Quad-Focused Leg Dayby Zach Trowbridge on August 28, 2023
This leg day is something that I was using during the prep for my last show – each week there was a quad-focused day, and second day with more emphasis on glutes and hamstrings. The volume isn’t incredibly high relatively speaking, but there are some intensity techniques added to some of the working sets to ramp up the challenge level.
2 Legs Up, 1 Leg Down Lying Leg Curl
This is something I learned from Charles Poliquin – the basic concept is that you’ll use a weight that’s a bit heavier than you could do if you were just doing a standard single-leg leg curl. You’ll curl up with both legs, but then remove one leg on the negative so you’re only lowering it with one leg. In general, a muscle can handle much more for the eccentric part of the rep than it can for the concentric – up to 150% In some cases. So this works great for exposing the hamstrings to some additional load that it otherwise wouldn’t be able to get – think of it like forced reps but without the need for a training partner.
My hamstrings have always been much weaker with leg curl movements than with hinging movements like deadlift variations, and using this variation for short cycles (4-6 weeks) is helpful for adding strength to the conventional bilateral version.
Do 1-2 warmup sets of 15 reps with both legs, then 3 sets of 6-8 reps using an extra 10-15lbs more than you could do if you were just doing 1 leg all by itself.
This is a machine that for years, like many bodybuilders, I ignored, but after having used it consistently and with the same mentality that would go into any other leg exercise. After all, as a single joint exercise for the adductors, it’s not much different than a leg curl for hamstrings or leg extension for quads and can be trained in very similar ways.
By placing it early in the workout, it also helps bring my adductors into the mix more easily on compound quad exercises, and bringing up my inner thighs is a focus leading into my next contest prep.
Start with two warmup sets of 15 reps to warm up the hip joint, then pyramid up doing sets of 10-12 until you can no longer get at least 10 reps. Then, rest 2 minutes and drop the weight down to about 70% of what you used for your top set and do a back-off set, slowing down the tempo and squeezing for 1-2 seconds at the top of each rep. The slower pace may mean you’re still only getting 10-12 reps even with the weight reduction.
Reverse Band Hack Squat
Over the last 6 months or so, this has become my go-to quad exercise. The reverse band setup allows for more overload at the top where you’re strongest, and takes stress off the hips to allow you to keep all the load in the quads.
I prefer to use a fairly narrow stance with my heels about 6” apart, and my toes turned out a good 30 degrees or so. To add more adductor tension, I don’t want to flare my knees out wider and wider during the squat, but just think about driving my knees forward while keeping lots of tension through my big toe and heel, and allowing my knees to stay directly in alignment with my feet.
Work up doing sets of 6 until you hit a weight that will be a struggle to hit 8-10 reps, and that will be your top set. Then rest 2 minutes and cut the weight in half for the back-off set. The back-off set will be a contrast set – the first 5 reps will be done at a 5 seconds down, 5 seconds up pace, with no pausing at the top or bottom. Then, after those 5 reps, continue going to failure at a normal pace, making sure to hit full range of motion on every rep. You can see what this looks like below:
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Nothing fancy here – since you should be warmed up from the hack squats, you should only need a couple of feeder sets to get up to your heaviest weight here. For example, I might do something like:
4 plates for 6 reps
6 plates for 6 reps
8 plates for 10 reps
Do two sets with your top weight, resting a good 3 minutes between sets.
Countdown Leg Extension
To finish, we’ll bring out some traditional Mountain Dog-style high rep brutality on the leg extension. Find a weight you can do for 15 reps with maybe 2-3 reps in the tank when you finish – it should be hard, but not to failure.
You’ll do one set, done as a countdown set – you’ll start with 10 reps, then rest 10 seconds, then do 9 reps, then rest for 9 seconds, 8 reps then resting 8 seconds, and so on, until you get down to 1 rep. On your final rep, try to kick your legs up as high as you can and hold it for as long as you possibly can until you can’t hold it anymore. Try to lock out each rep in the earlier parts of the set, but by the end you’ll be fighting just to get the weight moving and you may not be able to lock it out anymore.
That’s it – with the exception of the leg curls at the beginning, most everything only has 1-2 working sets, but your goal is to put everything you can into those work sets.
Zach is the co-owner and head strength coach of All Strength Training, a personal training center specializing in busy professionals located in Chicago, IL. He is also a competitive physique athlete, having earned his pro card in the WBFF in 2016, and currently competes in the NPC classic physique division.