Work the main muscles of the leg in 30-minutes, with this superset routine by team athlete, Rob Riches
For many, legs aren’t exactly at the top of their favorite muscle group to train, which isn’t hard to see when you consider they require a lot more energy than practically any other muscle group, due to their relative size, and positioning on the body.
After all, if you can’t see it and pose while flexing it, does it really matter? I mean, who’s going to see and comment on your legs, when chest, biceps, and shoulders are all that really matter in the world of fitness – right?
Of course not, and anyone not focusing on their legs for this very reason can hardly call themselves a fitness enthusiast, and more along the lines of a gym-poser.
Listen, I hear you when it comes to legs. When I first began weight training, all I really wanted was six-pack abs, and bulging biceps. Sure, I did train my legs, and had toned and clearly visible muscle separation, but that was mostly thanks to my cardio and commitment to eating right.
It was only when I began to compete in drug-free bodybuilding shows in the pre-social media era of the mid-2000’s that I became very much aware of just how important a balanced and proportionate physique was.
IT’S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT OVERALL WEIGHT
I set my sights on improving my leg development to match my upper body, and started training legs several times a week. I focused mainly on squats, leg presses, and leg extensions, often trying to lift more than I could feasible manage, yet even after a solid 6-months of training hard, I was failing to see much growth.
My mentor at the time – a world-champion powerlifting champion, was quick to jump in and help set me up on the right path to growing my legs.
It wasn’t so much that I was doing things wrong, but rather just not effectively doing all the right things I needed to be doing. This leg workout below was one of the first routines I remember doing, following these simple but effective training methods passed on to me by my mentor.
Warming up before training legs is a definite must, especially considering that with many exercises, you’ll be putting increased stress on the hips, knee, and ankle joints. First, spend 5 minutes warming on a cardio machine, such as a bike or cross-trainer. Then focus on some mobility, taking your ankles, knees, and hips through a series of circular motions and rotations. 20 seconds on each joint, and be sure to go in both directions.
The following exercises are performed in a superset manner, with the second exercises performed immediately after the first one, with no rest in between. You’ll also notice that the sets and repetitions may be a little higher than your used to, but this is all part of the magic of this routine, which will be explained in more detail towards the end.
Seated Leg Extensions
4 Sets* of 20|15-10 Reps
(*Set 1 is a warm up. Perform 20 reps at 60% your usual weight. Over the next 3 sets, start with 15 reps, and gradually increase the weight each set so that you can just about achieve 12, and 10 reps)
Leg extensions are a great warm up for the legs, as they offer stability and isolation, allowing you to gradually build up intensity whist warming up and getting blood (along with oxygen and nutrients), into the muscle.
My main tip here is to user a slower-than-usual tempo, and get full extension of the legs at the top of each rep, with your toes pulled back (pointing towards you and not away from you), as you concentrate on squeezing the muscles at the top of the legs. Also, as you lower the feet foot bar back down, be sure not to go too low so as the weights become rested. You need to be keeping tension in muscles throughout the entire set, from start to finish.
Lying Leg Curls
4 Sets* of 20|15-10 Reps
As soon as you've completed each set of the Leg Extensions, perform this exercise following the same approach of a warm up set, followed by 15-10 reps and increasing the weight gradually on the following set. If you are unable to perform this exercise as a superset, complete the full set of extensions first, then move on to this movement next.
Your focus here is to fully contract the muscles in the back of your legs - the hamstrings, so as to pull the heels all the way up towards your glutes. Pause momentarily, so as to eliminate any swinging and momentum in the movement, and lower back down at a slower rate, being careful not to fully rest the weight at the bottom of the movement. Try changing the positioning of your feet between sets - some with toes pointing away from you, and others with toes pulled in towards you, as this will work different areas of the hamstrings and calves.
3 Sets of 15-10 Reps
The first two exercises are really to fully warm up the legs and get plenty of blood into the muscles. These next two exercises will focus on working both the quads and hamstrings through a full range of motion, and using heavier resistance.
