Are you tired of your chicken legs? Have you done everything at the gym but still can’t seem to build the legs you want?
In part one of this two-part series, Team ALLMAX Athlete, professional personal trainer and Natural Pro BodyBuilder Andre Rzazewski brought you the Top 5 Upper Body Exercises that you should be performing to achieve a built and sculpted body. Now, you can complete your workout with these 5 lower body exercises which will help build those ‘big wheels’ you’re looking for in no time!
Hamstring Dips (off lat pull down machine onto step)
This exercise works all the muscles of the hamstrings (semitendinosus, semimembranosus, biceps femoris short and long heads).
Position: Set up an aerobics step in front of a lat pull down machine and make the step the same height as the seat. Then kneel on the seat facing the step (away from the weight stack) and lower the pad until your ankles are secured below it. Make sure that your knees are back behind the edge of the pad at least one inch to avoid any discomfort or injury.
Movement: Begin the exercise by sitting back against the pad in a contracted position and slowly lower your body (arms outstretched in front of you) using your hamstrings to control your descent. Once you have made contact with the step with your hands, get a full stretch in the hamstrings and then use them, along with minimal assistance from your arms, to raise yourself back up to the starting position, where you’ll get a peak contraction in your hams and glutes.
Sets and Reps: : 3-4 x 12-15
This is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult exercises using only your bodyweight as resistance. With that said, this is a fantastic mass building and shaping movement. It should be used only after the hamstrings have been sufficiently warmed up with at least 3-4 sets of lying hamstring curls and is even more beneficial if performed near the end of your leg workout or while supersetted with stiff-legged deadlifts (a great stretching exercise). Grouping a stretching exercise with a contracting exercise is a great way to confuse the muscle and stimulate growth. Try three sets of these to really fry the hamstrings, you’ll develop a love hate relationship with this motion.
Unilateral Calf Extensions (Endless Set)
Working the Gastrocnemius and Soleus.
Position: Select a weight that will achieve failure at about 10-12 repetitions with a single leg. Sit on the machine, starting with both feet on the foot platform and push the weight up.
Movement: Using one calf at a time, place one foot on the base with only the ball of the foot on the pad, allowing the heel to drop, getting a full stretch in the calf. Push the weight up until you have fully extended the foot forward, gaining a peak contraction in the calf. Do 10 repetitions and pause on the final rep and hold the contraction for five seconds, then switch legs. Sets 1 – 3 should be medium difficulty with 10 reps completed easily with perfect form.
The next 4 sets should become quite challenging with a feeling of relief when switching legs. The final 3 sets will most likely be extremely challenging and I don’t expect everyone to survive. The burn and pump achieved here is fantastic though and will give you an idea of how you can make great gains with the use of only one set per week.
Sets and Reps: 10X 10
Over the last few years on average, I have only done one set of calves per week and noticed my best results. I should tell you that each set is 200 almost non-stop reps (100/side with minimal rest) hence the name “endless set”. These can be performed on a leg press or a hack squat machine.
Step Ups – Smith Machine
Targeting the quadriceps and the glutes, secondary muscles worked are the hamstrings.
Position: Place a step approximately knee height under a smith machine, almost directly under the bar. Use minimal weight for the first set to get a feel for the motion. Place one foot entirely on the step, straight ahead of the body with the heel at the edge of the platform. This is the working leg.
Movement: Step up using the working leg and raise the opposite leg until the quad is parallel with the floor. By raising the non-working leg to parallel with the floor, this creates a peak contraction in the quadriceps and the gluteus maximus of the working leg. Instead of placing that foot on the step, return it to the floor achieving a full stretch in the quad, glute and hamstring.
Sets and Reps: 3 x 12-15
Always maintain an arch in the back throughout the motion, reducing stress on the lower back and maximizing the workload on the quads, hams and glutes. This exercise can be performed at any point in the workout and when supersetted with unilateral or bilateral leg extensions, the vastus medialis (tear drop, above knee) can be pre exhausted and then isolated with this motion.
Single Leg Squats Assisted on Smith
Targeting the quadriceps and the glutes, secondary muscles worked are the hamstrings . This is another exercise which only uses the trainer’s own bodyweight, but is extremely challenging. Some of the less meathead motions can help you add the most mass and detail as in the case of sissy squats, which are ironically extremely difficult and not for rookies.
Position: Stand in front of a smith machine and set the bar to just above the waist. Place one foot forward on the floor, with the heel just past being directly underneath the bar. Hold on to the bar with both hands, roughly just wider than shoulder width apart.
Movement: Raise the opposite leg and extend it forward while controlling the body’s descent with the working leg and partial assistance from the arms. Lower the body until the glute is almost touching the heel for a full, deep range of motion and up until fully extended and a peak contraction is felt in the quad and glute.
Sets and Reps: 3 x 12-15 (per side) Complete with drop set
This is a great finishing exercise and can be used in a superset with any quad motion i.e. Leg Extensions, Walking Lunges, Stationary Lunges, Squats, etc. Try not to overuse the arms for assistance in returning to the top, instead use them for balance and controlling your descent. Hint: If your biceps have a better pump than your quads, you are using your arms way too much!
Cable Crunches on Step
Focusing on the rectus abdominus .
A modification I made to one of my favorite abdominal exercises – the cable crunch. Form and range of motion should always be paramount when performing any exercise but sometimes can be disrupted by structural challenges, in this case, the floor.
Position: The way I like to describe how to do this motion when teaching it to my clients, is to face the weight stack, grasp the rope at the ends and squeeze the forearms against the sides of the head.
Movement: Pull the weight down by aiming your shoulders to the floor and your elbows to your knees. The goal of every exercise should be to gain a peak contraction at the end of each rep, but in this case, a better contraction can be made if the floor were only 6 inches lower. Since this is not possible, an easier alternative is to set a step about a foot back under the rope and about 6 inches off the floor. This modification will allow a fuller arcing/crunching motion and can help achieve a much harder contraction at the bottom.
Sets ands Reps: Perform 15-20 reps, pausing on the final one and hold a peak contraction for 5 seconds.
The cable crunch can be performed on it’s own or supersetted with other great abdominal etching motions, such as Hanging Leg Raises, Bench V-sits, Roman Chair and Decline Bench to name a few.
I have included a “Dre modified” exercise for almost each body part and suggest trying them out for yourself and add them into your own routines. I can almost guarantee you will enjoy each one of these, finding them both challenging and effective.
There you have it. A total of 10 of the top exercises you should be including to confuse your muscles, stimulate growth and achieve your best results. Combine this program with ALLMAX’s Hardcore Cutting Stack and you will achieve a cut and diced physique in no time!