After training for eight months, my upper body is responding well, but my thighs are still pencil-thin. How can I jump-start my thigh development?
In one word: SQUAT! There is no better sizebuilding exercise known to man than the barbell squat, and it’s an exercise I relied upon throughout my own bodybuilding career. Squats employ every muscle group in your lower body and some in your upper body, as well. You can’t hope to build big legs without paying respects to the king of leg exercises.
On the other hand, squats are probably responsible for more knee problems than any other exercise. However, it’s not because of anything inherently wrong with them. They are often performed incorrectly or without a good warm-up beforehand. When I was younger, I’d start my leg workouts with squats, but I often experienced sore knees afterward. Around the time of my first Olympia win in 1984, I realized that I needed to train more scientifically if I wanted longevity in the sport. I decided to begin my workouts with leg extensions.
Leg extensions are great for carving detail into the quadriceps, and they warm up the knee joints like no other exercise. I recommend performing four sets of 12 to 15 reps to start off the thigh workout. However, squats are so intense that I believe even this is not enough to fully prepare the joints for squats. The next exercise on my agenda would be leg presses. Personally, I am a fan of the oldschool leg-press machines in which you lie on your back with your knees above your face. I like the feel of that movement and the drama in pushing the heavy weight up over you. If you fail with it, you could be in trouble, so there’s a lot of motivation built in. In this case, the angled leg-press machine will suffice. Aim for four sets of eight to 10 reps of leg presses.
Now you are all set for the Big Daddy exercise: squats. Understand that your thighs may not be able to handle the same weight that they could if you were lifting fresh, but that’s OK. Your knees should be thoroughly warmed up. Plus, you can put the same amount of stress on the thigh muscles using lighter weight than if you had started the routine with squats — another knee-saver. Putting them third in line makes for a win-win situation.
Again, perform four sets of eight to 10 reps, increasing the weight while decreasing the number of reps.
Finish the thigh workout with four sets of leg curls for the hamstring area and then call it a day. That’s 16 total sets of hardcore and, most important, smart thigh training. Stick with this program for four solid months or so, and I guarantee you’re going to find yourself shopping for a new pair of shorts for next summer! - FLEX