TEN STEPS TO KILLER QUADS
Load The Rod and Thrash The Quad
It’s leg day. The choice is clear. You either dig in and accept the fact that in order to obtain more thigh size, you’ll have to endure some pain, or you wimp out and “take it easy” – work ‘em light – do a “little bit.” Any way you choose to rationalize the latter, it’ll still spell the same result. No growth. Yup, you’re just going to have to face the consequences. No other bodypart requires you to put out more of an effort than the legs – attributable to the fact the legs are able to withstand the greatest amount of stress. A successful thigh workout requires a poundage overload that not only will force them to work harder but will also tax the entire adrenal system. Equally distressing is the fact that in order to achieve a pump in the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteus, there’s a drain of blood from the rest of your body. This produces that
“queasy” feeling in the stomach, so familiar to those who experience the torture of heavy squatting on a regular basis.
Okay, so it’s gonna hurt. But leg growth doesn’t occur through pain alone. Training smart is just as important as training hard and when it comes to working the legs effectively, you may be shortchanging yourself out of optimum results. This can be the result of following erroneous advice or simply not taking advantage of some little known yet highly efficient strategies.
In order to get the most out of those heart pounding, nausea inducing leg workouts, the following ten tactics will provide a guide towards achieving optimum growth in minimal time.
1) One and a Half Squats.
Start with a slightly lighter weight than you would normally use for squats until you get the hang of this movement. Descend in the normal fashion, but on the way up, stop at the midway point. Hold this position for four seconds. Now, return to the bottom position. Come up through a full range of motion to a standing position. This movement puts tremendous stress on all the muscles of the legs as well as the glutes. As mentioned, you won’t be able to use quite as much weight as with standard squatting, but what do you want… to impress the other guys at the gym with how much you can lift, or bigger legs?
2) Use the Leg Extension Sparingly.
No one ever built massive quadriceps from doing leg extensions. Have you ever tried
“cheating” your way through a leg workout by utilizing only leg extensions? If so, I’m sure you realize that the results are far from impressive. The leg extension is great as either a “finishing” movement or as a “pre-exhaust” exercise. In order to achieve the best results, leg extensions must be used in conjunction with a compound
movement. The main reason for the leg extension’s lack of effectiveness is that it’s essentially an unnatural movement. Where in life does the leg extend against resistance in that manner? The squat, on the other hand, is the basis for all leg movement.
Don’t neglect leg extensions completely. Just keep in mind that they should be an adjunct to some variation of a squat movement and not the major part of any leg session.
3) Partial Reps.
All too often, partial reps get a bad rap. The thinking is that they limit the muscle’s range of motion, therefore limiting the muscle to work to its utmost. This would be true if partial reps were all you did, but using them in addition to full range exercises can prove very beneficial. Another advantage to incorporating partial reps, is that they allow you to use heavier weights. This is especially valuable when it comes to leg training. Partial squats with a workload beyond what you usually use, can more intensely work the lower quadriceps as well as get the body accustomed to experiencing the “feel” of more weight. This sends a signal to the brain that it must adjust to a newfound stress. That, in turn, prepares the endocrine system to endure for heavier loads. By performing partial reps with increased poundages, it’s possible to increase strength within the full range of motion. This is a good technique to try with the Smith Machine where the depth of the squat can be better gauged by setting the pins so that the knees won’t bend past parallel point. Try adding an extra 20% to your squat and knocking out a few sets of “short” squats. What also works well is adding a few partials after completing a regular set when a full range can no longer be completed, but a few “little’ ones can. This can provide that “something extra” that’ll blow those thighs up like never before!
4) Skip the Knee Wraps.
Unless you’re attempting a one rep max (a dubious endeavor, unless competitive powerlifting is your goal), wrapping the knees provides no benefit. It’s interesting that so many people look upon knee wraps as “protection” when in fact, wrapping the knees causes compression and consequently, abrasion between the vastus medialis and the patella. True, wraps will allow you to use more weight but once again, what’s the goal? Lifting more weight or working the thighs as effectively as possible?
