There are so many unique training principles you can use to build bigger, stronger quads. I should know, because I tried just about all of them during my competitive days to ensure that my lower body was as impressive as my chest, back, and arms. Because of my willingness to try anything and everything on leg day, I succeeded in creating a great pair of quads that helped me win seven Mr. Olympia titles. Here are four of my favorite leg-training principles:
DO SMITH MACHINE LUNGES
These are a great quad-building move, but lifers often fail to realize their full potential using free weights. Barbell lunges compromise balance, causing many gym-goers to use less resistance. With dumbbells, going heavy can tire your hands and forearms far more than your legs, meaning your legs don’t always reach full exhaustion. The solution is stationary Smith machine lunges, where: 1) the machine helps balance the bar, and 2) you’re not holding the weight in your hands, but rather, on your upper back.
Of all the factors holding people back when it comes to adding size to the quads, adequate range of motion is one of the biggest. So many trainees go only halfway down, sometimes even less, on squats, leg presses, and hack squats. You’ll never maximize quad mass doing half squats. On each and every rep, you should reach the point at which your thighs are parallel to the foor on squats, or parallel to the machine platform on leg presses and hack squats. And I’m a huge fan of going past parallel from time to time—almost to where my glutes would touch the backs of my ankles—even if it means going a bit lighter in weight.
USE HIGHER REPS
The rule of thumb for gaining size is to use a rep range of eight to 12. With legs, however, I’ve always found—and research backs me up—that higher reps produce the biggest gains. I experienced great results with squats, lunges, leg presses, and leg extensions when doing sets of 15–20 reps. But this doesn’t mean you should train legs with light weight; I always went as heavy as possible on leg day, even when using high-rep ranges.
These are great for building quad mass. But keep in mind, since safety is always an issue when training legs, machine exercises such as leg presses and extensions tend to be safer than free-weight squats and front squats. Because your legs get so fatigued when supersetting, you don’t want to risk losing your balance with a bar on your back. In the box below, I provide a great quad workout incorporating all of these training principles. Give this routine a try next time you train legs, and see the difference it can make in your development.