Arnold once said: "Leg workouts simply have to be brutal to be effective. Normal workouts are hard enough, but if thighs happen to be a weak point in your physique, you have to be prepared to push yourself even more."
If you're doing it right, expect to get quite nauseated.
From famous bodybuilders to famous strength coaches, there's one permeating truth when it comes to leg training: it's gonna suck. And perhaps that's why big muscular legs in your gym are as rare as small breasts in Los Angeles since the 80's. BUT if you've got the "uevos", we've got the methods to change that. Here are some of the most effective quad-building exercises and routines ever discovered.
The King of -quads- squats
Well, powerlifters sure know a whole lot about squatting. And their knowledge has carried over into sports performance training and bodybuilding. Yet that's a double-edged sword, because powerlifters are all about maximal efforts, wide stances, a shortened range of motion, and low bar positions. Great for moving a mountain of plates, but definitely not that great for targeting quadriceps development. The "quad squat" is a whole different beast compared to the powerlifting squat.
Ready? Brace yourself... it's a front squat. Yeah, the bar is uncomfortable. Boo hoo. Get over it! The front squat position allows you to keep the torso as upright as possible, and that's crucial for zeroing in on the quads. It also allows most lifters to more easily squat deeply.
Use a narrow stance. This shifts tension to the quadriceps and off the glutes and hamstrings.
There's no complete lock-out. Squat up until you're 2-3 inches away from fully extending the legs. Again, this is all about targeted tension. And it burns like Hell.
Because of all of the above, yes, you're going to have to use a lighter weight. So set the ego aside and remember this is about hypertrophy, not breaking a 1RM to impress the Bros. Many experts believe that the quads require more time under tension (TUT) and higher reps to grow anyway.
Elevate the heels on a couple of weight plates or, even better,a wedged board. This allows greater range of motion and a deeper squat if that's an issue for you, plus it encourages you to push through your toes which gives you MUCH more quad activation. Try it, you'll find out what I'm talking about.
In other words: Front squat, narrow stance, no lock-out, lighter weight, heels elevated ( comfortably).
A due note: There's a psychological component here as well. This quad squat is perhaps the most ego-crushing lift in existence. Everything about it amounts to the lifter having to lighten the load considerably compared to a powerlifting squat. Some people just can't handle that... and their big asses paired with underdeveloped quads reflect it. On chicks this looks sweet. Don't be that guy. Thank you.
Leg Press like this? Seriously?
Sports performance coaches often sh*t on the leg press because it doesn't transfer well to sport, plus squats are more effective anyway at building overall strength, something that's obviously important to coaches who work mainly with performance athletes. But what about the leg press for bodybuilding? That's a whole different story kids.
The leg press is a great exercise for hypertrophy, especially for the quadriceps. Period. So what's the best way to use the leg press for quad size? I'll tell ya: medium to narrow foot position, placed low on the foot plate, and performed with high reps.
High reps you said? What about "Go heavy or go home"? There's a time and a place for that, but if your quads are only a little bigger than your calves, then it may be time to strip off some plates and go for some nauseating Time Under Tension. Sorry lazyasses.
Many lifters have a high percentage of slow-twitch fibers in their quadriceps.
With quads, you can go as high as 30 reps per set. There've been many pro-bodybuilders who've grown on this range reps per set.
While not everyone's fiber-make-up is the same – and while varied rep ranges are usually best – I'd say that if you lack quad size, then high reps may be the cure you've been looking for. Here's a routine that puts all this info to work.
Using a much lighter weight than normal, a full range of motion, and the narrow and low foot positions, do leg presses for two straight minutes, no rest. Remember, full-range means you go down until your quadriceps cover your chest.
For each rep, extend your legs to 90% of lockout at most. Again, the key is to keep the tension on the muscle at all times.
By the time you finish this exercise, you may want to cough up a lung or two. Or three. These are my words of encouragement for you.
Quad Rises. Wut?
This is the equivalent of the glute-ham raise for the quadriceps. While it seems deceptively easy at first glance, it can really burn those quads of yours when performed properly, leaving you limping for quite some time...
I bet you're just dying to try it, right? Here's how to do it:
Start on your knees, with the trunk upright and in line with the upper legs. During the whole movement the trunk and upper thighs must be kept on the same line; this is the key to the effectiveness of this movement.
Lower yourself backward under control – bringing your back toward your feet – while remembering to keep your trunk tight and in line with the upper legs during the whole movement. Lower yourself as low as you can, then come back up to the starting position by tensing your quads hard.
At first you won't need to add any weight to make this exercise hard. As you progress, you can hold a weight plate on your chest to increase the difficulty.
Sounds easy? It's brutal.
Add a "finisher"
A finisher is any movement you add to the end of your regular training session to "finish off" the muscles and further stimulate hypertrophy. It's totally old-school and masochistic... and totally effective for quad growth.
You just perform your regular heavy compound movements first, then finish off with this torture method:
The ski squat. You'll think it's easy at first, but you'll think again by the end of it, guaranteed.
Place your feet shoulder-width apart, about two feet out from the wall, and lean your back against the wall. Bend your knees to a partial-squat position. This is position one.
After 10 seconds, lower down to position two, about two inches lower. After 10 more seconds, lower another two inches down to position three. You should be about thigh parallel by now. Use another two lower positions, with position five being about as far as you can bend at the knees.
Most people have legs like Jell-O by this point. If you're not: Extend each static position to 20 seconds, or come back up after you work your way down the wall.
Can you smell it? That's PAIN seeping from your pores son.
Leg training involves a mental effort almost as much as a physical one. This means forcing yourself to break down any inhibition or barrier.
Knowing the exercises and routines is one thing. Putting them to work, with intense mental focus and eyeball-popping effort, is quite another. Are you ready?
You better be!