Ever heard of the Quadfather? There’s always a backstory to every nickname. And in this case, Tom Platz earned the moniker after years of major leg training.
The nine-time Mr. Olympia competitor had his own way of doing things.
And his approach to leg training literally helped shape the way many people train their legs today.
The Truth About Leg Training
If you want bigger legs, you’ve got to do some serious work in the gym to get the results you want. But that doesn’t always mean heavy lifting.
Lower weights, higher reps, full-range of motion, compound movements…there are a lot of other factors that going into building bigger legs than just getting under the squat rack and lifting heavy.
The right approach to leg training can help you build bigger legs, increase muscular endurance, and even develop the kind of definition to show off those teardrop muscles (vatus medialis) just above the knee.
So how do you develop bigger legs. There’s more than one way to look like the Quadfather, or at least build stronger legs?
Research shows that leg training using different weights, exercises, and rep ranges can promote muscle growth and strength gains. In other words, do your part to exhaust your muscles on leg day, and you’ll get results.
Big Benefits of Training Your Legs
A lot of people skip leg day in favor of more upper body training, extra cardio sessions, or a day off from training. But that’s a mistake. Training your legs might make your legs bigger and stronger, and help you set a new squat PR, but there are at least two reasons to make sure you hit leg day, like:
- Increase testosterone levels.
When you train your legs, especially with compound movements, all that leg work helps increase testosterone levels. It’s a critical hormone that helps build repair and build muscle.
- Burn more calories
Compound lifts, especially exercises like squats, deadlifts, and the leg press, require a lot more energy than spending your time on wrist curls. And that means training your legs helps burn more calories, including after your workout is over thanks to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.
Of course there are other benefits, too. Like not being the person at the gym with a well-developed upper body and a stick-skinny, totally-neglected lower body. And using a progressive approach to leg training to lift heavier, measure gains, and set your own PRs for the big lifts.
5 Leg-Day Rules to Live By
If you’re getting anxious to train your legs, let’s move on to what you need to know to get the most out of leg day. Here’s the formula follow:
Start your leg day with a warm up. Pick an isolation exercise for your legs, like leg extensions, and perform a couple of low-weight high rep sets. This type of warm-up pre-exhausts the primary legs muscles you’ll be using throughout your workout, and helps increase blood flow for better performance.
Train to Failure…Sometimes
I don’t personally know the Quadfather, but Platz made a name for himself for some of the most intense leg-day training sessions in bodybuilding history. Your legs need a lot of punishment to grow.
In fact, a lot of people think they train their legs hard, but they actually don’t. And it’s why their legs never grow. A lot of people can push harder. You don’t need to train to failure on every set and every exercise. But go all out on at least a couple sets during your workout. Get a spotter if you have to, and really work your legs to break down the muscle fibers to stimulate growth.
Go for Volume
The one-rep max gets a lot of attention (Ever heard someone ask: “How much do you bench?), mostly from people trying to set records, or people who don’t really understand how to build muscle. If you really want to build bigger, stronger legs, adding volume to leg day with more sets and reps can have a big impact on your results.
- Use Full Range of Motion
When you train your legs, or any muscle group, for that matter, use a full range of motion for each exercise. Why? It helps increase and maintain flexibility. When you’re more flexible, you’ll be less likely to get injured or develop muscle imbalances. But here’s the biggie for leg development. Using a full range of motion helps activate more muscle fibers to promote growth.
Finish with Foam Rolling and Stretching
When you crush a leg-day workout, you’re going to do feel it in your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. And you don’t want to walk away without doing something about it. Finish off your leg-day workout with some stretching and/or foam rolling. This will help speed recovery, reduce pain, and support and maintain flexibility. And it doesn’t have to take long.
Looking for a leg-day workout? I took a trip to see my friend and powerlifter Marky Leembruggen recently, and we hammered out a leg-day workout that had me feeling dead after just a couple of exercises.
Give this a try for your next leg-day workout:
Exercise / Sets / Reps / Rest between sets
Leg Extensions / 4 / 12-15 / 1-2 minutes
Leg Press / 4 / 12-15 / 1-2 minutes
Walking Kettlebell Lunges / 4 / 12-15 (per leg) / 1-2 minutes
Lying Leg Curls / 4 / 12-15 / 1-2 minutes
Stiff-Leg Deadlift (Sumo) / 4 / 12-15 / 1-2 minutes
Hack Squats / 5 / 15-20 / 1-2 minutes
Foam Rolling & Stretching / 1 / 5 minutes
What’s your leg day workout look like? Don’t have one? My customized training programs include leg-day workouts and everything else you need to achieve your goals.
- da Silva, E., et al. (2008). Analysis of muscle activation during different leg press exercises at submaximum effort levels. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. From: DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181739445.
- Shaner, AA., et al. (2014). The acute hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. From: doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000317.
- Elliot, D., et al. (1992). Effect of resistance training on Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. From: http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/1992/05000/Effect_of_Resistance_Training_on_Excess.2.aspx.