Alternate quads and hamstrings for maximum growth.
A good pair of legs is as important to the body as a good set of wheels is to a car. But like a quality set of wheels, strong, healthy legs come at a high price. So, don’t take the following powerful legs exercises — especially the sissy squat—lightly. Because this is an incredibly intense workout that will turn your thighs into killer wheels. Serious focus and intensity are required.
Target: Quadriceps and hamstrings.
Setup: Stand with a barbell balanced across your traps. Your feet should be wider than shoulder width apart. Before you continue with this exercise, make sure that the bar is placed symmetrically.
Action: Once you feel comfortably balanced, contract your quadriceps and gluteal muscles and lower your body slowly. When you reach the point where your upper legs are just below parallel to the floor, push back up to the top without “locking out” and repeat the movement. Make sure to keep your abdominal muscles tight to protect your lower back, and keep your head up and your eyes fixed ahead as you perform this exercise.
Sled Hack Squat
Target: Quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes.
Setup: Step into a hack sled with your feet shoulder width apart and positioned near the top of the foot plate.
Action: Starting in an upright position (without locking out your knees), contract your quadriceps muscles and slowly lower into a squat position. Once you reach the bottom movement (where your upper legs are just below parallel to the platform), press the sled back to the top without “locking out” and repeat the movement. Make sure to keep your abdominal muscles tight and your lower back planted firmly against the rear padding to avoid a back injury.
Stiff-Legged Barbell Dead Lift
Target: Hamstrings and glutes.
Setup: Grab a barbell with a grip that’s slightly wider than your shoulders.
Action: With your back straight and your upper body rigid, contract your hamstrings slowly and ease the barbell off the floor. Bring your body up and stand up straight. Without resting, return to a position where the barbell is slightly above the floor; repeat. Keep your knees fixed and slightly bent throughout the movement.
Setup: In case the name of this one throws you off a bit, be warned that this exercise is definitely not for sissies—and you might be sore for a few days after you’ve done it. First, hang on to something fixed, like a squat rack, to keep steady during the exercise. Stand on the balls of your feet with your feet positioned slightly wider than shoulder width apart. If you have trouble keeping your balance, put a couple of five-pound plates under your heels. Keep your upper legs and torso in a straight line, from your shoulders to your knees.
Action: Start by leaning back slightly—this is the top position of the movement. Next, break your knees slowly and lower your body as far as you can without falling backward. If you feel like you’ve gone too far, you can use your supporting hand to pull yourself back up. Once you reach the bottom of the movement, push yourself back up to the top without “locking out” and repeat.
Intensity Tip: Once you’ve mastered this exercise, try holding a light weight (a little goes a long way here) on your chest with your free hand. To avoid injury, take your time and use caution when learning and performing this advanced exercise.
Seated Leg Curl
Setup: Sit in a seated leg curl machine and place the back of your lower legs (slightly above your heels) on the roller pads. Tightly position the thigh anchor over your thighs to avoid upper-leg movement during the exercise. Keep your knees slightly bent at the top of the movement to avoid injuring your knee joints.
Action: Contract your hamstrings while pulling the foot pad toward your body without jerking. When you reach the end of the movement, return to the top and repeat. Take time to adjust the machine to fit your body to ensure optimum performance and functionality.
Safety First: Use a spotter and machine safety guards whenever possible. Perform a light warm-up set before each exercise. Take no more than one set of each exercise to the point of momentary muscle failure.