It sounds crazy, doesn't it? Of course you have to train your legs properly to gain weight and build a balanced physique. Still, you'd be amazed by the number of trainees around the world who do little or no leg work. Almost as amazing is the fact that many who do train legs make the mistake of focusing on leg curls, leg extensions, leg presses and the like. They avoid the exercises that pack on muscle weight rapidly'deadlifts and squats'probably because they're difficult. Squats and deadlifts can send you running to the bathroom to lose your lunch, but the truth is, you've got to do one or the other if you want to build your legs big time in a minimal amount of time. Plus, they give you overall growth. Here are two leg-specialization programs to get you started.
The 20-Rep-Squat Routine
This program was popular many years ago among serious trainees who wanted to gain size rapidly. In addition, coaches often had their athletes do high-rep squats to transform them from boys into men. The 20-rep-squat program was repopularized by Randall J. Strossen, Ph.D., a few years back in his outstanding book Super Squats.
Here's how it works. Shoulder a load with which you can squat 10 times with solid form, preferably in a power rack. At the top of each rep take three deep breaths and then descend into a deep squat. That's right, go deep. No partial squats or stopping at parallel'unless you have knee issues.
Using that breathing pattern will enable you to do more than 10 reps. If you have to stop at 14 or 15, no problem. Just stay at that weight until you can do 20 full reps. You should be stronger at almost every workout. Once you can do 20, increase the weight by 10 pounds and start over. Make sure you have a good spotter and/or a sturdy power rack when you do the 20-rep squats. And be sure to train on an empty stomach, or you may unpleasantly revisit your last meal. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that you get your preworkout meal at least two hours before your workout.
Monday & Thursday
Squats 1 x 20
immediately followed by
Dumbbell pullovers 1 x 15-20
Rest five minutes
Donkey calf raises 1 x 15-20
Stiff-legged deadlifts 1 x 15
Bench presses 1 x 8-10
Incline flyes 1 x 8-10
Bent-over rows or
cable rows 1 x 8-10
Chins or pulldowns 1 x 8-10
Behind-the-neck presses 1 x 8-10
Close-grip bench presses 1 x 8-10
Barbell curls 1 x 8-10
Crunches 1 x 15-20
Do this workout two days a week. Some trainees may make better gains doing it three times a week'Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Try the 20-rep-squat program for six weeks and be sure to up your calorie intake. If you have weak bodyparts, you may want to do two sets instead of one on the exercises that work them. For example, if your calves are a problem, do two sets of donkey calf raises.
You say you hate squats or simply aren't built for them? Then you can concentrate on the regular deadlift. Here's another routine from Mass-Training Tactics:
Monday & Thursday
Deadlifts 2 x 8-10
immediately followed by
Dumbbell pullovers 2 x 15
One-leg calf raises or
machine 1 x 15-20
Alternate lunges or
leg presses 1 x 10-12
Incline barbell presses 1 x 8-10
Flat-bench flyes or
pec deck flyes 1 x 8-10
Feet-elevated pushups or
machine bench presses 1 x 8-10
Undergrip chins or
undergrip pulldowns 1 x 8-10
lateral raises 1 x 8-10
presses 1 x 8-10
Lying triceps extensions 1 x 8-10
Incline dumbbell curls 1 x 8-10
Crunches 1 x 15-20 ALL EDT (Escalating Density Training)
Recently, I read a great book by top strength coach Charles Staley, The Ultimate Guide to Massive Arms: Escalating Density Training. Yes, Sherlock, I know that the subject of the book is how to pack size on your arms; however, you can apply the EDT concept to any bodypart (well, just about any bodypart) for massive gains. Here's how it works: Take two antagonistic exercises such as squats and stiff-legged deadlifts. Squats focus on the quads and stiff-legged deadlifts focus on the hamstrings (at least when done properly). Do them back to back for as many reps as possible in a 15-minute period. [Editor's note: This is similar to the way Arnold used to train his back and chest. See page 120.]
Now, don't start dry heaving just yet. Take a weight that you can do 10 times in solid form and do five reps, then rest for 30 seconds and do five reps on a weight you can get 10 with on an exercise for the opposing muscle group; for example, five reps on barbell squats, rest 30 seconds, then five reps on stiff-legged deadlifts. Rest another 30 seconds and do five reps on squats, alternating in that fashion for 15 minutes. As fatigue kicks in, take longer breaks and do fewer reps. After 15 minutes record how many total reps you did on each exercise. Write down the number in your training journal. (If you don't keep a journal, start at your very next workout!) Your goal at the next leg session is to beat that number.
Avoid going to failure when doing EDT and take two days off between EDT workouts. Again, put your upper-body work on maintenance mode and channel all of your energy into bringing those toothpick legs of yours up to a respectable level. Here's an EDT program that you can follow for four weeks:
Zone 1: 15 minutes
A1: Barbell squats
A2: Stiff-legged deadlifts
At the end of 15 minutes, take a break for five minutes and then proceed to Zone 2.
Okay, stop wasting time and get started on your new leg workout. Who knows, after a few months you may be able to finally wear shorts without looking like a flamingo, and your upper body should be larger than ever.
Editor's note: For more information on Charles Staley's EDT training system, go to www.myodynamics.com. To order Randall J. Strossen's Super Squats, go to www.home-gym.com or call (800) 447-0008.
Mike Mahler is a strength coach and a certified kettlebell instructor based in Santa Monica, California. He designs strength-training programs for athletes, law enforcement officers and firefighters. Mike is also available for strength-training workshops worldwide. For more information and rates, visit his site at www.mikemahler.com or send e-mail to [email protected]. IM