Are you one of the many whose legs lag behind an otherwise well-proportioned physique? Do you pound your quads into oblivion with set after set of heavy squats only to suffer a sore back, a bruised ego, and little growth in return? Or maybe you’re happy with your lower body progress, but would like to fast-track some more size for next summer? Well keep reading because the following leg-blasting program (and accompanying video) will help you add more leg mass than ever before…but only if you are willing to apply more effort than ever before and get a little creative in the process!
Owner of some of the best all-natural leg development ever seen on a bodybuilder is Andre Rzazewski, a sought-after personal trainer whose attention to detail and creativity in the gym has not only built his incredible physique but also those of his numerous clients. As one of the world’s best natural bodybuilders and fitness models, Andre must fight hard for every ounce of muscle. He does this by emphasizing intensity but not at the expense of perfect technique and control. Of late, Andre has taken his leg development to new levels of excellence. Here’s how he did it.
While you may never build legs as massive as Andre’s, you can come pretty damn close by consistently applying the following insights and protocols. It’s time to upgrade your leg development once and for all.
Most hardcore lifters believe squats are essential to full leg development. By challenging the body on multiple levels the squat forces extreme growth in systemic fashion. All areas of the body are made to contract to stabilize the weight and are therefore targeted simultaneously. By using perfect form like Andre (a smooth descent and an explosive, controlled positive) the legs are sure to receive a growth-inducing pump to encourage steady growth.
Aside from looking cool, squatting with chains is an excellent way to increase a movement’s degree of instability to improve core strength (which comes in handy when looking to up the resistance). Working in this unstable environment, when squatting, also helps to improve lifting technique by pulling the lifter back into position whenever the torso leans too far forward. Perhaps most important, draping some sizable chains over the bar inspires greater efforts. As the lifter explodes from the bottom position the full weight of the chain is gradually added to the bar. This means that any hesitation could result in a failure to fully extend. The key here is to ensure that whichever chain is selected is added to an already fully loaded bar, making each rep a monumental, barely achievable task.
Drop sets tremendously intensify any movement, none more so than the squat. Adding a double (2 increment) drop to the final set will force you to dig deep. The resulting gains in quad/ham size and strength will be worth the extra digging.
Though the squat rightly receives most of the mass-building praise, the leg press remains a leg-blasting staple for many. And for good reason. As an addition to regular squatting, leg presses allow greater tension to be applied to the frontal thighs, without any extra assistance from areas such as the lower back and abs. Because less stabilization is required, more effort can be given to smashing all of the quad muscles. And more weight can be used to do so.
With each of Andre’s leg press reps you will notice that the weight is carefully guided back to the starting position. He does not ‘drop’ the weight back into position like so many do. The most important part of a rep is the negative – by controlling the negative, not only will you lessen the chances of injury but you will also create more muscle microtrauma and force greater overall growth.
Used by many as merely a warm up before hitting heavy squats, the leg extension can also build some serious muscle if done correctly and with enough weight. Though the lifter should never use maximum poundage for low reps, enough weight to ensure failure on 15, 12 and 10 reps consecutively, can be used to build size in the entire quad region and, in particular, the hard-to-target vastus medialis (teardrop muscle).
Provided the weight is not forcefully kicked into position, a controlled positive, followed by an extended squeeze at the top, will upgrade your quad burn to induce an incredible pump. Andre is sure to add such a squeeze on each rep and his quads are among the world’s best.
Made famous by 8-time Olympia winner and the greatest competitive bodybuilder of all time Ronnie Coleman, the walking lunge uniquely overloads the quads, hams and glutes to promote greater size and shape. Given its difficulty to master and execute and the pain it inflicts on the lower body, it is seldom practiced among regular gym goers. However, most elite-level bodybuilders will include some form of lunge. And the walking barbell version remains the most popular, and effective. Include this movement in your training plan and watch your leg development explode.
Walking lunges are one of the truest tests of pure leg strength and lower body endurance. In other words, a high rep set of walking lunges can be painstakingly difficult to complete. It is for this reason that many people rush the process, or avoid the movement completely. By rapidly going from one rep to the next (not fully contracting each quad at the top of the movement, as Andre does) very little tension is maintained on the working muscles. Instead, the knees receive a vigorous pounding and stabilizer muscles such as the hips, abs and lower back are forced to do much of the work.
