Everybody loves a huge pair of legs. Personally, when I see a pair of well developed legs, I know, without a doubt that this person is very serious about their training.
I mean, I see trainers all the time in the gym with big biceps, and/or a big, puffy chest, but what I rarely see are a pair of well defined legs that goes with the rest of their development.
Why? Attaining well developed legs is no easy task! Doing monster squats until you puke is not like performing a comfortable set of bench press’.
Really, even at it’s most difficult phase, the bench press cannot come close to the sheer agony of a super hard set of squats.
Unless you’ve personally been there, it’s hard to compare a mind blowing leg workout with a biceps workout. It’s like night and day – Two totally different things.
It’s because of this difference that most trainers will never attain a pair of well developed legs (unless you’re a genetic freak!).
To put it simply, training legs for muscular development is simply too hard for most people. Unless you are very, very committed and willing to put your heart and soul into your leg training, you won’t develop the legs you want.
Why is training legs so hard? Since legs – the Quadriceps in general, are a fairly large body part, you need to hit them with heavy weights, and all out intensity to get them to respond. Now, I’m not talking about light sets of leg extensions or leg presses. I’m talking about heavy compound movements that use a large group of muscle like squats.
That means using an almost super human effort (relative to your body), and total commitment to leg training.
Let me give you a personal example. When I joined my first gym, I had a pair of toothpicks for legs (thanks to my dad’s spider like legs). While my upper body development was ok, my lower legs were almost funny in comparison. It actually got to the point where I was wearing two pairs of jogging pants just hide my small, thin legs. I mean, I “trained” them, or so I thought, and still, I couldn’t get them to grow. At the time, my leg workout consisted of 2 sets of leg extensions, 2 sets of leg press’, and two sets of leg curls. I didn’t even break a sweat!
However, one faithful day would change the way I looked at leg training – Forever. One of the owners of the gym needed a training partner for his leg workout, so I dared not decline for risk of looking like a wimp. Now, this guy stood about 5 feet, 9 inches and weighted a muscular 295 pounds. He was a super human squatting machine. Anyways, I decided to train with him and believe me, this workout took me to a place that I never thought was possible to go.
We started out doing about 5 minutes of light cardio on the exercise cycle. We chatted for a bit and soon therafter we did 3 easy sets of 20 repetitions on the leg extension machine using really light weight.
It’s funny how you can vividly remember these kinds of things because at that time, I thought this was a very, very easy workout and wondering how he built his monster thighs with such a puny workout! Well, that thought quickly disappeared because he set up the squat bar and his demeanor took on a whole different angle.
He was all business as soon as the squat bar was set. I was up first, so I did 1 set of 20 repetitions for the first set, which was pretty easy. Soon, he added more weight where I was instructed to do a set of 12 – again, no problem. He added more weight and I was instructed to do another 8 repetitions. It took a little more effort to do.
I rested until he finished his set, which he easily completed about 405 pounds for 10 repetitions. He unloaded the plates until there was about 240 pounds on the bar and he instructed me to do 8 repetitions. I barely managed to get 8 reps. For my final work set, I did a whopping 260 pounds for 6 repetitions which I needed a spot on. Whew, I thought the exercise was finished – I was wrong.
He unloaded the bar until there was about 185 pounds on it and he instructed me to do 20 repetitions. I made it to 15 reps. The set after, he lightened the load to 165 pounds and instructed me to do another 20 repetitions. I got 20 repetitions and as soon as I finished, up came my dinner. Of course, we had to finish the workout so we did leg presses, hack squats, stiff leg dead lifts and leg curls.
My legs felt like they were going to explode and my whole body shook! I’ve never worked so hard in my life! It took me about a full week and a half for my legs to recover.
This was my introduction to the “real” way to squat. I was told that if I ever wanted a huge pair of legs, I would have to go through hell and back under the squat rack. Mind you, my legs grew in 8 short weeks of training like this. About 4 months later, I was wearing shorts in the gym! Imagine what a strong will and desire to succeed can do.
Well, since that faithful day, I’ve had my share of nightmarish, leg workouts.
I’d like to provide you with a similar leg workout for mass, that will help put slabs of beef on your legs.
This is a tough workout and meant for those who are serious about getting big thighs. If you have any doubts, please don’t try this workout. I strongly suggest that you be in the right state of mind before you try doing this leg workout for mass. It will require 100% of your physical and mental efforts.
I also have to stress the importance of a spotter. DO NOT ATTEMPT HEAVY SQUATS WITHOUT A SPOTTER . Always use a spotter for your last and heaviest work sets.
Warm up: 5 minutes on the exercise bike. Don’t go too crazy here because you simply want to get the blood flowing.
The reason I’m putting leg extension here is because you need to warm up the knee area properly. I never use the leg extension as a strength or mass builder and neither should you. Use the leg extension as a warm up to your core movements.
Try doing 4 sets of 20 repetitions.
Remember, you want to use a light to moderate weight that you can perform in strict fashion. You can increase the weight with each set but don’t add so much weight that you can’t perform 20 repetitions.
Rest about 20 seconds in between each set. After you’ve completed each set, do some stretching for your legs.
