Interested in packing on pounds of new muscle mass to your upper legs? Sick and tired of being known as the guy with chicken legs? Ready to learn some tips and tricks to build a great pair of wheels so you finally wear a pair of shorts with confidence?
It’s no secret that a key ingredient to packing on size and strength comes down to this dreaded fact: You have to train legs. Not only must you train them, but you have to train them hard. This article will take it a step further and teach you how to train them hard and smart.
This means you have to dish out punishment in an intelligent way so that they are forced to grow but so that you don’t spend the next six days moving around in a wheelchair. Yes, we’re going to make you sore, but being sore for longer than three or four days is a clear sign that you over did it.
Tip #1 – Split Your Week Up Into A Quad Dominant Day & Hip Dominant Day
If your legs have been a tough bodypart for you then begin by splitting your quads and hips (when I say “hips” I’m referencing the hams, lower back and glutes) into separate workout days to bring them up.
On a five day split you could train quads on Monday and hips on Friday. This method allows you to give equal attention to the front of your legs and back of your legs.
Here’s a sample Leg Prioritization Training Split
Monday – Quads Priority + 1 Hip Exercise
Tuesday – Chest + Abs
Wednesday – Back + Calves
Thursday – Off
Friday – Hips Priority + 1 Quad Exercise
Saturday – Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps
Sunday – Off
A quad dominant day could include single joint exercises like leg extensions and multi joint exercises like leg presses, back squats, front squats, forward lunges, reverse lunges, 1 leg squats, wall squats, hack squats, bulgarian split squats, smith-machine squats, vertical leg press and all single limb variations.
A hip dominant day could include single joint exercises like leg lying leg curls, back extensions, glutes brides and multi joint exercises like deadlifts, sumo style deadlifts, stiff leg deadlifts, romanian deadlifts, feet wide/elevated leg press and all single limb variations.
Tip #2 – Prioritize Your Legs For At Least 6 Weeks
I’m getting really tired of working out and having guys approach me while I train legs and say, “Man, I wish I had your legs…” and I always shake my head and think to myself, “You could, if you stopped training chest three times a week!”
Many people are afraid to take time away from their upper body in fear of “losing” their gains when that couldn’t be any further from the truth. The only reason you’ll lose size on your upper body is if you stop training it completely, which you are not doing, so throw that fear out the window.
Once you get your legs going twice a week, not only will you have a more proportional and symmetrical physique, but everything else will grow too because of the effects of hard training on your hormone levels.
Start training your legs regularly and hit your lower body with the right intensity and frequency and, and your entire body will keep on growing too. Six weeks of dedicated leg training two times per week will get you growing for weeks.
Tip #3 – Pre Exhaust With Leg Extensions on Quad Day and Leg Curls on Hip Day
Although no one has the same ratio of muscle fiber types, the muscle fibers activated during quad training are predominantly slow-twitch (Type IIa fibers). Believe it or not, I rarely ever squat more than 225 pounds and my legs continue to grow.
Many guys testify to seeing their legs grow once they use different loading parameters than the rest of their body. Higher-reps are not associated with muscle growth but when it comes to quad-training it makes a big difference. Kick start your quad workout with 4 sets of 15-20 reps with a 5011 tempo (take 5 seconds to lower the weight, no pause, and 1 second to rise to the starting position, then pause 1 second before performing another repetition). Rest 45 seconds between sets.
Technique Tips for Leg Extensions: Keep your glutes locked down, sit upright (even slightly leaned forward for increase difficulty), keep your patella pointed to the ceiling, go through a full range of motion (weight stacks should be a cm apart) and don’t bounce the weight up.
Conversely, hamstrings are predominantly fast-twitch (Type I fibers) so they will respond better to explosive and lower rep ranges such as 4-6 and 6-10.Kick start your hip workout with 4 sets of 5-8 reps with a 40×1 tempo (take 4 seconds to lower the weight, no pause, and X means as explosive as possible, then pause 1 second before performing another repetition). Rest 60 seconds between sets.
Technique Tips for Leg Curls: Shove your hips into the pad, your glutes don’t move, keep your toes pointed (to eliminate assistance from your calves), prop yourself up onto your elbows (which makes it instantly harder).
