Programming Breakdown for Leg Session

My scale weight this last week (and this week) has stabilized right around the 227-228 mark and I am continuing to slowly get leaner week by week.  I am not overly excited about this as I am really wanting to push for more growth for this phase and weight dropping is not ideal for what I want to accomplish.  I think this current phase is going to get crazy as I am going to have to really push calories up if I am going to push my weight up.

At the same time, my strengh is surging as I am now just over 4 weeks into this growth phase.  I had a huge increase in strength to open this week and it is one of those situations where I didn't anticipate it and only made a moderate jump by adding weight to the bar but the reps were going up quite easy --  almost doubling the reps I had gotten as early as last week.  The fullness has returned, as well, and I have that perpetual pumped feeling now even while outside of the gym.

The last leg session breakdown looked like this:

I always stretch prior to training legs because it alleviates tightness in my lower back, allowing me to train legs with virtually no pain or pressure on my lower back.  If I do not stretch, I get very tight and my back aches.  It doesn't hurt but it aches.  I had also, for the first time in almost 2 years, slept wrong and my lower back was tight on the right side -- to the point where when I woke, I was walking gingerly for 10-15 minutes until the stiffness went away just from moving around.  I knew I needed to be careful and stretch well and that I should open with Pit Shark belt squats so that I could hit my legs hard and heavy without putting my back in a vulnerable position.

One thing I have done while training legs for the last handful of years since having back issues, is if I open with an exercise for legs that feels great and isn't stressing my lower back much, I keep going with it.  Sometimes, I will even do double the amount of sets I normally plan to do or even doing something crazy like 10 working sets with that one exercise before going on to another exercise.  I do this because in the past I have felt fine on the first exercise but then get to the second or third exercise and find that my back starts to ache or I feel it getting tight.  I figure if I open with an exercise that feels great, I am going to ride it as long as I can so that I don't have to risk tweaking my lower back.

I ended up doing 8 working sets on the Pit Shark and 6 of those sets were at about 90% of my heaviest sets but with more reps.  I just wasn't feeling it so I didn't want to drop my reps too low only to force heavier weights when my back was telling me to be careful for the first time in quite a while.

Of course, my legs were torched after those 8 sets but I also hammered 5 working sets of lying leg curls followed by 5 sets of leg extensions.  I do leg curls in the middle of my quad workouts, instead of doing what most people do and separating quads and hams.  Most people train hams after finishing quads but I have found that doing this, sometimes doesn't allow me to hit hams as hard due to my lower back being blown by the time I am done with quads. 

Another thing I do is I avoid doing a hamstring exercise right before a leg press or a squat exercise because I feel it will limit my flexibility in my hips, not allowing me the same ROM and possibly pulling my lower back due to tighter or "pumped" hamstrings.  So, I always do hamstrings and then follow with leg extensions so that by the time I get to my next compound leg exercise, my hams won't be as tight as if I would do hams right before the next compound exercise.  

After extensions I finished with machine squats and my legs were blown.  One thing I have found over the years is I can generate more intensity for legs than all over muscle groups so it typically doesn't take me as many working sets to bomb my legs as it does for back, chest, etc. Most people set their volume for muscle groups based on the size of the muscle being worked -- EG: legs are the biggest so they do more working sets than, say, chest or delts.  I don't do that.  I go entirely on how I feel for that muscle group and when it's blown, it' blown and I am done training that muscle group. 

I also like to train abs prior to legs so that my midsection is warm and I feel this minimizes the risk to my lower back.

I am struggling to get my calf training in, right now.  I want to train them after legs because my calves are pretty damn good and don't need a lot of attention.  However, if I train them after legs, they cramp horrible bad and I can't train them as heavy, either.  I was doing them prior to training legs because this is a nice way to warm up the lower body to get ready for heavy quad and ham exercises but after stretching, training abs and then calves, I sometimes run out of gas before I'm done pounding legs and I don't want that, either.  I trained calves last week on a non-training day and it worked great for my calf training but... it also took away my non-training day and turned it into a calf day.  Not a big fan of that, either.  I have to get this figured out, asap, because I still need to train them even though they aren't a huge priority.

One other thing I have been doing at the end of all leg workouts is doing free-bar squats.  I only do 3 working sets and I do them light so that I can build back up to solid poundages over time.  I am in NO hurry as this exercise has always been an issue for my lower back. In fact, I started at only 135 pounds and have increased reps or weight every workout, so far.  I don't count these sets as "working" sets because they aren't heavy enough or intense enough, yet.  The plan is to slowly build back into being able to squat with decent weights and intensity over the next few months without creating an issue with my lower back.


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