As a rugby player, growing up, my training incorporated multi-joint strength building movement patterns, such as: squats, hack squats, leg press and deadlifts. Why? Because when you do exercises like leg extensions you recruit your muscles outside of a normal movement pattern, a movement pattern which has no bearing on the sport of rugby where you use the entirety of your legs. If you isolate your quadriceps you will teach your nervous system a faulty motor-pattern and could risk potential injury. You want to teach your body how to be athletic while building strength, so the best way to build thick, strong legs is to squat, deadlift and leg press.
If you have small quads then avoid doing leg extensions and focus on the squat and leg press. Leg extensions can be a useful tool for a body builder but if you have poor leg development you must understand the importance of compound movements. The same applies for fancy lunges, they’re useful but not until you have achieved a certain level of leg development.
Arnie once said “Leg workouts simply have to be brutal to be effective”
Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “Leg workouts simply have to be brutal to be effective”, so with that in mind, I have devised some brutal leg training options for you to build big quads. Now I suggest a thorough warm up before attempting any of these routines, mobilising your lower body should consist of a few minutes of some steady state cardio, glute activation exercises such as clamshell, kettlebell front squats, supine hip extension and a couple sets of pre-pump leg curls. Targeting the hamstrings in the warm up will improve muscular contraction, which will aid hamstring contribution to the squat and leg press. Also, with activated hamstrings, you will feel sturdier at the bottom of your squats too!
Training Option 1: Simple But Brutal
- Front Squats 5×5 Rest: 120 seconds.
- Barbell Step Ups 3×10 (each leg) Rest: 90 seconds
- Walking Lunges 4×12 (each leg) Rest: 60 seconds
Training Option 2: Volume Squat Complex
Begin the set with a 6 R.M front squat, once complete rest for 15 seconds and perform a 6 rep back squat using the same weight. Now reduce the weight by 25% and do 6 explosive barbell squat jumps. Rest for 3 minutes and repeat two more times.
Expect to have some serious DOMS from this one.
Training Option 3: 50 Rep Leg Press Devastation
Begin with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and low down on the platform. Perform 10 reps at roughly 12 R.M, use 3-second negatives and explode on the way up. Once complete reduce the weight by 20% and narrow your stance. Perform 20 reps with a tempo that allows complete control and tension to remain on the thighs throughout. Drop the weight again by 20% and perform a final 20 reps keeping the tempo strict.
Do 3 sets like this with 120 seconds rest; you may want to include some light quad stretching between each set, your legs will be fully pumped!
Training Option 4: Nausea Inducing Back Squatathon
Begin with a stance that is around 5” outside shoulder width with your toes pointing slightly out. Begin by doing 7 reps for 3 sets with 60 seconds rest between. Then do 14 reps for 2 sets with 45 seconds, finally finish with 21 reps.
Note: You may need to ask someone nicely to drive you home after this one!
Training Option 5: Hybrid 7/4/7 Squatting
This final training option is pure volume, creating a major pump perfect for anyone looking to spark new strength and size gains in their lower body.
Perform all three exercises back to back with as little time between as possible.
- 7x Front Squats
- 4x Back Squats (use a heavier weight than you did for the front squats)
- 7x Squat Jumps (be explosive, get as high as you can).
Once complete repeat two more times resting 120 seconds between sets.
Making Things A Bit Harder
A great option if you feel the squats aren’t tough enough is to add 1-1/2 rep squats into the sequence. One and a half squats are similar to normal squats. Begin by squatting all the way down, but as you come up only go back half way. Then go back down again and come up all the way to the beginning. That completes one rep. I usually keep the reps low with my clients when we do these, they’re a lot of work when you factor in all the half reps that provide more overload by increasing time-under-tension.
Feed Your Muscles
There’s not much more satisfying than sinking an ice cold shake post workout – especially if you’ve just nailed leg day! My go-to supplements for a fast supply of protein and carbs are AFTERMATH™ or INFORMED MASS™. If I’m trying to increase my calorie intake, I’ll choose the latter. It might take a few days before I walk right, but I’m safe in the knowledge the supplements from BULK POWDERS™ are fueling my recovery.
About the Author
Dejan and Jonny are both fitness professionals stemming from a vast sporting background. Based in London they are the founders of ‘LetsTrain’ – an online, forward-thinking, fitness and nutrition resource.