5 Protocols to Build Bigger, Stronger Legs

TAGS: bigger legs, isolation, leg development, outer thigh, inner thigh, 5 x 5 program, compound supersets, strong legs, bodybuidling, leg curls, leg extensions, Danavir Sarria, gain muscle, squat

If you are intent on building a physique to impress, nothing is more critical than getting serious about leg training. Hitting your wheels consistently hard will not only allow you to develop sweeping quads and bowling ball calves, but it will surge a growth spurt throughout your entire body that will drive you into a constant anabolic state. The following five protocols to superior leg development will allow you to cut through the haze and develop a leg program that will have you stumbling out of the gym — and growing like crazy.

Protocol #1: Superset

Less is better is an often used phrase in this work averse society. When it comes to building serious muscle mass, less is certainly better when that less is done smart. If you train too long, you will seriously deplete your testosterone levels. At the same time, cortisol levels increase. Neither of these things are good when you’re trying to get huge.

That’s where supersets come into their own. They allow you to get more done in less time. Because you’re doing more work in a shorter time frame, they also burn more calories, stripping off fat faster. This will define your quads quicker than almost anything. Supersets also ramp up the intensity that can be directed to any body-part. When supersets are done for the thighs, they have additional benefits . . .

  • They allow you to pre-exhaust the thighs so that they do more of the work on compound moves.
  • They keep you safer by reducing the poundage on the second movement while ramping up the intensity on that exercise.
  • They allow you to target inner and outer quads.
  • They decrease the danger of developing unbalanced joints.

So, how do supersets work? Here’s a quick overview:

A superset consists of two exercises that are usually done for opposing muscle groups back-to-back without rest. For example, a set of leg extensions followed by a set of leg curls. Continuing with the same example, three supersets would consist of six sets performed with no rest between any of the sets. No rest is the ideal goal. Clearly, it will take some amount of time to put down one set of weights and pick up another, or to walk across the gym to change machines. That’s okay. It doesn’t negate the value of a superset. In pursuit of maximum results, though, you should do your best to make the switch as quickly as possible.

Opposing muscle groups are those that work together around a joint to provide stability. While one pushes, the other pulls. The major opposing muscle groups in the legs are the quadriceps and hamstrings. A terrific superset to perform to give you a fantastic pump to trigger new development is leg extensions/leg curls.


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Technically, the term super-setting only applies to two exercises that are performed for opposing muscle groups done back-to-back, without rest. However, it is also used to refer to any two exercises done back-to-back without rest. The correct term for this type of super-set is a compound set.

Compound sets are a great way to up the ante in your leg workout. Doing two exercises back to back for the same body-part allows you to maximally stimulate the quads. By making the first movement an isolation one and the second a compound one, you will trigger new growth by ensuring that the full effect of the compound movement is directed toward your target muscle group. This type of super set is also known as a pre-exhaustion set. By performing an isolation movement for a body part first, you will be temporarily making the target muscle group weaker on the compound movement to follow. This will force it to do more of the work than the muscle groups surrounding it that are synergist workers throughout the exercise.

sygo ham stretch

You should use a compound superset every third thigh workout. Start with leg extensions. Do 12 slow, full reps, taking a three-second rest at the top of the movement. Immediately go to squats. Perform eight full, deep reps with a focus on pushing through the heels on the up lift.

Perform four of these compound sets to blast your quads into meek, quivering submission.

Protocol #2: Split your Workouts      

When you focus on different aspects of your leg training on different days, you will get superior results. By dividing your workouts into quad dominant days and hip dominant days, you’ll be able to target all of your training focus to either the front of your legs or the back of the legs. The following quad dominant moves will target the front of the legs:

  • Squats
  • Leg Press
  • Lunges
  • Leg Extensions
  • One Legged squats
  • Step Ups

Here are a range of hip dominant moves that target the back of your legs:

  • Deadlift
  • Stiff-Legged Deadlift
  • Good Morning
  • One-Legged Deadlift
  • Back Extension

The key to a great set of wheels is to ensure balanced development around the hip joint. To ensure that you get it, make sure that every front of leg exercise is balanced by a back of leg exercise.

Train the front of your legs early in the week (possibly Monday) and the back of the legs at least two days later (Thursday would be ideal).

Protocol #3: Squat Till Your Drop!

Squats are the single most effective exercise that you can do to pack muscle, not just onto your lower limbs, but all over your body. It’s not uncommon to pile 10 pounds of solid muscle in just a few months with nothing other than squats and sound nutrition. There is simply no way to build a quality physique without relying on the squat as your foundational exercise.