I often see many people go far too heavy on the leg press, which can put tremendous strain on the knees, let alone, not be as effective for really working the quads. Start with a lighter weight, and ensure that you can complete the desired rep range using a full range of motion - that is, your knees should practically be touching your chest, so long as your hips don't lift up from the seat. As you near the top of the rep, don't lock out your knees, but rather keep them slightly bent and focus more on contracting the quads hard for a split second.
Stiff-Legged Dumbbell Deadlifts
Something to remember when it comes to Stiff-Legged Deadlifts is that you should be keeping you back straight, but your legs should not be fully locked out. Keep your knees soft, and as you flex forwards at the waist, keeping the dumbbells almost running down your thighs, just below your knees, your hips are being pushed back behind you. This will keep most of the tension firmly on the hamstrings. You will not need to lower the weights too deep, just do so with control and a slow tempo.
Barbell Lunges 3 Sets of 8-6 Reps (ea. leg)Lunges are one of my all-time favorite leg exercises. It works the muscles across more than one plane and direction. You feel a great deep stretch all down the quad in the back leg, and really get to work on some explosive power as you push yourself back into an upright position.
Think of this movement as being broken down into 3 parts. First, you've got the step forwards, where you push off from one leg, landing heal first, and rolling forwards on the foot. Your front and back foot should be about equal distance apart from your hips, and the back foot's heal should be raise off the floor. The second part is where you lower the hips towards the floor, bending both knees, but not touching the floor. Keep your back straight and reaming looking straight ahead. The third part requires you to push off from your front foot, and spring back smoothly into the start position. Then repeat with the opposite leg.
Single Leg Hamstring Curls3 Sets of 8-6 Reps (ea. leg)The reason why I finish my leg workout with a single leg exercise for hamstrings is because I've already hit the heavier exercises, and focused on working the muscles together as one. By isolating one leg at a time, I can concentrate on really feeling that one particular muscle being worked, instead of thinking more about the overall movement, and trying to push up my weight for every set. The intensity will still be there, as not will you only have to reduce the weight compared with training both at the same time, but you'll also notice how you hips will start to shift, and rotate, which will require you to pay closer attention to your form.
Similarly to the lying leg curls, your focus is on a full range of motion, bringing the heel all the way up towards your glutes, and low enough to open out and stretch the muscle, but without the weights touching the stack. If you do not have a single-leg-curl machine at your gym, you should be able to modify a lying leg curl machine. To do this, place a stable platform, or several weight plates, at the end of the bench so that you you can stand on it, and lean forwards so that your knee is now supported against the bench pad. Using your arms to support yourself against the bench, you can curl one leg up for each set to mimic that of a single leg curl. Don't forget to alternate some sets with your toes pointing towards you, and others with your toes pointing away from you.
I mentioned at the beginning of this article how this style of training has allowed me to see some good gains in my leg development over the past few years, and helped balance out my physique into a more complete package. How so?
I found that the combination of training my quads and hamstrings together in one workout, twice a week, was definitely a big factor towards this, but it doesn't stop there.
By incorporating a series of superset exercises that work a range the legs through a range of angles and different movement types, including compound presses, and single-leg isolation, I was still able to focus on my strength training with an adequate amount of weight to lead to hypertrophy, but by keeping the intensity high through minimizing rest times, and working both push/pull (antagonistic) muscles together, my legs really had no other but to adapt and change. Once they adapt t be able to "better cope" with the stresses of the workout, they have no further need to grow.
By switching up my leg routine every couple of months, rotating between superset routines like this one, and straight set, single muscle workouts, (which I'll cover in future articles), my legs are constantly being challenged and pushed.
All of this has meant that I've been able to see close to an extra 2 inches around the thickest part of my leg, which may not sound too impressive for the last several years of training - but that's given me at least 4lbs of extra lean muscle mass that has really helped me turn my leg game around from a weak point into a muscle group that actually gets me quite a lot of compliments every time I train them!
I'd love to hear from any of you who try this workout, either on the comments section below, or by using the hashtag #BserkTraining on any of the Bserk social media.
I'll be posting weekly workouts and routines on the Bserk website as part of an ongoing campaign for our new product launch - Core. A thermogenic fat-burner/pre-workout that I've actually been a key player in it's formulation, development, and testing
You can also break up certain chunks of the workout and use different pieces at different times. It's totally customizable, and that's what I call going Bserk!