Tip #4 – Use The Old-School 5×5 Protocol – 5 sets of 5 reps with 4011 Tempo & 2 minute Rest
After your legs are warmed up, limp on over to the squat rack to use one of the most famous rep and set protocols responsible for making generations of athletes stronger. The idea here is to start your first set of five once you have found your ideal work weight. You should hit failure on your first set of five to make this work for you. This might take one or two warm up sets to prime your legs. The reps and tempo dictate the load so a typical set might look like this:
Set 1- 5 reps @225lbs
Set 2 – 5 reps @225lbs
Set 3 – 5 reps @225lbs
Set 4 – 4 reps @225lbs
Set 5- 3 reps @225lbs
Increase the weight 5-10% when you accomplish 5 sets of 5 reps with a 4011 tempo and 2 minute rest between sets. The idea is to not increase weight until you can successfully complete the goal reps and sets and most importantly — the tempo and rest periods.
On hip day, you can do the 5×5 method on any deadlift variation of your choice. I recommend trying an exercise you haven’t utilized for some time. For instance, sumo style deadlifts.
Tip #5 – Finish Each Workout With Unilateral Workout
Unilateral work isn’t sexy but often times it’s the sexy stuff that reaps the rewards. Not only will unilateral training create a considerable amount of lactic acid resulting in nausea, but it will get you on the fast track to a balanced physique and help you eliminate “weak links”. I can’t tell you how many guys I know who squat 3 plates a side but can’t do a single one leg squat with their own bodyweight! Don’t be that guy unless your ego is that deflated.
Unilateral training will quickly identify if you’re recruiting all the musculature of your legs. Here’s a killer finisher to wrap up your quad and hip day respectively:
On quad day, finish up with bulgarian split squats with your front foot on a 12 inch block. Placing your front foot on a bench allows you to do deeper into knee flexion so you stretch out the flexed quad and your psoas on the opposite leg. The idea here is to push the floor away from you with your planted foot. Pushing your foot into the floor will create better activation of your quad as opposed to thinking about “standing up”.
On hip day, finish up with one-legged stiff-legged dumbbell deadlifts. These really open up your hamstrings in a different way and give you a chance to isolate your hams, glutes and lower back one side at a time. To isolate your hams even further you can slightly elevate your toes with a plate on the floor which will create an even deeper stretch and prevent you from falling forward and shifting the emphasis to your quads. The idea is to co-contract your glutes and hams from a stretched position, not initiate by “swinging your back” backwards.
Me on the far left at the 2011 WBFF World Championships
Putting Together The Chicken-Leg Solution Workout:
Monday Quad Day :
Exercise 1: Leg Extensions: 4 sets of 15-20 @5011 tempo — 45 seconds rest
Exercise 2: Back Squats (Heels Elevated): 5 sets of 5 @4011 tempo — 2 minute rest
Exercise 3: Bulgarian Split Squats (front foot on block): 5 sets of 15 @4011 tempo — Alternate legs
Exercise 4: Deadlifts: 1 x 15, 1 x 12, 1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 15 @4011 tempo — 90 second rest
Friday Hip Day :
Exercise 1: Lying Leg Curls (toes pointed): 4 sets of 5-8 @40×1 tempo — 60 seconds rest
Exercise 2: Sumo-style Deadlifts: 5 sets of 5 @4011 tempo — 2 minute rest
Exercise 3: One-legged Stiff-legged Dumbbell Deadlifts: 5 sets of 12 @4011 tempo — Alternate legs
Exercise 4: Front Squats: 1 x 12, 1 x 15, 1 x 12, 1 x 8, 1 x 15 @4011 tempo — 90 second rest
There you have it . This might seem relatively easy on paper, but don’t be fooled. This is unquestionably one of the hardest and smartest leg workouts I’ve written and if you stick to the designated reps, sets, rest periods and tempo for the next six weeks. Slack off on the tempo and you’re only cheating yourself.
If you’re serious about about knowing your muscle-building progress on leg day out of the park and making your body complete than give my chicken leg solution workout a shot.
Comments and questions? Fire away in the comments section below.