Everyone hates leg day, but truthfully it’s one of the most important routines for a balanced physique. Of course, none of us want to be the guy who looks like he’s about to tip over because his tiny legs can’t keep his massive upper body upright. On top of that, though, working your legs will actually help you develop a larger overall physique. When you work a muscle group, it releases testosterone, growth hormone, and a slew of other anabolic (muscle building) compounds into your body. Your legs are the largest muscle group in your entire body, and as such, will release the highest amount of these anabolic hormones. Essentially, by working your legs you are putting your body in a more anabolic state, primed to develop more muscle overall. Sounds pretty good right?
|Squats||7||12,10,8,6,4,3, As Many As Possible|
|Standing Calf Raises||4||10-15|
|Seated Calf Raises||4||20-25|
Okay, so you’ve decided to do leg day… Now what? It’s tough to develop a good leg routine. There are more leg machines in the gym than I can count, and that doesn’t even include all the weird step-up/lunge/box jump variations that I see every day. Well, the answer is actually quite simple. It’s a basic exercise that you’ve been doing since not long after you learned to walk. We’re going to squat. Jump under that squat bar and get ready to work. Start off with a nice easy warm-up set of 12-15 reps with just the bar. Keep your chest up and your core tight. This isn’t a working set, but don’t slouch on your form just because the weight is light. You’re setting the stage for a killer squat session here, and you don’t want to get in the habit of using bad form. Now it’s time to work. Keep the rest periods short (30-60 seconds), and get after it on these squats. Put on a relatively light weight and bust out 12 reps. Add some more weight and hit 10 reps on the next set. On the next set you’re going to drop down to 8 reps and, you guessed it, up the weight. By this fourth working set, you should be using a relatively heavy weight, but be sure to get 6 good reps. Up the weight again and hit do a solid 4 repetitions. By this point, you may hate yourself for attempting this workout. Maybe you’re cussing me out for creating this hell. I don’t care how you have to motivate yourself, just shut up and squat. For your heaviest set, push yourself through 3 heavy reps. There’s no need to push yourself to a one rep max every day, so we’ll stop upping the weight there. You’re not done yet though. Drop the weight back down to the amount you used on your first set (of 12 reps) and push through as many reps as you possibly can. Your legs should be pretty dead at this point, so you probably won’t get too far past 12 reps. Great job, you’ve survived the first exercise.
Next we’re going to work on another essential leg exercise, the deadlift. It should be noted that if you’re really serious about you’re getting your deadlift up; you should perform deadlifts on a separate day from squats (typically back day). If this is the case, substitute this exercise with back extensions or Romanian deadlifts. If you’re only planning on working legs once a week though, it’s important to hit deadlifts. Squats focus on the front of your legs (quads), but also work the back (hamstrings). In the same manner, deadlifts will emphasize your hamstrings, while also incorporating your quads. Since your legs are likely still burning from squats, we’ll keep it simple and do four sets of 8-10 reps (after a light warm-up set) with about 90 seconds rest between sets.
Alright, you’ve gotten the heavy, compound movements out of the way now. All you have left is a few isolation movements. For your quads, we’re going to hit 3 sets of 8-12 reps on leg extensions. Take it slow, and try not to cheat. Then, we’re going to do the same thing (3×8-12) on leg curls. I prefer to do lying leg curls, as I feel they are more challenging. If this machine is unavailable in your gym go for the seated variation. Rest periods should be kept to about a minute here.
You’re almost done! Now we’re going to finish up by transforming your calves into full-blown cows. If you’re able to use a standing calf raise machine in your gym, that’s my first choice. If not, load up the leg press, and do your calf raises there. We’re going to go for 4 heavy sets of 10-15 reps. However, to really flood the muscle with blood and nutrients; we’re going to perform standing calf raises from the ground immediately after each set. Do as many of these as possible as a sort of burnout.
Finally, it’s time for the last exercise. Head over to the seated calf raise machine, and get your rep work in. Here we’re going to bust out 20-25 reps for four sets. Similar to the last exercise, perform the exercise from the ground after each set. Bend your knees to simulate the position of the machine, holding the machine for balance if needed, and perform as many reps as possible.
Congratulations! You survived. Go rest up now and be ready for some serious soreness tomorrow. It’ll be rough at first, but the more you work your legs, the less sore they’ll be. Keep up the good work and let me know if you have any questions or comments. Thanks for reading!