According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American between the ages of 25–54 works nearly nine hours a day. Many work much longer.
The 24 hours in a day are nonnegotiable, but as the responsibilities pile up, the available hours dwindle down. Along with long work days, there are family and household responsibilities. Free time becomes a luxury, and sometimes carving out enough time to train feels like an impossible task.
The good news is, you can get an intense workout in a short amount of time. In fact, this week I’m giving you a workout that will blast your legs to oblivion in just 30 minutes. If this still sounds like too much, I challenge you to take an inventory of your day because watching Keeping up with Kardashians is not valid use of your time.
High Volume, High Intensity
This abbreviated leg workout isn’t a training concession. Many legends of iron have thrived on abbreviated workouts. Guys like Mike and Ray Mentzer, Dr. Ken Leistner, Dorian Yates, Casey Viator and Boyer Coe have all taken this high-volume, high-intensity approach.
Science routinely validates the need for higher volume protocols to maximize muscle growth. The question begs, how did the aforementioned iron game iconoclasts get the job done? Intensity! Giving 100 percent and pushing yourself to the limit is the game changer. In the words of English Philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, these workouts will be “nasty, brutish, and short.”
Setup: Stand erect holding a bar across your upper back with your feet about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and your toes turned out slightly.
Execution: Keeping your head neutral, abs tight and torso erect, bend at the knees and hips to slowly lower your body as if you were going to sit down in a chair. Pause when your legs reach at least a 90-degree angle, then forcefully drive through your heels, extending at your hips and knees until you’re standing again.
Keystone deadlifts are one of the most underrated, underutilized hamstring exercises in existence. We will do one set of 12 reps going as heavy as possible without sacrificing technique. This is such an usual exercise — the position you assume resembles that of the old time “Keystone Cops,” with your butt and belly protruding (lower back is arched). This position causes your hamstrings (back of thigh) to become pre-stretched. Then while keeping your back arched, lower the barbell down your legs until it reaches your knees and stand back up.
Setup: Grab a barbell and stand in an upright position. Bend your knees slightly and keep the shins vertical, hips back and back straight. This will be your starting position.
Execution: Keeping your back and arms completely straight at all times, push your butt back and bend at the waist. Lower the barbell by pushing the hips back, only slightly bending the knees. Think a hinge not a squat. The barbell remains in contact with your thighs the entire movement. Lower the barbell to just right below the knees. Extend hips back to the starting point.
So why not leg extensions to torch the quads? Bodyweight squats are more functional. Bodyweight squats force one to sit down rather than back, really placing a very intense overload on the quads contrasted to power squats, not to mention the fact they are a helluva lot more functional than leg extensions.
Setup: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. You can place your hands behind your head. This will be your starting position.
Execution: Flexing your knees and hips, sit back with your hips. Continue down to full depth if you are able, and quickly reverse the motion until you return to the start position. As you squat, keep your head and chest up and push your knees out.
We will do these in the Juarez Valley Method, which is a creation of the Jailhouse Strong training system. The Juarez Valley Method offers alternating ascending and descending reps. Repetitions are performed in descending order on all odd-number sets, but repetitions are performed in ascending order on even-number sets. They meet in the middle A Juarez Valley 20 is performed liked this:
Set 1: 20 reps
Set 2: 1 rep
Set 3: 19 reps
Set 4: 2 reps
Set 5: 18 reps
Set 6: 3 reps
Set 7: 17 reps
Set 8: 4 reps
Set 9: 16 reps
Set 10: 5 reps
Set 11: 15 reps
Set 12: 6 reps
Set 13: 14 reps
Set 14: 7 reps
Set 15: 13 reps
Set 16: 8 reps
Set 17: 12 reps
Set 18: 9 reps
Set 19: 11 reps
Set 20: 10 reps
Between each set the rest interval is an eight-foot walk across your “cell” or wherever you train. The goal is to complete this sequence in less than eight minutes.