Basketball players are built for endurance and explosive leaping ability. It’s not the typical recipe for tape-measure-stretching size. And indeed, in his early stages of weight training for mass, Heath had to reassess and regroup. And it’s there that the foundations of his current leg workout were born.
Phil's legs are given priority treatment, coming first in his six-day training split—quads in the late morning, hamstrings and calves on the same day in the early evening around 7 p.m. He needs every moment of rest in between, considering the gauntlet he puts his hams through…for good reason, of course.
“Playing basketball in college led me to be more quad dominant,” he says. “I’m sure a lot of lifters face the same issue. You can end up having knee problems because of that imbalance in strength between quads and hams. I wouldn’t say it’s a trouble spot, but the back of my legs require a lot of attention.”
It has also necessitated experimentation, as he strove to settle the age-old question: Which is better for legs—higher reps or heavier weight? The answer? Well, both. “Squats, for instance, I’ll sometimes go with the heaviest weight I can for 20 reps,” he says. “What I’m trying to do is pump them, pushing a ton of blood volume into my quads. I’ve been able to create a lot of roundness in the muscle bellies, as opposed to just prompting more density with heavy, low-rep training.”
That, he says, is a lesson anyone can benefit from. “You need to make sure you’re working with different rep ranges, angles, and exercises to find out what produces results for you,” he says. “A lot of guys can squat 500, 600 pounds but have relative twigs for legs—they obviously need more volume. And other guys are always doing higher reps, but should be following a periodization program, where they do a 10-8-6-4-rep program to build strength every now and again throughout the year.”
The biggest factor, though, comes down to this: How bad do you want big legs? “It’s form and failure,” he says. “You need to make sure you’re getting a good range of motion, and leaving everything on the gym floor. Any less, and you’re just cheating yourself.”
FLEXOnline breaks down Phil Heath's leg routine, exercise by exercise. Click "Next Page" for: Leg Extension & Standing Single-Leg Curl!