I love squats, I always have. There's nothing like the feeling of a heavy bar on your back as you go up and down, your quads feeling like they're about to rip right off! Not to mention the effect they have on natural hormone levels. Welcome to killer leg training!
First off, even though I'm 47, I'm not writing this just for over 40 bodybuilders, I think anyone can get great results from this routine. However, let me touch on some areas of concern for all you over 40 guys and gals out there (trust me, this will become areas of concern for all you young guys). At our age two things need special attention: extra warm-ups and proper form.
Gone are the days when just a couple of warm-ups sets and bam! Off you go into your top sets at less than perfect form. I suggest about 4 warm up sets after stretching and some light jogging or jump roping in place. If you have less than perfect knees like me, you have to do this. Something else, and this works wonders are any joint products with a COX-2 inhibitor added to their formula. If you have joint problems, this type of product is well worth it.
Good form should go without saying but I've found I have to really be careful, I've had a few small injuries as a result of less than perfect form even though I thought my form was right on. One way to check your form is to check it in a mirror. I studied pictures and videos to be sure I wasn't missing anything, and then had my wife check my form.
Moving right along, preparing for leg day is more than just showing up at the gym to do your sets and reps. How you eat leading up to your workout matters a great deal. I always eat more complex carbohydrates than usual starting the early evening before my leg workout. I continue with a good breakfast and a mid morning snack.
I find the extra carb intake allows me to train with more strength and energy than usual. (For those who are new to my writing, I'm not a low carb advocate, I think a high protein, moderate to moderately high carb and low fat diet makes a lot more sense). Also, be sure your current routine allows for good recovery time. I'm a big believer in taking enough time off between workouts—this is when your body benefits from all your hard work in the gym, this is when your body grows.
OK, you've eaten good leading up to leg day, you're well rested, and you're at the gym, get ready because here's the routine:
Pyramid up to your top set, then begin to pyramid back down. Start at 15 reps for your first warm up set, add weight and decrease your reps. Your top set should be a very heavy 6-8 reps. You should be looking at 4-5 heavy working sets. When you squat, do your reps in one continuous, controlled motion, no pausing at the top or the bottom. Keep rest time to a minimum, long enough to catch your breath. When you're done, move right into the next exercise.
You will be doing drop sets. Load up the plates on these! You want to be able to do five weight drops, pausing only while the weight is removed. This constitutes one set. Do two of these, three if you can. That's it for quads!
Seated Leg Curl
Do these the same as leg extensions, but do one warm up set before starting. Do three of these "sets".
Standing Calf Raises
Now it's time for calves! After warm-ups, do 2 sets of standing calf raises and 2 sets of seated calf raises. When you're doing your sets, aim for 25 reps per set, on one set, do full complete movements and a controlled, normal pace on the next set, do faster, explosive reps. You can extend these sets if possible through partial reps. A couple of points: Take your reps to positive failure, your working sets should not be easy! Also, it's important to stretch between sets and after the workout.
My set totals may seem low to some, and this may seem like too much work to others, so as always, you can adjust the number of sets to your experience level and preference. The point here is to always get what you can from a routine and adjust it to your preferences. I should also point out that I'm natural, so my set totals will be less than a lot of people may be used to. Also, take the drop set idea and apply it to other body parts. It works great on almost any exercise.
That's the work out! I do this workout once every 5 or 6 days so there's plenty of time for recovery. I change it up to; I don't always blindly do the same thing, week after week. Some weeks, I substitute hack squats for leg extensions and do straight sets, other weeks I focus almost exclusively on squats for quads.
Variety in your workouts is good but always maintain your strength base. That's why I always try to add weight to my exercises. Since I train every body part once every 7-8 days, this works very well for me.
If you train each muscle group twice a week, I would suggest adding weight every other workout, or when your reps become easier. Additionally, if you train legs twice a week, I would use the drop sets only once per week and let your other workout be more strength oriented.
As for post workout nutrition, it's important to drink a post workout drink containing about 40 grams each of protein and carbs. You can also add creatine or glutamine if you wish. Eat a good meal about an hour to an hour and a half after your shake and let your legs recover. Then get ready for your next killer leg work out!