5) Supersetting Stiff Leg Dead Lifts with Leg Curls.
If you’re truly serious about hammering those hamstrings, try this merciless superset combination. Perform a set of stiff leg deadlifts with a weight that will bring you close to failure after 10 reps. As soon as the set is completed, go to the leg curl and execute a set of 10 reps. With as little rest as possible, repeat the process. What makes this particular superset so effective is that it works the muscles with contrary motion in that one exercise (dead lifts) causes the hamstring to work from a stretched to a relaxed position whereas the leg curl works the muscles from a relaxed to contracted position. Complete four total sets of this deadly duo and you can expect some soreness in the backs of your legs that might have you walking a little wobbly for a while.
6) Know the Difference Between One Machine and Another.
Very often bodybuilders will use a “shotgun” approach to leg training, in that they’ll implement a variety of exercises in an effort to hit the muscles from every possible angle. But if a specific exercise isn’t targeting the area that you’re looking to work, it can wind up being nothing more than exhaustive wasted effort. For example, the
Hack Squat machine and the Leg Press may appear to be similar versions of a
“squat like” movement but they’re extremely dissimilar in function. The Hack Machine will put exceptional stress on the lower quadricep and inadvertently, the knees. The leg press allows for a much deeper bend in the legs which hits the glutes to a greater degree. (Which in many ways, is much better than those “butt blaster” machines specifically designed to target the glutes). If you have bad knees–stay away from the Hack. If your glutes are growing more than you would like–go with the hack and avoid the leg press.
7) Static Lunges.
When you think of a lunge, you probably think of stepping in, or back into the lunged position. Why not stay in the lunge and work one side at a time? Stretch into position, making sure that the front knee doesn’t extend too far over the shin. Now, remaining in that position, “dip” down until the rear knee just touches the floor. Continue with this mini knee bend movement and soon it will feel as if your legs are on fire! Talk about a vicious pump! Repeat with the opposite leg outstretched. This can be done with either a barbell across the shoulders or with a dumbbell in each hand. For an additional stretch, elevate the rear foot on a bench.
8) 20 Rep Squats.
Also referred to as “breathing” squats, 20 rep squats are thought by many to be the most “anabolic” of all exercises. Most people think of high reps as a defining technique, but when it comes to squats, make no mistake–the stress to the quads can get mighty intense by the time you hit that fifteenth rep! High rep squatting is also excellent for inducing the natural release of growth hormone.
Take as long as you need between sets. You may also need to take in a few deep gulps of air in between reps. (hence the term “breathing” squats) This is a movement that should be performed as the sole leg exercise. Six sets of twenty reps with a moderate weight is a lot tougher than it sounds. No doubt about it. These are hard. But they work.
9) Use a Variety of Squat Stances.
A narrow stance will delegate the majority of the strain on the frontal quads (the vastus laterals and the rectus femoris). A wide stance will incorporate the abductors and the sartorius, which provides that “sweep” to the inner thigh. Experiment with different widths and see what works best for you.
10) Train Hard, or Don’t Bother.
When it comes to training legs, if you’re not feeling up to a hard workout, don’t go to the gym. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say that they didn’t have the energy to work legs, and worked another bodypart instead. Do that enough and you’ll wind up working legs half as much as the should. Stay consistent. Keep a regular rotation of training each bodypart once a week and stick with it. If you need an extra day of rest–take it. But come back the next day and hit those legs with a vengeance!
Follow these ten tips and you’ll soon be on your way to stronger, beefier thighs. Some of these suggestions sound difficult? Damn straight! Hey, I only said that they’d help. I never said it was going to be easy. Then again…easy isn’t synonymous with successful leg training. It’s still gonna hurt, but at least you’ll have something to show for your effort.
Leg day is near. Will you ignore the challenge? Or will you do whatever it takes? The choice is clear. HOLD IT!