Now that your legs are warmed up, it’s time to start getting serious. Try using the following set progressions:
Warm up: 1 x 20 repetitions;
Set one: 1 x 8 repetitions;
Set two: 1 x 8 repetitions;
Set three: 1 x 6 – 8 repetitions;
Set four: 1 x 6 – 8 repetitions;
Set five: 1 x 20 repetitions;
Set six: 1 x 20 repetitions.
This progression is a very tough one. For the first set, pick a weight that you can do quite easily for 20 repetitions. This set is to warm up the knee area and get the connective tissues primed for the heavy squatting. For example, if you can squat 300 pounds, try using about 40% of your max. In this case, use about 135 pounds. Rest for about 45 seconds before attempting your next set.
For set one, you want to do about 60% of your max. If you’re able to squat 300 pounds, you should be using 180 to 185 pounds. You should have no problem getting 8 easy repetitions. Here’s a little trick that I like to do in between each set. I like to massage my thighs to help with the blood flow, especially around the knee area. Try doing this in between each of your sets. Also, you should do some light stretches in between each set. Try resting about 60 seconds before you attempt the next set.
For set two, you want to do about 70% of your max. If you’re able to squat 300 pounds, you should be using 205 pounds to 210 pounds. You should be able to do this with no assistance (spot). Try resting about 60 seconds before attempting your next set.
For set three, you want to do about 80% of your max. If you’re able to squat 300 pounds, you should be using 240 pounds. I advise that you get a spotter and try and get 8 repetitions. You should be able to barely complete 8 reps with this weight. Try resting about 60 seconds before you attempt your next set. However, I strongly urge you to start when your legs are ready. If you feel they need more of a rest, take another 20 or so seconds to allow them to completely recover.
For set four, you want to do about 85% of your max. If you’re able to squat 300 pounds, you should be using about 255 to 260 pounds for this set. I strongly recommend you ask someone to spot you on this set because you’re probably going to need it. Remember, get someone who knows what they’re doing and knows how to spot – Very important! Try and get 6 strong repetitions with this weight. Once you’ve completed your set, rest for about a minute.
For set five, you want to decrease the weight back to about 60% to 65% of your max. Your going to have to really concentrate on your form here. I want you to do 20 repetitions under good control. You don’t want to go too fast here, or use sloppy form. I’m not going to lie to you, your legs (your whole body for that matter) is going to hurt here. Your will is going to start wavering around 15th rep, but if you know your legs can do it, do another 5 reps. I must warn you however, if you know that your whole body is going to collapse, put the weight back up and lower the amount of weight you use. You want to aim for 20 repetitions.
I want to stress here to use a SPOTTER. Never attempt this without someone watching over you. I don’t care if you have to ask the gym owner (highly recommended), they won’t mind and will be glad to assist you. These guys and gals would rather see you do this exercise safely than to hurt yourself, plus they will more than likely inspire some confidence.
Once you’ve completed the set, rest for about one minute and massage your thighs. Also, try stretching them a little.
For set six, your going to do the same as set five.
Take about 1 minute to recover and head over to the leg press machine.
3 sets of 12
By now, your legs should be filled with blood and pumped up. If you’re still up to it and not packed up to go home, you’re now going to perform 3 sets of 12 with the leg press. I want you to start your first set with about 60% of your max. So, if you can leg press 500 pounds, try using about 300 pounds for your first set. Rest about 40 seconds before attempting your next set.
For your second set, do another set of 12 with 70% of your max. If you can leg press 500 pounds, try using 350 pounds for this set. This is important. Get up out of the leg press apparatus and walk around. Stretch your legs a little and massage your thighs. Rest for about 50 seconds and try your next set.
For set three your going to do another set of 12 with 80% of your max. If you’re able to leg press 500 pounds, your going to do 400 pounds for 12 reps.
If you know you can do more (And want those legs), try the following. Rest for about 40 seconds and take enough weight off that equals to 65% of your max. If you can leg press 500 pounds, you should be using 300 pounds. Do 20 repetitions in slow fashion. This will round out your quadriceps routine. Rest for about one minute before heading over to the stiff leg dead lifts.
At this point, you’re probably in no mood to do stiff leg dead lifts. However, this is a necessary exercise and the only one you need to build your hamstrings. The good thing is that you don’t have to go super heavy and it is a relatively easy exercise to do. Try and do:
4 sets of 12 repetitions
I have to stress that this exercise is all about form and technique. If you can do this exercise in good form, you will be rewarded with well developed hamstrings. Don’t worry about going super heavy on this exercise because it’s not needed.
That’s it for this leg workout for mass routine. This is very, very important. As soon as you head to your change room, have a high protein, high carbohydrate drink. Make sure the drink has at least 40 grams of whey protein, 50 grams of fast acting carbohydrates such as dextrose, and 5 grams of creatine. This drink will kick start your recovery process. About an hour and a half later, have a full muscle building meal. If your serious about your muscle growth, you will make sure you have a full meal at this point.
I strongly suggest that you only do this workout once per week. Do this workout for two months and watch your legs grow!
All the best,
Blake has been weight lifting for about 28 years now. He's 45 years of age and started seriously training when he was 18 years old.
Blake is the founder of Building-Muscle101.com, a successful fitness website that has been around for more than 15 years.