by Adam Signoretta
I have seen too many bodybuilders with massive upper bodies stacked on tooth picks. When it comes to building massive, well developed legs, most bodybuilders have no clue. There are do’s and don’ts when performing your leg workouts. Some of the don’ts should just be common sense but men’s egos get in the way and they will not back weight down for proper form or range of motion. When talking to guys at my local gym, I am always asked about what my max squat is after they catch wind that I am a power-lifter. I hate telling people what I can lift because they always feel the need to put their foot in their mouth by telling me that my lift is pretty good or they have done that before. They go on to tell me that they don’t lift heavy anymore more because they are not looking to get big, they are just lifting to lean out. If they don’t try to protect their ego, they take the other route and make up all these excuses why they don’t squat, I have a bad back, my knees hurt when I squat, or I do machines to build muscle. These are just some of the pathetic things that come out of tough guys mouth’s at the gym, not counting those that squat on the smith machine and think that it is the same thing as a free weight squat.
Every now and then you get an open minded guy that talks to you like a human being and wants to learn. I start by giving him the Dont’s. After you learn the dont’s, everything else is pretty much fair game.
-Don’t Squat above parallel
-Don’t use the sissy pad
-Don’t Squat in the Smith Machine
-Don’t load up the leg press and do quarter reps, or push it with your hands, and when you are done leave it loaded up. Rack your weights
-Don’t sacrifice form or range of motion for weight, lifting lighter is not a crime
-Don’t wear shocks or padded sneaker to do legs
-Don’t wear a weight belt like it is part of your outfit. Don’t wear outfits to the gym
-Don’t use weight lifting gloves for deadlifts
-Don’t use straps for all your lifts, only on your heavy sets, and not every time
-Don’t go to failure every set
-Don’t be afraid to pick one exercise and do 10-20 sets in a work out and call it a day, or hit a max squat or dead lift and call it a day either
-Don’t forget to do hamstring and calves, you have more than the front of your legs
-Don’t let your heals come off the floor or platform in any exercise, except lunges, you must push with your heals
-Don’t forget there is no magic program just hard work
After you get the “dont’s” you can go to program design. Whether your goal is to gain weight, strength, lean out, cut up, etc. lifting heavy and hard is the best way to reach your goal. For weight loss you want to burn calories, a heavy squat or dead lift will burn a shit load of calories. For size, the more weight you lift, the more muscle fibers your need to recruit the more muscle you will grow. For strength the more muscle you grow, and the more weight you lift, the more your strength goes up, that is just common sense. If you want to argue science of the lifting and what range and percentages work best, this is not the time. I’d rather be big and strong, than just big, lift heavy.
I have 2 favorite splits for when I do legs, no matter what, I always hit legs two times a week. I will either split it up Quads or Squat, and Hams or Deads; or my new favorite Heavy or Powerlifting Style and Hypertrophy or Bodybuilding Style. Today, we will talk about the ladder, Power/Hypertrophy.
The 1st one, Squats/Deads; I do my main movement and pick 2-3 accessory movements to follow it. I will generally do this one when I am in the off season or training for a power lifting meet. For the main movement, I will do 1-5 reps, and the accessory I will go anywhere from 5-20 reps. A simple rep scheme to follow for your power movements without getting technical is week 1 do a your 5 Rep Max or 5RM, then week 2 do 3RM, and week 3 do your 1RM. After you hit your 1 rep max is it best to deload or lift at 50% of your 1 rep max, do 3-5 sets of 5 reps. After the 4 weeks are up you can repeat. The split and program should look as follows:
-Barbell Squat – Prescribe Rep Max
-Leg Press or Hack Squat– 4 sets of 10
-Lunges or Split Squats – 3 sets of 15
-Leg Ext – 2 sets of 20 reps
-Calves – I do them between every set of my Heavy Movement. Multi reps and different exercises, standing, seated, or singe leg calf
-Barbell Dead Lift – Prescribed Rep Max
-Standing Leg Curl – 4 sets of 10
-Back Ext or Good Mornings – 3 sets of 15, GM’s will do 3 sets of 5-10 reps
-Shrugs – 2 to 3 sets of 10-15 reps
-Calves – Same as on Squat day
This style of lifting has always given me quick strength gains. You want to make sure you spread the days out a minimum of 2 days apart, Sunday and Wed works great. I like to do different variations of squats and dead lifts. I alternate between Barbell Squat, Safety Bar Squat (You can do Front Squats), Box Squats with Barbell or SSB, and you can add chains to each one to change up the movement. For Deads, I like Conventional Deads the best, nothing better than pulling some heavy shit off the floor. But I switch to Sumo, Rack Pulls, or I do Deads with a deficit, reverse band dead lifts, or I do them with chains. I love squats and deads so I love this format. However, because you are squatting and dead lifting heavy every week, it takes a toll on you. After a few cycles of this style I will switch to the Power/Hypertrophy split so I can alternate my main movements every week. This is how the Power/Hypertrophy split looks like.
