Unless you are doing it completely wrong, leg training is without a doubt the most difficult part of your routine. Because they are the biggest muscles in your body you really need to throw some heavy lifts at them in order to get them to grow.
A lot of guys don’t bother to train legs for that very reason – it’s tough! However, every experienced bodybuilder knows that a balanced physique requires solid leg development. If you aren’t putting as much or more effort into squatting as you are on the major chest and arm exercises you’ll never have a truly impressive physique.
So let’s say you’ve made the commitment to hitting legs hard – check out the article below to find out just which exercises you should be doing for maximum gains.
Mix Up the Reps
If you are hoping to build strength, training in a lower rep range is ideal. For hypertrophy it’s more along the lines of 8-12 reps and for endurance it’s even more. However, instead of training with just one rep range try mixing it up. Pick your favorite leg exercise and do three sets – the first set will be done with 5 reps, the second set will be 10 reps and the last set will be 20 reps. This will help shock your muscles and give them something they aren’t used to. Make sure you do the low-rep set first as this will be done with the highest weight.
This style of training is very popular with biceps as it can be done quite easily on the bicep curl. Basically you are doing 21 reps total, but splitting that up over three smaller groups of 7 reps where you focus on each part of the rep.
The first seven reps you perform will be the first half of the range of motion. The second group of seven reps will be for the second half of the range of motion. Finally, the last group of seven reps will be for the full range of motion. The best way to picture this would be on leg extensions. You start with your knees at 90 degree angle. For the first 7 reps you will move weight halfway up or by about 45 degrees. For the next group of 7 reps you will start halfway up and move the weight all the way up to the point where you are parallel to the floor. For the final 7 reps you will move the weight through the entire range of motion.
You don’t have to limit these exclusively to leg extensions, however. 21s are an effective training style with just about any exercise but are particularly effective with isolation exercises. Keep in mind that you will need to use a lighter weight when training this way since your muscles aren’t used to doing that many reps. Don’t be surprised if you feel extra sore after your workout! The maximum benefit really comes from the second group of 7 reps as this is when people are generally strongest. The final 7 reps more or less are there to take you to failure and empty out the muscles completely.
Change Up the Pace
In addition to altering the number of reps you can also change the pace you work at. For example, one training style involves doing 15 reps in each set but varying up the speed. Reps 1-5 are done quickly using explosive power. Reps 6-10 are done slowly with about 5 seconds on both the positive and negative portion of the lift. Reps 11-15 are done at a normal pace of about 1-2 seconds on both the positive and negative portion of the lift. Obviously given the fact that you are doing slow slow reps in here you won’t be able to lift as much as you usually do, so keep that mind mind when choosing a weight.
This type of training is beneficial in the long run because it develops your explosive power as well as overall muscle mass. You might be wondering why explosive power is important for a bodybuilder – well, think of it this way. When you start lifting really heavy weights you are going to be thankful you have explosive power as that will help you get the weights up! As the weights get heavier you will need to start using more tricks to get the weight up and lifting the weight up quickly and explosively is a great way to do that.
The explosive reps you do in this training style will also help target those fast-twitch fibers while the slower reps maximize time under tension for improved muscle growth. Finally, this training style will definitely cause you to work up a sweat which means more calories burned, higher metabolism and less body fat!
Take Supersets to Another Level
Supersets involve doing two exercises back to back without any rest in between. What we recommend, however, is taking it to another level and perform ALL the exercises back to back. For example, on leg day that would mean doing squats, lunges, leg press, leg extensions and leg curls all back-to-back. The only rest you get is the time it takes to walk over to the next exercise and set up. Obviously this type of training is exhausting so you won’t be able to do more than 4 of these chain sets. Also, try doing these when your gym isn’t too busy as waiting for a piece of equipment kind of defeats the purpose.
If you really want to challenge yourself, try doing the exercise above but with different stances of squats! Typically the hardest type of squat for most people is the front squat, with the easiest being wide-stance back squats. Work your way through each of these doing 3 or 4 reps per form all part of the same set. This allows you to keep the set going even though you might not be able to do any more reps of front squats.
Pick a weight that you normally can only perform 4-5 reps with on the front squat. Each time you change your positioning you will be able to do a few more reps. At the end of the superset you will have done about 12-15 reps. Don’t attempt this training style unless you have solid form and know how to perform each variation of the squat well.