I have a weak link that for the first time in probably 15 years, the weak link is my legs.

Now, I am not saying that my legs were crazy or incredible because nothing about my physique is very "crazy" or "incredible." Though my legs have never been considered huge, they were a standout body part for years and my shape and lines made up for not having massive legs.  

As I have stated in past coach logs, my legs have lost considerable size over the years when I was dealing with chronic lower back issues. Though I have gotten some of the size back in the last couple of years, I need to regain much more to have my legs balanced with my upper body. While taking time off to heal my partial glute rupture, I had plenty of time to lay out a plan of attack for my legs for 2021, hoping to finally be able to say that I had regained most all of leg size that I had previously lost. 

Everything you (we) do in our training sessions should have a reason for doing it. Some people might randomly choose exercises, rep schemes, and intensity techniques, but this is certainly not the best or most efficient way to structure a training plan. I am going to lay out what I am doing this year to bring my legs up and the reasons why. Understand that this information may not fit what you need for your legs (or any other body part), but at the very least, it should make clear that you need a plan no matter what your goals are in the gym and with your physique.

First, I am going to lay out my "obstacles" that I have to consider while putting together my leg protocol:

1. Stiff and easily irritated knees

2. A vulnerable lower back. I have not had a major lower back injury in 5 years. However, I always know that a wrong move, wrong decision or wrong exercise could take me right back to square one.

Now, to detail specifically what I need to achieve with my leg training:

1. Overall, the top priority is more quad size over everything else. Specifically, I need more focus on my lateralis and medialis. 

2. I have never focused on glute development in all of my 36 years of training. However, I am going to focus on this not just because of my glute injury last year, but also simply for better developed (though not overdeveloped) glutes. 

3. Hamstrings are not as much of a priority because they are relatively good (much better than quads) and my calves are very good. The last thing I need is calves the size of my lower quad. 

So, I need more focus on quads, first, and then some glute work.

You might be thinking to yourself, "this one's easy, Skip, just squat until you puke! Squat every single leg session and your legs will blow up in time!"

Yeah, no. I can't focus on moving big numbers or building to big numbers in the squat because I will not ever want to revisit the brutal lower back issues that I once had and have had to work so hard for so long to remedy. Instead, I have a better plan.

To start, my leg sessions ABSOLUTELY MUST  start with my stretching protocol. After being injury-free for the last 5 years, I am THOROUGHLY convinced that the main reason that I am injury-free is due to the stretching just prior to training legs. Every single time I had reinjured my lower back outside of the last 5 years of being injury-free, I had suspended my stretching protocol due to a lack of time and/or not thinking it was all that big of a deal. You might want to read that again to be clear. As long as I do my stretching protocol consistently, before every single leg session, I have not had a lower-back injury.

Yes, stretching sucks. However, it is much better than the alternative and the alternative has always been being in bed with an injury for at least 2 full days. After the 2 days of being in bed, it is another week to 10 days that I can barely walk without pain, and where I cannot drive in my car for more than 15 minutes at a time without having to get out and stand up to relieve the pain or discomfort. I will NEVER train legs again without stretching prior.

You may also be thinking that stretching prior to training is not correct. I don't know what to say to that other than I simply don't give a shit what anyone says. There are two main ways or reasons to stretch:

1. to INCREASE the ROM by making the muscles increase flexibility.

2. to simply "open up" the hips so that they muscles in and around the hip are not tight going into a leg session.

I do the latter. When I stretch prior to training legs, I am not attempting to force the stretches with the goal of increasing flexibility. I am simply stretching to get my muscles to the point where they are not tight and do not limit the ROM while training legs to the point where my hips turn posterior in the bottom position of a squat or leg press. My stretching is far less aggressive in this regard, and it is simply to get the muscles loose and to the point where there is maximum flexibility to be able to train legs without putting my lower back in a vulnerable position.

