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Intense Leg Training Routine

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Bodybuilding Leg Workout

by Mike D'Angelo

My bodybuilding leg workout for me happens once a week. If you train them correctly that's all the stimulation they need to grow. Once a week. Hard!...Heavy!...Intense!

I almost always start my leg training with squats. Squats are by far the best overall leg developing exercise. It hits the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. There are days when that is all I do for legs. When performing squats, the most important part of the exercise is hitting the lower range of motion. That means getting your hips down the same level as your knees. Your femur (i.e. the thigh or upper leg bone) should run parallel with the floor. This depth, combined with heavy weight, is the key to stimulating growth. If you don't feel comfortable with free standing squats, this exercise can be replaced with smith machine squats. If squats just don't work for you, you could do leg presses or hack squats instead. Regardless of what exercise you choose, make sure you feel the quads, hams, and glutes working while doing the exercise.

Front Squats
After 4 or 5 sets of squats, I typically move on to a superset of front squats and stiff-legged deadlifts. When doing front squats, I'll use a 2 x 4 under my heels for a lift. This helps to throw the work forward onto the quads. I position the bar across the anterior delt and upper pec area. I'll then push the bar towards my neck with my hands to further hold it into place. Keeping my shoulders back, elbows up, and my back straight is essential to doing this exercise properly. I concentrate on primarily using my quads. The range of motion is the same as with the squats, i.e. hips to knee level. At the top of the motion I'll keep from locking out the knee which assures a constant tension on the quads. Three sets until failure seems to be enough after squatting. Front squats can be replaced with leg extensions if you're not quite sure of the form. Safety is key. Often I'll do leg extensions instead just for variation.

Stiff-Legged Deadlifts
As for hamstrings, that is where the stiff-legged deadlifts come into play. Stiff-legged deadlifts are a great exercise to finish off what is left of your hamstrings (as with the front squats for quads). Again three sets until failure does the trick. When grasping the bar I use an alternated locked grip. Starting with the bar at mid to upper thigh level, I keep my knees slightly bent and with a straight back I lower the bar to mid-shin level. As I lift the bar back up I drive my shoulders up and back and concentrate on contracting my hams to lift the weight. As I get to the top, I don't stand completely straight and locked. When you do this you allow the muscle to rest. If I stand up far enough to get the bar in the mid to upper thigh level, but don't release tension off the hamstrings, it makes a big difference in reaching fatigue. Stiff-legged deadlifts can be replaced with either standing or lying leg curls. Again, these are just variations of different exercises to train a particular muscle group.

Sometimes I may pre-fatigue quads and hams with extensions and curls before starting my squats. This forces you to have to work harder to get the same weight up to where you did the time before without pre-fatiguing.

Go To Failure
Leg training, as well as all training to promote muscular growth, is about reaching complete muscular fatigue and failure. What this essential part of training provides is a stimulating effect which forces the muscle to grow and strengthen.

Drop setting is an important component which can be used to increase the intensity of a workout. Typically, I almost always drop-set an additional set in an exercise. Occasionally, I drop-set an additional two sets.

The last set of an exercise is typically the heaviest. After doing the last set of between 4 and 8 reps until complete failure, I find dropping about 25% of the weight is a great way to further burn and fatigue the muscles used. Often I'll do a second drop-set with an additional 25% drop right after the first one. After a set like that, I always feel better knowing I pushed the limits of failure. I feel this is an essential part of stimulating muscle tissue to the degree necessary for growth.

Visualization can play a key role in pushing yourself to this intense level. Before and during my sets I visualize what I want my legs to look like on stage. This helps me to push myself harder to make what I'm visualizing a reality.

Three Final Ingredients
There are three final ingredients that must be incorporated into a smart, effective training program.

  • Stretching
    After completing a workout, end the routine with a few minutes of deep stretching to help improve blood flow for a quicker recovery;
  • Rest
    That is why I train my legs once a week, to allow them to fully recover before I hit them again. Overtraining is a very common mistake. Try not to overlook it;
  • Fuel
    Provide your body with the nutrients and calories it requires to properly fuel your muscles and allow them to recover quickly and more thoroughly.
Train hard, but also train smart.

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