Hamstring Dips Kneeling on Lat Pull-down Machine
Who would have thought that kneeling on a lat pulldown machine and using a Swiss Ball to propel the body forward would be one of the most effective hamstring builders? Yet this unique movement is a central part of Andre’s leg bicep blasting plan. This movement is all about control. Controlling the negative and positive reps so as not to face-plant into the gym floor. Controlling the speed to ensure the working muscles receive optimal stimulation. The key indicator that you are completing this movement correctly will be an extreme burn across the entire hamstring complex.
Unlike other leg movements such as the leg extension or leg press, there is to be no extended squeezing on the positive. Rather, fluidly transition between positive and negative with no resting at any point in the range. This keeps maximum tension on the hams.
Kneeling Hamstring/Glute Extensions on Lat Pull-down Machine
Again the lat pull-down machine is enlisted to further build Andre’s killer hams. This time the ALLMAX athlete substitutes the Swiss Ball for a set of dumbbells and, keeping lower back arched and head facing forward, bends at the waist to slowly lower the bells. The hams are forcefully contracted upon a full extension. Performed correctly (as shown in the accompanying video) this movement can isolate the hams better than often-favored mass builders such as the stiff-legged deadlift.
Unlike heralded power moves like squats, the emphasis must be on an ultra-slow descent and positive contraction. There is to be no exploding up from the bottom. A pure ham/glute isolation movement, the kneeling extension does not require massive weights. Go lighter and really feel the hams and glutes contracting through a full range of motion.
Standing Unilateral Calf Raises
Unilateral calf raises are a much underutilized mass builder. Time consuming and extremely painful when performed correctly (with a full stretch and powerful squeeze), this movement is often neglected in favor of the easier two-legged machine version. To successfully target both the soleus and gastrocnemius, complete control must be achieved in all ranges of this movement. Andre also forces out an extra squeeze at the top to further intensify the burn.
For this movement Andre completes 15, 12, and 10 reps consecutively. This means using enough weight to produce failure on the final rep of each set. Progressive overload, the hallmark of a successful workout, cannot be achieved when skimping on poundage. While many believe high reps and light weights are best for calves, bodybuilders with the biggest calves (from Arnold through to Andre) prefer heavier iron.
Hummer Push in Parking Lot
As gimmicky as this exercise may sound, truck pushes are an excellent way to challenge all of the lower body muscles and force fresh muscle growth. Of course, not all gyms will allow you to take this challenge. For those that do, you would be wise to take advantage of this unique leg blasting method with your own set of wheels. While you may not have access to something as impressive as a Hummer, a similar-sized truck will suffice. The effort exerted, not the model and make of the truck, is what builds monster legs. Andre uses Hummer pushes to conclude an already exhaustive leg workout. He pushes until his legs are fully pumped and lactic acid prevents further exertion.
Once the truck is in motion you must keep the momentum going to truly blast the hams, quads, glutes and calves. Stopping and starting will place undue stress on the lower back and hip flexors while removing tension from the money muscles. Do as Andre does and aim for failure before stopping.
Squats (15, 12, 10 plus 2 increment drop sets)
Leg press (15, 12, 10 plus 2 increment drop sets)
Seated leg extensions (15, 12, 10 plus 2 increment drop sets)
Walking lunges (3 sets of 30 reps)
Hamstring dips kneeling on lat pull-down (15,12,10 reps)
Kneeling hamstring/glute extensions on lat pull-down machine (15,12,10 reps)
RESEARCH NOTE: Research has proven that the greatest muscle-growth stimulus comes from the “eccentric” or the part where you are returning the weigh to its original position. Make sure you maintain control of the weight while you’re moving back to the starting position of the exercise. You could get twice the gains!
Andre is a successful certified personal trainer, competitive bodybuilder, fitness model and an ALLMAX sponsored athlete. He has been featured in MuscleMag International and Planet Muscle. He was also the 2006 Fame Heavyweight North American Champion, as well as MuscleMania Pro Champion.
ISOFLEX The best protein supplement on the market, featuring an ultra pure bioavailable whey protein isolate.
AMINOCORE Pack on serious lean muscle with this 45:30:25 pure BCAA powder in three delicious flavors.