The Many Ways to Destroy It On Leg Day

If I told you I could name the muscle group that you demand the most out of – without ever seeing you work out or analyzing your split – you’d probably think I was crazy, cocky, or both. The truth is, I’m neither. I’m simply logical. No matter how many curls or push-ups you perform, my answer will remain the same: your legs.

ben-leg-press

A Solid Foundation

Think about it. Any time you’re not sitting or lying down, you’re on your feet. That means your legs have to support your full body weight, plus the additional load of anything else you may be carrying. And this isn’t just for a few reps, it’s for hours at a time. That kind of muscular endurance is amazing to behold.

Some still see leg work as unnecessary, but it’s an essential component of a complete training program.

Unfortunately, some still see leg work as unnecessary, just because no one ever comes up and compliments your calves on the beach. Others think it’s boring and would rather do a hundred sets of curls. In short, an appreciation for leg training often separates the men from the boys, so let’s see what you’re made of! Standard leg training can be demanding as it is, but I’m going to introduce you to a few techniques to take leg day to the next level.

Isolation

Despite the fact that you have two legs, they’re often trained as a unit, and most people never think twice about it. While walking usually results in the placement of an equal load on each of your legs, sports involve a variety of movements where you’re not perfectly balanced and stress your legs unequally.

If you use dumbbells to isolate your arms, why not isolate your legs in the same fashion?

Research has shown that training legs separately can improve effectiveness. One study indicated that single-leg training “results in improved endurance for the untrained leg as well as the trained leg”. So while you think you’re getting a rest for one leg, you’re actually benefiting.

And last, but not least, single-leg training can activate muscles you wouldn’t normally use, such as stabilizers, in addition to the prime mover.

Examples of Single-Leg Exercises: Single-leg Squats; Single-Leg Extensions; Single-Leg Curls; Single-Leg Presses.

Explosive Exercises

While casual lifters may only be concerned with static strength – the ability to resist or apply a force, such as slowly performing a lift – athletes and hardcore lifters also realize that there are other subtypes of strength to be concerned with, such as explosive strength.

Explosive strength combines rapid acceleration with the functional application of strength to perform a motion such as jumping, throwing or batting a ball. This is crucial for sports and any activity involving agility. Unfortunately, because the focus of most lower body strength training involves a low number of repetitions with a heavy load, quick acceleration cannot be achieved. But by dropping some of the weight, acceleration can be increased and explosive strength can be developed, which will benefit overall strength and sports performance.

Examples of Explosive Strength Exercises: Box Jumps; Single-Leg Squat Jumps; Burpees; Sprints.

Pre-Exhaustion

andre-legs

Like single-leg training, pre-exhaustion is practiced from time to time in upper-body training, but is rarely used for the lower body. As the name implies, this is a very demanding technique; when used effectively, though, it is also the key to unlocking very impressive gains.

Pre-Exhaustion training is the key to unlocking massive gains.

Pre-exhaustion entails performing a specific type of super-set. But unlike traditional super sets, the two exercises do not involve antagonistic muscles. Rather, the first exercise is an isolation exercise, while the second is a compound exercise that includes the muscle already worked in the previous isolation set.

With this method, you get the benefit of the first exercise, plus the additional advantages of the second exercise. Because you have already ‘exhausted’ the prime mover, you have to recruit additional muscle fibers for the compound exercise. Additionally, the secondary muscles in the compound exercise have to work harder to compensate to overcome the fatigue of the prime mover.

One word of caution – do not expect to be able to lift as much weight as you usually do on the second lift. Strength will be compromised due to the pre-exhaustion set.

Examples of Pre-Exhaustion Super-Sets: Leg Extension & Squat; Calf Raise & Deadlift; Leg Curl & Stiff-Legged Deadlift; Leg Press & Squat.

Conclusion

By simply adopting these three techniques, you can add a significant amount of intensity and variety to your lower body training and improve your strength dramatically. Finding new ways to challenge your muscles is the key to continued growth. And there’s nothing like a good, hard, lower body workout to engage your deep muscle fibers. As my good friend Tommy says, “if you’re still walking after leg day, you failed!”

Sample Workout

30 minutes prior to this intense leg workout I consume a serving of MUSCLEPRIME. This unique blend of ingredients will put you in the zone, giving you focus and insane pumps. During my workout I have 2 servings of Carbion+ to provide my body with the fuel it needs to power these prime muscles.

* s/w = Super-set with

Warm-up: 10 minutes walking, followed by stretches of choice.

Leg Extensions

We’ll start with both legs, following up with single legs a little later.

  • 1 set x 15  – warm-up with lighter weight
  • 3 sets x 12

Lying Leg Curls s/w Stiff-Legged Deadlift

This will be our pre-exhaustion set.

  • 3 sets x 8

Single-Leg Bench Lunges

I actually started doing this exercise because a toe injury (which left me with almost no range of motion in my right big toe) wouldn’t allow me to do regular walking lunges.

Click here to view a video demonstration.

  • 1 set  x 12 (left) + 1 set x 12 (right) – bodyweight only
  • 1 set  x 12 (left) + 1 set x 12 (right)  – holding dumbbells, use a lighter weight to start (10 – 15 lbs) and then build up over time

Sumo Squats

  • 2 sets x 10 – 12
  • 1 set x 18 – Perform 6 reps, then drop the weight, perform another 6 and then drop the weight.

Calf Raises s/w Deadlifts

  • 3 sets x 8

Leg Press

  • 1 set x 12 – using your heaviest weight
  • 1 set x 18 – Perform 6 reps, then drop the weight, perform another 6 and then drop the weight.

Single Leg Extensions

  • 1 set x 15 (left) + 1 set x 15 (right)
  • Left to failure dropping 3 – 4 times, Right to failure dropping 3 – 4 times.

Boom! You’ve destroyed leg day.

 

Sources:

  1. Hardman, AE, et al. Influence of single-leg training on muscle metabolism and endurance during exercise with the trained limb and the untrained limb. Journal of Sports Sciences, 1987; 5(2): 105-116
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