1) Use a three/one/two tempo—three seconds to lower the weight, one second pause at the bottom of the movement and two seconds to raise the weight. This is important!
2) Take two minutes’ rest between sets.
3) If you’re going to complete failure, you will need to drop the weight by 10 percent after each set in order to get all the reps.
4) If you’re a beginner, drop one set from each exercise and concentrate on form instead of going for the heavy poundage. (You’ll thank me later!)
5) As you perform each exercise, stop just short of locking out so that you keep constant tension on the leg muscles.
Exercise 1: leg extensions. I’ve found that starting my leg routine with an isolation exercise really helps me warm up while stimulating the muscle. A strict movement like leg extensions also forces the quadriceps to work with little assistance from any other muscle group.
After warming up, perform three sets of 10 repetitions. On the last set drop the weight by two plates and then perform as many reps as possible.
Tip: Point your toes outward to work more of the medial part of the upper leg—the tear-drop shaped muscle located above the knee and to the inside.
Avoid: Swinging throughout the movement or not working throughout the entire range of motion—especially the lower half.
Exercise 2: squats. The squat is really the best exercise for developing impressive power and muscle size in the lower body.
Perform three sets of descending reps: 10, eight and six. After reaching failure on the last set, have your spotter decrease the weight by half, and do as many reps as possible. (I can practically feel the burn just writing about it!)
Tips: Use a slightly wider-than-shoulder-width stance, toes pointed slightly outward. Keep your shoulders back, your eyes looking slightly upward, and sit back into the movement. Squat as if you were sitting in a chair to keep your knees from coming out too far over your toes.
Avoid: Rounding your back or holding your breath during the movement.
Exercise 3: leg presses. Perform three sets of descending reps: 10, eight and six. After reaching failure on the last set, have your spotter decrease the weight by half, and do as many reps as possible.
Tips: Keep your feet at shoulder width with your toes pointing slightly outward. Push with your heels instead of your toes.
Avoid: Rocking excessively or bringing the weight back too far—don’t let your lower back come off the support pad as your knees move toward your chest.
Exercise 4: leg curls. Perform three sets of 10 reps. On the last set drop the weight by two plates, then perform as many reps as possible.
Tips: Try altering your toe position slightly to focus on the inside or outside of the hamstrings. Try alternating leg curls with dumbbell stiff-legged deadlifts every other week for variety.
Avoid: Rocking or letting the front of your hips arch excessively. It’s easy to do.
So there it is—your blue print for thick and powerful legs.
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