Unfortunately, most people either don’t squat or don’t do it effectively. Now that you understand just how vital they are, let’s recap how to do them correctly:

Load a barbell onto a squat rack and position yourself under it so that the bar is positioned across the back of your deltoids. Lift the bar off the rack and take one step back. You need to ensure that the bar remains in line with your feet. Keep your head up as you lower into a full squat, below parallel position. Now push back to the starting position, pushing through the heels to drive your thighs back to up.

You need to squat lower than parallel every time you get under the bar. By doing so, you’ll be developing power along the entire strength curve. The placement of your feet help to determine which area of the thigh is targeted by the movement. The wide foot placement tends to work the inner thigh, whereas a narrow stance will place more stress on the outer thigh. Toe placement is also important. Turning your toes out will place emphasis on the inside of your thighs. The best stance, however, for generating the most power is to have a shoulder-width foot distance with the toes turned slightly outward.

You need to squat at least once per week, going hard and heavy for at least five sets.

leg flex sygo

Protocol #4: Isolate

Compound movements like squats and deadlifts will pack mass onto your thighs. However, isolation exercises will chisel in the detail that will make them look fantastic. To add in those cuts and striations you need to isolate. And the best movement to isolate is the leg extension. Leg extensions are a great follow-up to squats. The following little known hacks will allow you to ramp up the intensity of your leg extensions, while targeting the inner and the outer portions of the quad muscles.

Leg Extensions Optimized:

Outer Thigh Focus: Position yourself on the leg extension machine, and lean back. Now point your toes and straighten your legs out. When you begin to raise the weight, put some outward pressure on your thighs, as if you were trying to push your thighs apart. As you do this, you should continue to have your toes pointed out. These two adaptations will focus the work on your outer quadriceps. In the peak contraction position, pause for two seconds before slowly lowering the weight.

Inner Thigh Focus: Position yourself on the leg extension machine, this time leaning forward. Rather than pointing your toes, pull them back towards you, while rolling the ankles. You need to maintain this foot position throughout the entire movement as you lift the weight lean forcefully into the movement. You want to feel this one on the insides of your thighs.

Always work your outer quads first, doing three sets of 8-12 reps. Follow up with three sets of 8-12 reps.

Protocol # 5: 5 x 5 Training

5 x 5 training has been around for a long time and is acknowledged as one of the fastest ways to meeting the twin goals of mass and power. Your 5 x 5 training will focus on squats, bench press and deadlifts. You’ll be doing five sets of five reps on each movement. Your goal with 5 x 5 is simple: to increase the weight on the bar by 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds) every workout. You will be doing the same weight on all five sets.

5 x 5 will get you stronger faster than virtually any other training regimen known to man. And to get bigger, you gotta’ get stronger. When you hoist more resistance, your body has no choice but to add muscle mass. The best way to build muscle is to go hard and heavy with basic, no frills compound movements like squats, deadlifts and the bench press.


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5 x 5 training is progressive, relying on a constant, progressive incremental increase in weight. Don’t start with too heavy a weight, though. Begin relatively light to ensure that your form is on point. You’ll be adding 10 kilograms per month, so that weight will soon build up. A good gauge is to start with 50% of your five-rep max.

Perform the 5 x 5 training regimen for 12 weeks to really boost your mass and power. Then take a two-week break before launching into another round.

Your squat form on the 5 x 5 program should be slightly different to that described earlier. With this program, you will be purposefully squatting lower on your back. By keeping the bar between you traps and your delts, you’ll be moving the emphasis from your knees to your hips. This will allow you to lift more weight on the movement.

Putting It All Together

You now have a lethal arsenal of five techniques to dramatically enhance your leg development. Here’s how to make effective use of them:

  • Train your legs twice per week. Hit your front legs on Monday and your rear legs on Thursday.
  • Perform compound supersets of leg extensions and squats on your first leg workout of the week.
  • Superset leg extensions and leg curls every third leg workout.
  • Every Saturday hit the gym for an intense 45 minute 5 x 5 session. You’ll do just three exercises; squats, bench press and deadlift for five sets of five on each. Up the weight by 2.5 kilograms every week.
  • When performing your leg extensions, follow the guidelines performed outlined above to target both the outer and inner quads for three sets of 8-12 each.

Conclusion

Incorporating the five protocols into your leg workouts will totally transform your lower body training. Now every move you make will directly stimulate growth and definition. Your strength will go through the roof and you’ll be stimulating perpetual testosterone production to drive your body into an anabolic muscle growth state. And finally you’ll have earned the credentials to enter the quad squad.


Danavir Sarria is the owner of Iron Sensei, a site all about helping men to burn fat and build muscle with home workouts. You can contact him at danavirsarria@gmail.com. 

Photos courtesy of Jeffrey Sygo at www.SYMIPHOTOGRAPHY.com

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