Here's How You Should Be Training Your Legs

Are you training your legs? Be honest.

If not, then I suppose the popsicle look appeals to you. If you are, then I’m proud of you sir/madam.

Either way, I’m about to drop a whole lot of science on you. Let’s get right into it.

Quintessential Quad Training

As far as sets go, begin with 3-5 sets per workout and 12-15 sets per week. Yes, that means train your quads multiple times per week (we’ll get to why in a minute).

Always keep close track of how you are progressing on each exercise.

If you are getting stronger on each exercise every time you train, then keep doing what you are doing. If you are not getting stronger, then you may be overreaching the muscle. In the case of overreaching, reduce the amount of sets per workout.

“That’s what exercises, sets, and reps to do in the gym for my quads, but I need more details.”

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

The exercise are nothing fancy. There are no one weird tricks in the above video. That’s because the quads are a relatively simple muscle.

The quadriceps extend the knee. As long as knee extension is occurring, then you have, at least, a decent quad exercise.

I DO want you to stay away from most squat machines and the leg press (we’ll get into why in a moment).

Because of the nature of the quadriceps, you have to throw everything at them (including the kitchen sink). Therefore, I want you to make use of every quad exercise that I have listed above.

“Why do I have to throw everything at the quads?”

The four heads of the quadriceps are pretty big muscles, and three of those heads have a mixed fiber type. Meaning you need to make use of every rep range available to you.

There is also research to suggest that different exercise variations train different parts of the quads to different degrees.

In other words, a leg extension will hit a different portion of your quads than a squat will.

Since you’ll be training the quads multiple times per week, pick one exercise of each type (squat, lunge, and machine) and perform that exercise on its own day.

It should look something like this,

Also, you’re going to need to stick to each exercise variation for around 10 weeks

If you’d like to know why check out this article

While I want you to take liberties and make use of each of the above quad exercises, the Standing Leg Extension is unlike any other quad exercise.

“Why is the Standing Leg Extension different?”

Because of the Rectus Femoris. The Rectus Femoris is the head of the quadricep that is a bit different from the others. The RF has a function that the other heads don’t have, hip flexion.

A muscle can’t properly cause movement at two joints (this is called the length-tension relationship). So in order to properly train the Rectus Femoris, one of the joints that it acts on has to be neutral.

The standing leg extension is the ONLY exercise that REALLY hits the Rectus Femoris.

If you want overall quad development, you need to use the Standing Leg Extension.

Here’s an entire article I wrote about the Standing Leg Extension.

“What about the rep ranges you suggested? What’s the reason for that?”

The rep ranges I gave are only a suggestion. Use them if you’d like. BUT, you do need to use a mix of rep ranges because of the mixed fiber type of the quadriceps.

Plus, certain rep ranges lend themselves to certain exercises.

Here’s an example: You want to do a high rep quadricep exercise. You’ve got the squat, lunge, and leg extension to choose from.

Doing high-reps on the squat presents a couple of issues.

  1. The squat involves a LOT of muscles. By the time most people get to rep number 15 one of their other muscle groups is too fatigued to continue.
  2. High reps on a compound movement will bring a cardio component to the exercise. Most people will be too out of breath to continue after getting to rep 15.

“What about low reps on the leg extension?”

The knee is in a vulnerable position during leg extensions.

Using a heavy weight that you can only do three reps with will put a lot of unnecessary stress on your knees.

Therefore, high reps work better with the leg extension.

“Why do you recommend staying away from the leg press and other squat machines?”

No exercise is automatically bad.

But, the squat recruits many muscle groups. Most of those muscles are working to keep you stable as you squat down and stand up with all that weight on your back.

When using a machine, the weight you are lifting is on a track, meaning you don’t have to stabilize.

Because those muscles aren’t working, various joints can be placed in awkward positions, which can lead to injury.

As far as the leg press, it doesn’t provide any specific advantages over the squat or lunge. In fact, research has supplied evidence demonstrating the squat and lunge cause more muscle activity than the leg press.

Therefore, your time is better spent squatting and lunging your heart out.

Hulking Up Those Hamstrings

A lot of guys don’t train their hamstrings for the same reason many don’t train their calves; you can’t seem them in the mirror.

But there is one MAJOR reason to train the hell out of those hams. But first, the exercises you should be doing.

“How should I organize my Hamstring training?”

Variation isn’t as important for the hamstrings because they tend to be a more fast twitch muscle.

That means the hams should be trained with heavier weights and lower reps. It also means you should use less overall sets per week (8-12 should suffice).

Here’s an example,

“Why do you specifically suggest doing eccentrics for the hamstrings?”

Because eccentrics have been demonstrated to help prevent injury, and injury prevention is the number one reason that you should be training the hell out of your hamstrings

The quads and the hams each pull the knee joint in different directions. If one of those muscles becomes stronger than the other, then the knee joint will be pulled into an awkward position, which can get you hurt.

If one of those muscles becomes stronger than the other, the knee joint will be pulled into an awkward position, which can get you hurt.

Training for hamstring strength is the best way to prevent knee injury.

For the Stiff Legged Deadlift, perform a range of motion (ROM) test. Here’s a short video showing you how,

When you round your back, your chances of a spinal injury skyrocket. Obviously, you don’t want that.

Most males don’t have the mobility to touch the floor during a Stiff Legged/ Romanian Deadlift to touch the floor (while most females do).

Do the test, see how far you can go, and stick to that ROM faithfully.

“You said to use an exercise from both the hip flexed and hip extended list. How come?”

Because of the Length-Tension Relationship of the four heads of the hamstrings. The hips flexed and hips extended positions will train different parts of your hamstrings.

If you’d like to know more about why using different isolation exercises is necessary, CLICK HERE.

That’s it! That’s how you should be training your legs. To summarize,


Quadriceps

  1. Train them multiple times per week.
  2. Use a combination of squats, lunges, and machines.
  3. Use rep ranges that work well for those particular exercises.

Hamstrings

  1. Use lower reps and heavier weight.
  2. Having strong hamstrings will help prevent knee injuries.
  3. Don’t go too low on the Deadlift.