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Brignole’s Best Exercises for Training Legs

Last month Brignole discussed his strategies for working the shoulders. In this final installment he identifies the best exercises for training legs.

Q: Okay, hit me with your ideas on how best to train the quads, hams, glutes and calves?

A: As I’ve mentioned before, I believe in doing one mechanically ideal exercise per bodypart per workout and blasting the crap out of that muscle with that one exercise. When it comes to legs, I divide the training into two different workouts— “isolation leg day” and “compound leg day”—and I alternate them.

The workout for isolation leg day includes leg extensions, leg curls, glute extensions and calf raises—either the standing version or leg press calf raises, done with straight knees. First, I superset glute extensions and calf raises for a total of six sets, and then I superset leg extensions and leg curls for a total of six sets, not including the breakdown subsets at the end.

That may not seem like a very elaborate workout, but if you do it right, you’ll have trouble walking afterward, let alone going up and down stairs.

Q: So you say six sets. That means high reps, like 50, on your first set. Then you add weight so that your reps decrease on each successive set, correct?

A: Yes, I do my usual 50, 40, 30, 20, 15, 10 reps—Super TORQ—with a breakdown on the final set. I strive for full-range-of-motion, continuous-tension reps during my sets, so the fatigue reaches a fever pitch, and the muscles scream for mercy. Avoiding that kind of intensity just so you are able to do another exercise (or two) afterward—like squats and/or leg presses—is not necessarily a better strategy. It is a more time-consuming strategy and a less energy-efficient strategy, in my opinion.

Q: What about your compound leg day?

A: It includes squats, deadlifts and seated calf extensions, meaning bent knee. I do the three exercises in tri-set fashion. First, I do a set of light squats—either with a barbell, a pair of dumbbells or a squat machine, which is my preference—for 50 reps. I follow that immediately with a set of light semi-straight-legged dumbbell deadlifts. I do that because squats hit mostly the quads, with a lesser emphasis on the glutes and even less on the hamstrings. So, by doing the dumbbell deadlifts, which have almost no quadriceps involvement, right after the squats, I am finishing off the glutes and hamstrings. Then I do a set of calf extensions on the seated calf machine as the third exercise of the rotation. After that I repeat the sequence, increasing the weight and decreasing the reps on each successive set until I’ve reached eight to 10 total sets.


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