Lagging Legs: Forgotten exercises for building massive thighs
“You can’t build a house without a foundation”
A long time ago when being a bodybuilder was just an idea being thrown around, the introduction to the quote above resonated with me and made perfect sense. This ideology was drilled into my psyche and the idea of building a physique from the ground up was going to be the path of least resistance for success and would set me apart from those who skipped leg day rather frequently. Leg day, as it is commonly referred to, is probably the most revered and most difficult training day of the cycle as when it is performed correctly, leaves you ill, in pain and completely messed up. For those genetically blessed with full, round and large quadriceps muscles, leg day turns into a time for glory as the poundages they are capable of handling seem ungodly for mere mortals. For those who struggle week after week hoping for a half an inch here and there on their quad size, leg day can become either painfully disturbing or even dreadful with the thought of putting yourself through so much agony for little to no progress to show from it. Variety is the spice of life and sometimes you need a new stimulus to initiate new gains; this is where you’ll be able to benefit from reading this article.
The following exercises may have gone by the wayside in your approach to quad training but should be revisited or utilized for the first time if you are in need of a shock treatment for your quads.
The inverted leg press
Many of you have probably made use of the leg press in your regular leg training program. But how many of you have had the opportunity to try the inverted leg press? Most gyms I’ve trained at do not have this apparatus on the gym floor making it very difficult for anyone to ever get the chance to even try it out. The inverted leg press works much the same way as a standard leg press does however instead of the sled moving through a plane of motion usually set up on a 45 degree angle or so, the inverted leg press moves through a complete up and down motion with no angle added whatsoever. The foot platform is right above your head or chest (depending on how you set up), you lie down on your back putting your feet up above you on the foot platform, push and release the safety hatches the same as you would on a regular leg press, then allow for the weight lower straight down on you pushing it back up in the same plane of movement. When done, rack it and then add more weight. If you don’t have a vertical leg press in your gym, here’s what you can do. Set up a flat bench in the smith machine, lie down on it placing your feet above you on the bar, push it up and off the rack, have someone help you roll the bar back, let the weight come down at you and then press it back up. When you’re finished have the same person roll the bar back onto the safety catch for you. You have just completed a modified vertical leg press.
The Jefferson squat
We all know how effective the back squat and the front squat can be for quadriceps development; but what about an old school favorite known as the Jefferson squat? To perform this exercise all you need is a few very basic pieces of equipment; a barbell, some free weights and a place on the gym floor free of clutter. This exercise, while primitive in nature, has yielded amazing results in leg development for those who use it on a consistent basis. All you do here is load up a barbell with whatever weight you’ll be using, set yourself up so that you are straddling the barbell (you can have your feet in line with each other or use a staggered step), squat down and grasp the barbell with one hand in front of your body and the other behind your back, keep your back nice and straight then while still holding onto the barbell, squat up to just shy of legs locking out, then back down again. Many will say that this exercise is best suited for hitting the hamstrings and glutes, but if you shift your focus just a little bit to pushing from the balls of your feet from completely all from your heels, you’ll more than feel this exercise hitting your quads.
Not only do I love the oxymoronic nature of the name for this exercise, but I also love the amazing pump I get in the quads when performing the sissy squat. Let’s be crystal clear here; there is nothing sissy about doing these and I challenge anyone who says otherwise. If you are lucky enough and your gym has this apparatus on its floor, then take full advantage of it. Whether you perform sissy squats on their own, in combination with another exercise for a crazy superset or you decide to do bodyweight sissy squats or hold onto plates for added resistance, the sissy squat targets the quads in an unbelievable fashion and will push a ton of blood into your quads for a great pump. If you gym doesn’t have the specific apparatus needed for doing sissy squats, then no worries. Here’s what you can do: grab a 25lb plate and put it on the floor. The slight elevation will be just enough to initially engage the quads. Then by focusing on pushing through your heels the entire set and using a motion that takes you all the way down and then about a few inches shy of locking out your knees, you have effectively completed a sissy squat. Let’s add to this; do the same thing I just described but have your training partner stand behind you and lean back and into them creating a different plane of motion to move through making this exercise even more unbearable and even more effective. Try this stuff if you don’t believe me and I think you’ll have the sissy squat as a regular part of your leg day protocol before you know it.
Just like the quote above says, you cannot build a solid physique when you’re standing on stilts.
Attack your leg training exactly the same way you attack your favorite body part to train. Legs can either be a standout body part for you or something that is going to hold you back from physique success. If all the other exercises that exist for training your quads have failed, give these ones a try for a couple months and see how it goes. As unconventional as they may be or as forgotten as they have become, it may just take a whole new approach for you and your training to bring up lagging legs.
Author: Dana Bushell
AST Sports Science sponsored athlete/writer, ENDEVR Brand Ambassador, Sponsored by Schiek Sports Inc., SKECHERS Brand Ambassador.
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