I was walking with my wife at a show a couple of years ago and as we walked down the corridor towards the back stage entrance a young and aspiring bodybuilder who was standing against the wall turned his head and exclaimed in astonishment. "How did you get your legs so big?" While not even breaking stride I replied - "Squats!" "No way." He exclaimed. "Yes way! Squats. That's it kid." My wife retorted.
To this day I still get asked how do I get my legs so big. I am not a bodybuilder but an ex-powerlifter and collegiate strength coach with 30 plus inch quads, and on leg day, all I do is squat. That's all I do, back squats and front squats, that's it! Oh and leg curls, but they don't count.
The greatest thigh development in bodybuilding history, at one time, belonged to Tom Platz. During his time, Platz took thigh development into another class level. Now, the bodybuilders of today have taken quad development into graduate school. How many bodybuilders have mammoth legs? All the top pros have huge quads. There are bodybuilders with leg size that go beyond big.
Top competitors like Mr. Olympia Ron Coleman, Paul "Quadzilla" Demayo, Lee Priest, and Eddie Robinson, all have huge thighs. These individual bodybuilders have pushed their quad development to advanced class levels. But, they are not alone. There are many bodybuilders today who have tremendous leg development.
Mostly, this is due to squatting, performing high reps on leg press, and heavy hamstring training.
There are prerequisites for great thigh and hamstring development. And those prerequisites are intensity, desire, sweat, a lot of weight, and maybe even a little insanity. You must have desire, pursue intensity, and push a lot of weight to obtain insane leg development. This is an upper-division class, not freshman level. So, let's take a look at our class syllabus.
First and foremost squats, and if you've never performed squats before, then this is the time to listen closely. Why do squats? Well, squats are great for shaping, gaining overall leg strength, and developing overwhelming size that is needed to conquer your peers in the sport of bodybuilding. So, whether you are a recreational lifter, or a competitive bodybuilder, doing squats in your leg workout is definitely in your best interest.
In order to achieve your bodybuilding potential, you must squat. Squatting can be the best exercise for quad sizing or it could be the worst exercise for you. Depending if the exercise is performed correctly or not. Do not perform 1/4 or 1/2 rep squats. Only do that style if you are powerlifter getting ready for competition.
Contrary to what some individuals think performing 1/4 and 1/2 squats does NOT protect your knees from injury.
A matter of fact, you are placing dangerous pressures on the neck, spine and knees by doing quarter and half squats.
The correct positioning for a squat is to place your feet about shoulder width apart, or place them a little further apart for better leverage like a powerlifter. When doing squats your knees should never extend over your toes, or be to far back, and your back should be tight at a 45-degree angle. Also, keep your feet flat on the ground.
If your heals tend to come off the ground it is mostly due to faulty technique and lack of flexibility in the ankle. If the latter, try placing a 1 inch block, or two 10 pound plates under your heals before squatting, this will help you in your technique. And, for God sake, don't look up! If you look up, like some people do, arching your neck, you are performing the exercise incorrectly.
Face forward with your eyes focused directly in front of you. By doing this it will feel as if you're going to fall right on your butt. This might make you feel very apprehensive. And like anything that is different we tend to have lots of fear and stay clear of it. But, don't worry; you wont fall if you concentrate on your technique. Just keep sitting into the chair.
Are you ready? Do you have the necessary nuts and bolts and strength levels to take this upper-division class? If you do, then let's get a bucket and go to class! For big legs, I suggest squatting twice a week. Begin your squat routine with three sets of 10 reps of leg extensions using a light weight.
After you have completed that, stretch your quads, hamstrings and hip area for a good 10 minutes. After you have completed your warm-up and stretch then it's time to squat.
This routine is geared for anyone wanting to gain strength. If size is what you're after, then this program is for that infectious motive too. Just add another set after your last heavy work weight, for a set of 20 plus reps. If you usually perform 8 or 10 parallel reps with 315, then reduce the weight to 225 for your two sets of 20 reps.
The completion of the 4th week should have you recycling your working sets by repeating the second week of the program. The first squat workout of the week is your heavy day. On your light day of squatting perform two sets of squats for 15 reps each. Keep it at a moderate weight during the light day of squatting. That's it!
Pretty simple, more is not better. Well, maybe in this case of squatting it is...So, get more reps and soon the weight will increase over time too. Volume! Back squats separate the hard-core bodybuilder from the rest. So, get squatting.