After doing my stretching protocol, I then start my leg session with calf training. My calves are not a priority because they are actually quite good -- much better than my quad development. However, I start with calves for a couple of reasons:

1. to get more blood in the lower body to increase temperature in that area which, in turn, makes it less likely that I will get injured. It is important to note that the gastroc attaches over the back of the knee and where some people think the calf is only for flexion at the ankle, it actually helps with posterior flexion at the knee, as well. So, training calves first will also help to get more blood in the area of the hamstrings prior to leg training, as well.

2. so that I don't have to train calves after I train legs when I am dead from training quads and hams. It is far more difficult to stabilize the upper body if doing calves after legs because of the fatigue in the quads and hips.

My plan when starting my quad sessions is to hit the quads as directly as possible out of the gate. In doing that, I can basically "pre-fatigue) the quads before bringing in heavier, compound movements. I guess I could say that I prefer to perform the first sets of a leg session by slamming my quads vs. doing squats and having to slam almost every muscle in the lower body. 

To take it one step further, I not only want to focus on destroying more of my quads than any other muscles in my lower body, but I also don't want to have to use heavier weight than is needed for these sets and potentially put my lower back in a vulnerable position, again.

A typical opening exercise for quads would be the pendulum squat or the hack squat. Both of these options not only hammer the quads but they are pretty easy on my knees as long as I warm up really well and start with very low weight until I can get the stiffness out of the knees and start adding weight.

I will always use knee sleeves for any quad training and especially these two exercises (pendulum and hack squats) to help keep my knees warm but also for a small degree of "bounce" or compression, especially in the bottom position of both exercises. And to be fair, I prefer neoprene sleeves over the regular nylon sleeves due to the neoprene holding more heat during and in between sets.

I rarely will do leg extensions because I feel they are not very effective for me and depending on which extension machine I have access to, they are usually quite hard on the knees. 

Moving on to the second exercise, I will usually do a direction hamstring movement at this point for a couple of reasons:

1. it helps to get my hamstrings ready for the next compound movement 

2. it allows me to catch my breath by doing a less demanding exercise before jumping back to another compound exercise for legs. 

The next leg exercise is typically sissy squats. I prefer these over leg extensions because I don't get anywhere near the quad stress (good stress) from extensions as I do from sissy squats. 

I was forced to use sissy squats while recovering from my glute rupture (partial), and this is what allowed me to realize that sissy squats are far superior (in my opinion) than doing extensions, anyway. Plus, this is even more "pre-exhaust" prior to going to my next quad exercise which is another compound movement like angled leg presses, high-angled hack squats, belt squats or smith squats (I do not do regular bar squats due to not wanting to put that much posterior-chain stress on my lower back. Squatting in the smith is much better on my back than squatting with a barbell.

Any one of the exercises that I do for my 3rd leg exercise (in the above paragraph) are now a bit less quad dominant and will have more glute/ham work involved at the same time.  Again, the pre-exhaust idea is great for someone like myself so that I can still destroy the muscles I am targeting but at the same time not having to use as many plates. 

The last movement for my leg sessions right now is a lunge of some kind and right now I am doing lunges in a smith machine. I am using this movement as my dominant glute movement right now. Because this is the last exercise for legs, my legs are pretty shot at this point, so my focus is more on hitting the glutes as hard as possible but with higher rep ranges. 

I am taking working sets to the point where there is no way that I can do even one more rep and my rep ranges are rarely below 12 unless I miscalculate my fatigue or overshoot a weight increase. In those cases, my reps might fall to 11 or sometimes even 10. I try to avoid this happening but if you are really pushing progression, you have to sometimes lose a fight to know that you are training as heavy as you can without giving up correct mechanics. Because of the working sets being take to failure, total volume has to remain low to be productive. Otherwise, I will be overtrained in a few weeks if I do too much total work for these leg sessions.


I am training legs on a rotation that allows for them to get hit every 5-6 days but every 3 weeks this drops to 4 days for that one week. I wanted a more frequent leg rotation and as well as it is going at this point, it will take another few months to fully assess if this is something that is working well and I should stay with it, or if I need to drop some of the frequency to increase recovery time. So far, so good.



If you need the best elbow sleeves available, click on the elitefts banner below:

Screen Shot 2021-01-11 at 3.59.40 AM