Bodybuilders love the radical German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who famously stated, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” If Nietzsche had tried our Killer Leg Workouts, he would have said (between sobs), “That which does not kill us makes us wish we were dead.”
When you’ve emerged from the gym after completing this trilogy, a flight of stairs is going to look like a mountain. Getting out of your car will most likely be a six-step process. But we’re not pushing you to extremes simply for the sake of making you suffer. We want you to see the stark difference in your physique potential based on what you’re doing now compared to what you’ll be able to achieve once you’ve embarked on this program. For inspiration, here’s a quote from one of our favorite American philosophers, Clubber Lang: “Prediction? Pain.”
Killer Legs Workout No. 1
Why It’s Killer: You’ll superset single-joint moves using pre-exhaust before implementing a variety of multi-joint leg thrashers.
The first leg workout starts with one of the most unique pre-exhaust schemes you’ll encounter: performing single-joint or isolation exercises first in your session, followed by compound multi-joint exercises. The goal of pre-exhaust is to fatigue the target muscle group so that when you perform the multi-joint move, the target muscle continues to be trained without the set ending prematurely due to secondary muscle group failure.
What’s more, you’re going to do supersets with antagonist single-joint moves. Antagonist means targeting two different muscles that work around the same joint, in this case the hamstrings and quads. Normally, during a few standard sets of leg extensions, the hamstring muscles inhibit the contraction of the quads to a degree. However, preceding the leg extensions with a set of lying leg curls lessens the inhibitory effect so your quads can contract with greater force. Without resting, jump right into the heavier set targeting the opposite muscle (in this case, leg extensions). Select the appropriate weight for each superset. Leg extensions should not be done with a lot of weight (just enough so you can do 15 reps), as you’re only going to perform a handful of explosive reps.
After completing three supersets, rest two minutes before attacking the second superset combo, which switches the muscle groups so the opposite muscle gets the benefit of the antagonist spark. The second superset combo begins with your bodyweight (reverse hamstrings curl), but is no less intense. The second isolation move is the weighted sissy squat. Try and use a plate across your chest and, if necessary, drop the plate to complete the set with just your bodyweight.
All of that work will constitute the entire pre-exhaust tactic, which precedes your bigger compound moves like leg presses and hack squats, which we’ve paired with intensity techniques all their own. Finish off the workout with four sets of Smith machine front squats for good measure and arguably one of the best pumps you’ll ever experience.
Killer Legs Workout No. 2
Why It’s Killer: You’ll use the power rack to eliminate rebound energy and shorten range of motion to overload your quads.
Time to hit the rack, one of the best inventions for developing incredible leg mass. The power rack is great because it has safeties that can be placed at many different levels along the range of motion. But while lesser mortals simply adjust the safety bars up or down for safety, you’re going to use them as launching pads.
For many of your sets inside the rack, you’ll begin and end each rep from the bottom position. Technically, that’s known as a “reverse squat,” but let’s call it what it is: insane. During a standard squat — regardless of weight — your body builds up energy during the negative (downward) portion of the rep. As you descend into the squat, the elastic recoil builds energy, helping you explode out of the hole. Don’t believe us? Try stopping for a full second at the bottom and see how much energy you lose. With this workout, you’re going to force your quads to get you out of the hole without the benefit of that built-up energy. And that’s going to cause your legs to swell.
The best way to do this is to just let the bar settle on the safeties (set to near the bottom of the range of motion) on each rep, and then explode through the floor to the standing position. Think of each squat rep like a deadstop deadlift, letting the bar settle completely before rising up again. After you’ve destroyed your quads with these reverse-style squats, you’ll perform standard squats at that same angle using the same equipment — but without letting the bar rest.
Here’s another kicker: You’ll perform that sequence of reverse and standard squats at three different levels: 1) to a point at which your thighs are parallel to the floor, 2) with the safeties 8 to 10 inches higher, and 3) with the safeties 4 to 6 inches from the standing position. Start in the deepest squat position first and work your way upward. You’ll need to adjust the weight at each level according to the prescribed rep range because the more you reduce the range of motion the stronger you will be. Keep in mind that at each level, the weight you can handle in reverse fashion will be different (less) than the weight you can do in standard fashion because of the loss of elastic energy, so adjust accordingly.
After your power-rack blitz, you’ll use everything you have left to tackle the Romanian deadlift for some grueling straight sets, then finish off this killer workout with drop sets of extensions and leg curls to failure at various rep ranges. You’ll hit sets as heavy as six and as light as 12 reps, dropping the weight at each and hitting additional failure points. By design, you should have nothing left at the end. Nothing, that is, but bigger legs.
Killer Legs Workout No. 3
Why it’s Killer: Slowing your speed on the positive and negative rep reduces momentum and increases time under tension.
The final routine in this mix might be the toughest of them all because it takes as much discipline as guts. You’ll incorporate one of the most underutilized schemes for this one: super-slow-rep training. Most bodybuilders fail to realize that rep pace can dramatically trigger muscle fibers into growth. Done correctly, the results are far too good to ignore. Hitting each rep in such a measured fashion minimizes momentum and maximizes the force being placed upon the quads, glutes and hamstrings. Each muscle fiber that’s called into play is progressively fatigued and literally shocked into growth.
Start by choosing a weight that corresponds to anywhere between 50 and 75 percent of your 10RM on both the leg press and hack squat. (That is, determine the weight you can do on each move for 10 reps, then take 50 to 75 percent of that weight.) Each rep will require you to take 10 seconds on the negative portion and 10 seconds on the positive. (Surprisingly, the 10 seconds on the positive portion is the most brutal, and we’re almost certain you’ll need to reduce the weight.) This tactic is so intense that you’ll employ it for only three of the five sets. Those last two sets should be done at your normal pace, coming down under control on the negative and exploding upward on the positive, until failure.
After those last two sets, you’ll further obliterate your legs by hitting isolation moves in tri-set fashion. First, you’ll take on the Romanian deadlift. Without resting, move on to the seated leg curl, then complete the tri-set with the reverse leg curl. Finish the day with a superset of Smith machine front squats and weighted sissy squats to bombard those front quads even more.