Leg day is the best of training days, and the worst of training days. If done right, hardcore trainees will have an evident waddle in their walk from a serious case of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMs), and some hardcore part of them will actually love it.
In less than an hour, this Muscle Militia MVP workout will help you develop every muscle in your legs. You'll start with the calves, then move to the hamstrings and quads before finishing with loaded lunges—a dreaded exercise that will turn any set of weak toothpicks into powerful tree trunks.
Now, you might be wondering, "Just what the hell is an MVP workout?" Well, first and foremost, it takes an MVP: someone with motivation, vision, and passion; someone who's willing to push every exercise to the brink; someone who can train to failure, stare it dead in the eye, and shove past it. Show me anyone, man or woman, who can turn a workout into a muscle-burning challenge, and I'll show you an MVP.
Second, the workout itself has to qualify. It has to be hard, fast, and packed with a dynamic array of exercises. It should build strength and size. It should test your limits, encourage growth, and hit the target body part with force. This leg workout definitely fits the bill.
This is a volume-based workout, and your goal should be to get a good contraction of the working muscle on every rep. You may sacrifice a bit of the weight today, but focus on form and time under tension, and you won't be disappointed. When you concentrate on form, you get more into the nitty-gritty of breaking down your muscle.
Move at a fast pace, using 3 sets of reverse-pyramid lifting per exercise. Go heavy on each first working set, then decrease the weight and increase the reps for the second and third sets. Drop the weight about 10 percent after each set.
Seated calf raise: Concentrate on the balls of your feet. Feel like you're pushing off your big toes more than the rest of your toes to really target your soleus.
Standing calf raise: A standing calf raise really targets your gastrocnemius. I don't use a platform or weight to put my feet on. Ankle dorsiflexion beyond 90 degrees—or, simply put, stretching my foot too far above my ankle—puts too much tension on my Achilles tendon.
Not every gym has a Smith machine. Not every gym has a leg press, let alone an inverted leg press. Be creative. The Smith machine leg press replicates that inverted motion; check out the video to see how I used a box for that exercise. The press can also be completed from the ground. Put the stops up on the Smith machine for safety.
Seated leg curl: Take this exercise nice and slow. If you're going at a fast rate, you're not going to feel it as much as possible. Use a nice, slow, steady tempo and concentrate on the exercise and contraction.
Leg press: To really target your hamstrings on this exercise, place your feet high on the footpad, almost to where your heels are the only part of your foot on the pad. Bring the movement down to 90 degrees, then push up through your heels to engage the hamstrings more severely.
Stiff-legged deadlift: Use a barbell or a pair of dumbbells. I chose dumbbells for this workout because I feel like I can control the weight a little better. No need for a warm-up here; just choose a comfortable weight for each set. I like to keep the dumbbells close to my body. Drive from the heel and get a good stretch.
Leg extension: Warm up with single-leg extensions, then roll into your heavy sets. For the first heavy set, be sure not to put too much stress on the knees. Reach full extension and squeeze your quads at the top.
Smith machine leg press: Set up the machine (I lie on a box underneath it) so that the start position puts your knees at a 90-degree angle from the bar. Concentrate on flexing the quad as you extend the knee. That helps build the outer sweep of the quad and some of the inner thigh. Onstage, I can look more three-dimensional with this exercise.
Walking lunge: This is the finisher. It is a wake-up call at the end of a tough workout. It takes a lot out of you. Concentrate on form. Some people tell you not to put your knees past your toes, but it depends on what you feel comfortable with. Go halfway or all the way down, and make sure you put the emphasis on that quad, hamstring, and glute as you stand up from each lunge. Make your muscle do the work!