bar and place the back of your shoulders (slightly below the neck) across it.
Hold on to the bar using both arms at each side and lift it off the rack by first pushing with your legs and at the same time straightening your torso. Step away from the rack and position your legs using a shoulder width medium stance with the toes slightly pointed out. Keep your head up at all times and also maintain a straight back. This will be your starting position.
Begin to slowly lower the bar by bending the knees and hips as you maintain a straight posture with the head up. Continue down until the angle between the upper leg and the calves becomes slightly less than 90-degrees. Inhale as you perform this portion of the movement. If you performed the exercise correctly, the front of the knees should make an imaginary straight line with the toes that is perpendicular to the front. If your knees are past your toes then you are placing undue stress on the knee and the exercise has been performed incorrectly. Begin to raise the bar as you exhale by pushing the floor with the heel of your foot as you straighten the legs again and go back to the starting position. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.
More Tips About The Squat
You do not have to necessarily have your feet in the medium width position. You can squat a little wider or closer depending on your comfort with the movement. Just make sure your knees do not go past your toes when going down.
If you are going heavy, make sure you wear knee wraps for protection of the joints and cartilage in the knees. Also wear a lifting belt for back safety. This exercise does you no good if you get injured and can't train.
You can also do box squats, bench squats, use dumbbells, or use a Smith Machine. For information on those movements as well as video instruction check out Bodybuilding.com's Exercise Database. For the purposes of this article we are using the basic barbell squat.
One more thing. Make sure you use a full range of motion when squatting. Going all the way down is essential to ensure you are truly working the quadriceps and getting all of the benefits of the exercise. Loading up the bar and going a third of the way down does nothing for you but increase the chances of injury.
Squatting In The Gym
OK. Let's blast the legs with some squats. If you want to build up your leg strength, lay a foundation for a rock solid physique and get in the best shape possible, then these routines will help you do just that.
German Volume Training
The classic 10 sets of 10 is a great starter for building up leg power. It has been used by both recreational and top athletes all over the world. You choose a weight that you feel you can do 10 sets of 10 reps with and go for it. Rest 90 seconds between sets. If you do not achieve your goal then you try again with the same weight next time. If you succeed then you add weight the next workout and keep progressing. This is simple but intense and not to be taken lightly.
Advanced German Volume Training
Let's say you can squat 100 pounds for 12 strict reps, and you haven't been able to increase the amount of reps or weight on this exercise. Here's a sample routine that would increase your squatting strength:
- Workout 1: 10 sets of 6 reps, at 110 lbs
- Workout 2: 10 sets of 5 reps, at 115 lbs
- Workout 3: 10 sets of 4 reps, at 120 lbs
- Workout 4: 10 sets of 6 reps, at 115 lbs
- Workout 5: 10 sets of 5 reps, at 120 lbs
- Workout 6: 10 sets of 4 reps, at 125 lbs
- Workout 7: Test Day
Workout 7 is test day. By this point, you should be able to squat 120 pounds for 12 strict reps. That means over a course of six workouts, you gained almost 10% strength on your squat. That is a great achievement.
This is another routine that seems simple but will help you achieve a new level of strength in the thighs. You choose a challenging weight and go for 5 reps. Then you add weight and go for 4 reps. This repeats until you get to the final set where you go for a heavy single. Rest for 2 minutes between sets. If you want to keep the routine from getting boring, go back the other way from 1 to 5.
5 Sets Of 5
This is another version of 54321, only you do all 5 sets for 5 reps. Take this as a mini GVT of sorts. It is effective because you are going with a 5 rep max as opposed to 10 so understand it will be difficult also.
High Intensity Training (HIT)
Dorian Yates is the master of HIIT and using squats just feels right. You do a warm up set with light to moderate weight. Rest for one minute and do a second set with more weight that should only be slightly difficult. Finally you go for 1 all out set for 6-8 reps.
What? One set of 6-8 reps?
Yeah but you go as heavy as possible and you want failure. You want to squat until you have to have help going back up. So get someone to help you on this set. Follow the squat with two other movements the same way and you are done. HIIT is great for guys looking to pack on size and strength because you hit it hard, fast and go rest.
Squats are what separate the good from the great and the gym rats from the hardcore elite. If you want big thighs, if you want a big and strong physique, you must squat. Learn to love it and live in the rack for big legs.