Hardcore Squat Workout
|Week 1:||Week 2:||Week 3:||Week 4:|
|1 X 135 X 10||135 X 10||135 X 10||135 X 10|
|1 X 185 X 8||185 X 8||225 X 8||225 X 8|
|1 X 225 X 6||225 X 6||315 X 6||315 X 5|
|1 X 275 X 6||315 X 5||405 X 5||405 X 5|
|2 X 315 X 10||2 X 405 X 5||2 x 455 X 6||2 X 465 X 6|
|1 X 225 X 20||1 X 225 X 20||1 X 250 X 20||1 X 250 X 20?|
The above weights should be adjusted for your strength levels. So, if you cannot perform parallel squats with the above weights, don't go ego on me, but perform a weight that is comfortable for you.
Set Yourself Up For Squatting Success
- Watch an Olympic lifter and powerlifter perform squats. You will get an idea on two different bar positions, either high on your back or in-between your shoulder blades, and you'll also observe how far you should go down.
- Don't forget to add five pounds every other week to your sets of squats. Even if you can do more, increase your weight only five pounds weekly.
- Stretch and warm-up properly before, during and after your leg workout. While stretching prepare your mind by visualizing your squatting with mental pictures.
- Use proper footwear when performing squats. Tie your shoes and don't wear flip flops, not cool.
- Some people believe you should not wrap your knees. Why? Well, because they say it could hinder you from developing your ligaments and tendons. Not true. Also, wearing a belt while lifting will support your lower back and abdominal area. Well, this is true but optional. Personally, I use knee wraps when I get to 315, but do not put on a belt until I get to 405 on the squat. So remember, belts and knee wraps are class tools and should be used only for support.
The next core requirement for quad power and development is leg press. Perform 2 or 3 sets of 20-30 reps each. Yes, you heard me, 20-to-30 reps! If your doing reps of 6 to 10 with 600 or 800 pounds you're not working your quads for the full class period. Who cares you say?
Well, you should care, because whether you're trying to obtain huge muscular thighs, or maximum leg strength, then you should change the old school attitude. It's time to graduate into the upper-division classes of leg training.
Trust me, by changing your rep scheme to a higher number will only propel your legs to getting tight, hard, stronger, and for some of you, incredibly immense. Apply a slight squeeze at the top of each rep, but do not lock out. There are also several different feet positions available for leg presses.
You can position your feet shoulder width apart with your toes pointed out, or position your legs less than shoulder width apart with your feet together, and your toes pointed straight ahead. But, the most natural and comfortable position will be the one that gives you the best results. Remember; keep your feet and legs in the same alignment throughout each quad movement.
Furthermore, do not exceed poundage that you are not capable of completing full range rep or your set. Also, when coming out of the bottom position, do not bounce, use any momentum or use a spotter on each rep. Because, if you do, you're asking for trouble. Your reps should be like an engine piston, going up and down in a fluid motion.
MaxiSIZING Hamstrings & Gluteus
Start with lying leg curls. First, do a warm-up set of 10-12 reps with a moderately lightweight. You only need one warm-up set because performing squats and leg presses has already stimulated your hamstrings. Now, do three more working sets for 12 reps each, increasing the weight on each set. Make sure to keep your hips and thighs on the bench.
The last exercise in this backside class is the stiff-leg deadlift. Again, do a warm-up set. I'm sure you're wondering why the class instruction on an opening warm-up set for each different exercise? Well, performing a singular warm-up set prior to your working sets will help you to become accustomed to the correct placement of your body position in the exercise.
Now, let's position for stiff-leg deadlift. The stiff-leg deadlift can be performed with either an Olympic bar or dumbbells. Arch your back and keep knees slightly bent. This will place all the stress through the hamstrings and gluteus. Also, do not go all the way up or all the way down.
The stiff leg deadlift should be performed mid-point between the upper-thigh and ankle. This motion will keep constant tension on your gluteus and hamstrings. Perform four to six sets of 8 reps.
Bodybuilding is mainly experimentation using scientific material and research. Even if that scientific research is all with iron plates and bars. Bodybuilder's striving for the ultimate in development shouldn't do exactly what is expected of them; they should learn more, and wander through different training techniques by trial and error.
Always execute the same ritual prior to performing all your leg exercises too. Never sacrifice form and muscle involvement for more weight. The weight will come. For injury prevention include proper warm-ups and stretching which are essential to any leg-training course. Gradually add poundage's throughout this program.
When it comes to squats, I am a stickler for proper form and correct technique, and so should you. Anyone can come into the gym and claim a 500-pound squat, but can they squat the weight parallel? Train squats twice a week, for about 8 or 12 weeks using the outlined routine. And with patience, and a lot of hard studying, you will have graduated with honors.
Until next class period. Keep your leg training in control of your head, and not your head in control of your leg training. Train hard to become members of the Quad Force!