You ever see those guys that are built like kites? Big huge lat spreads with backs the size of the Rockies that then taper down to a tiny waist with legs that look like the string on the kite? These guys look ridiculous, but they are all over the gyms. I recall a guy that always wore tank tops and jogging pants to the gym. From up top I would say he could have easily weighed 240lbs at 5'9. We were talking one day and he eeked out, "I weigh 205!" "205", I shouted, "you don't do any legs at all, do you?" We know his answer.
Did you know that doing squats on a big body part like quads flushes your body with added testosterone and growth hormone (1)? You can suddenly start to really pack on pounds by simply adding a compound movement like squats into your program.
Working out your legs hurts. You know it, you've got to suck it up and plunge right in. If you want Priest or Cutler like legs you've got to train them heavy and hard with a decent amount of volume to stimulate all of those motor units. Don't use the "but I don't do steroids" excuse. As of today (April 23rd, 2003) I've been clean for about 6 years. I've got 28-inch thighs on a 5'8 frame. How do I know this is all natural growth? I was scared of doing legs 6 years ago. I never got above 185lbs until I started cranking in some SERIOUS legwork, consistently. As soon as I started I couldn't stop growing!
The Psycho Leg Program
Remember, this is only an example of what I current do. You may mix and match or even add and remove your own exercises. This program will guarantee results on your legs if you follow it to a "t".
Let's first list and then break down my current quad workout (you need to go up in weight with every set):
Leg Extensions: 12, 10, 8
Hack Squats: 12, 10, 8
Squat Machine: 12, 10, 8
Leg Press: 12, 12
Print This Workout, Click Here!
Leg Extensions - View Exercise
Leg extensions are used to warm up the knees. Since the machine doesn't allow me to use maximal weight I can choose to warm up or completely exhaust/separate my quads with this exercise. I don't really use it to build mass.
When using the leg extensions I go up at a pace of 2 to 3 seconds, hold the quad in a completely flexed position at the top for a 2 second count and go back down at a 2 to 3 second pace. When doing this exercise as my last exercise at this pace they will be followed with two or three drop sets. The blood volume gets so thick and pumped in your legs that you think you won't be able to walk again. At that point you want to press on through 2 or 3 more reps.
When doing this exercise as warm up there isn't much to talk about. It still hurts, but it's more about getting those knees and quads ready for battle.
Hack Squats - View Exercise
The pain REALLY starts on the Hack squats. That exercise puts a lot of pressure on my knees, but it really hits the quads. I'll do my first few sets standing with my feet close together so I bring out the sweep (outer portion of the quad) in my legs. On the last set, because I'm going so heavy I will get a stance that is about shoulder width apart and my feet are almost falling off of the machine because of how forward they are. I will do these reps at about a 2 to 3 second cadences. I'll bend my legs about 3 or 4 inches passed the parallel point and go back up. *NOTE: my trainer (Curtis Winters, owner and trainer at Rockhard Fitness) calls the point where your hams touch your calves "the hole". I always know I'm not going deep enough when he yells out, "take them down to the hole."
Hitting "the hole" is what separates the people that kind of do legs with the guys that have explosive leg growth. You'll see people doing half reps on every leg machine because it doesn't hurt. What they don't know is that they are really wasting their time not hitting the muscle deep enough. They might as well stick with doing leg extensions and as their only exercise. You want to see what hitting the hole is, watch "The Unbelievable Ronnie Coleman" or "Dorian Yates: Blood and Guts."
This last set on hack squats is really where the pain starts to kick in. It takes massive amounts of drive, desire, and a little bit of muscle to push heavy weights on legs going that deep. It's SO easy to give up after two or three reps.
The Squat Machine - View Exercise
The Squat Machine and Squats both SUCK and I LOVE them at the same time. The first set is usually very doable. Twelve nice and easy reps with a moderate weight that isn't too taxing. That second set makes me start wanting to quit halfway through. When those thoughts kick in I've trained myself to shut out the pain and focus on my goal of being on stage at my biggest and best. Once the pain threshold is broken my stomach starts feeling a little queasy. It just doesn't matter; because when I start to have self-doubt about doing anymore I know that I HAVE to finish the set. Sadistic? No! Self-affirming? Absolutely. I know that if I can conquer my own self-limitations on a consistent basis that I can do anything in life.
Now the third set is the tiptop weight that I can do for at least 6 reps without a spot and 8 reps with one. My first thought in my head once I unrack the weight and feel it on my back is usually, "what the heck did I get myself into." Then I immediately turn down the negative mental volume and crank up the positive volume (find out more about controlling your thoughts in my second edition of "Where Motivation Comes From"). That is when you hear things out of my mouth like "light weight, baby", or "ain't nuttin, but grandma weight", and even "Let's do it, big ole legs, baby, big old thick and nasty quads."
About 2 reps in is when the pain kicks in. No time for that, it's GROW time baby. Once I get to about 4 or 5 reps it's Mind Game time. I've got to shut out the pain and focus on slowly pressing the reps no matter what. I need to stay external enough to know if I need a spot or not, and to pay attention internally to moving the weight slowly enough to work ONLY the muscles I want to be working. Here is where it's good to have a great trainer (like Curtis) or someone trained to spot you the right way.
Any of you that know about squats or a squat machine will know that it's so easy to just give up about 2 reps before this point. This is where those complex muscle fibers that make-up your quads as a whole start to get really stimulated and recruited for pushing up the weight. Because the major muscle motors are so fatigued your going to have to go by sheer dedication and desire to change your legs on these last few reps. I lock into visualizations of me onstage with my quads swallowing the competitors next to me. Images and voices of the crowd gasping when I hit a front ab and thigh pose because of the sheer texture of my quad. Before I know it, I'm done cranking out my last few reps.
Remember, all of this runs through my head at lightening fast speed. It doesn't happen overnight either. It's taken me years to get to the point where I have all my goals lined up that I can push through the negative thoughts, the doubts and the desire to stop short. The key is incremental steps and to make a step forward during every workout. There will be some days where an injury or sickness will prevent you from pushing on. That is when smart overrules the drive and desire. You need to have a good balance of both. Did I mention, we aren't done with leg day yet. We still have one more exercise!
Seated Leg Press - View Exercise
Leg Press on the seated machine is last, you can substitute the regular leg press for this exercise. I'll also use this machine for warm-ups and burning out. Since I'm using very little weight compared to the other sets, this is about focusing on working the muscles through and through. Fatigue and sickness have already set in beyond measure. I've just picked myself up off of the floor and put myself into the seat of this machine for more pleasurable pain.
This machine takes the term, "going into the hole" to a whole other world. You can literally sit down with your rear touching your calves and that is where I go. The trick is to not rest, but to do it just long enough to hit the quads deep and go right back up. These reps are done at a 3 seconds down, zero second hold and 3-4 seconds on the way up. Each rep is done slow and meticulously with the mind focusing on each muscle flexing. Remember to cut out the pain mechanism in your mind and just focus on those results.
A lot of guys ask me how I managed to get so strong on my legs. Then they hit a leg day with me and usually only stay around for about 1 or 2 more sessions, at the most! Now you see why. When you dedicate yourself to put your body through this type of punishment you WILL see better results that many of the others out there, I PROMISE! It's all about what you want. Do you want to be average or do you want psycho leg growth?
1) Cyclical Ketogenic Diets Part 3, (P3), 1997, Lyle McDonald