Week 1 – Barbell Squat
Week 2 – Barbell Deads
Week 3 – Barbell Good Mornings (or if you don’t like heavy good mornings, you can go back to Squats)
Week 4 – Safety Squat Bar w/ Chains
Week 5 – Barbell Deads w/ Chains
Week 6 – Good Mornings or Barbell Squat with Chains
Week 7 – I deload and the start again with week 1 or keep going and use different movements and implements.
The Main Movements will be either 1RM,3RM, or 5RM, it all depends on how close I am to a bodybuilding show or powerlifting meet. I love to do 1RM the most, but not the most beneficial when trying to gain size, 5RM is the best for size.
Sometime I will not do any accessories at all here. But most of the time it looks like this.
Split Squats or Lunges – 3 sets of 15-20
Back Ext – 2-3 sets of 10-15 Reps
Calves – 4-5 sets of 10-20 reps
For the hypertrophy Day it looks like this.
1a. Leg Ext – 3 sets of 15
1b. Leg Press – 3 sets of 10
2a. Leg Curl – 3 sets of 15
2b. Romanian Dead Lift – 3 sets of 10
3. Hack Squat – 3 sets of 10
4. Front Squats – 3 sets of 10
5a. Adductor – 2 sets of 20
5b. Abductor – 2 sets of 20
The a. and b. is there to represent supersets. I like to superset not only to save time, but also get a great pump. When it comes to hypertrophy workouts, you want to train as hard as you can with as many reps as you can without training longer than 45 min. I don’t like to train more than 45 min, because after 45 minutes, your muscles are too fatigued to perform properly, and if you aren’t fatigued, then you didn’t train hard enough. I like to do drop sets, rest pause sets, negatives, and sometimes I go to extreme failure where I try to do a rep and can’t . If you are going to do this much volume, going to failure is hard to do. I don’t like to do sets that last longer than 60 secs, at that point it starts to become aerobic and will not stimulate muscle growth. I try to keep the tempo with an explosive concentric phase and a slow and controlled eccentric phase, about 3-4 sec. Rest between sets are about 45-60 sec. I also like pre-exhausting the main muscle with an isolation movement to get the muscles activated and warm before I hit my multi-joint movements, and it helps to keep my joints healthy. I am sure a lot of guys have made comments about the adductor and abductor machines, saying they are chick machines. Although it is true that women use it more than men, it is good to work these muscles in a single joint movement to help hypertrophy and development. We cannot squat all the time, although I wish you could, the machines give you a break from big weight and allows your nervous system to recover.
This is a basic power hypertrophy split and program, I hate to do the same exact work out in the row. I always change the order of exercise, weights, reps, rest, and even implement. I change things up for a few reasons, but the main one is to keep it fun, besides being fun, it will help you strengthen different lifts. In closing, eat big, train hard, but above all train smart.
Adam Signoretta is a certified personal trainer by the National Academy of Sports Medicine with an extensive knowledge of corrective exercise, performance enhancement and Russian kettleball technique. He is also an NPC bodybuilder and author of “Be As Strong As You Look – a Handbook for Bodybuilders.” For questions or comments, please contact Adam at Asignoretta@aol.com