You don’t include standard barbell squats in your thigh routine. Do you not highly rate that exercise?
I absolutely rate barbell squats high, but I was forced to abandon them in 1986 when I injured my right hip, which required surgery. From then on, I couldn’t do freestanding squats without a lot of pain, so I was forced to explore other thigh-mass exercises. Eventually, I devised the following exercise repertoire to circumvent squats while still packing plenty of beef onto my thighs.
I like to start with these as a way to pre-exhaust my quads before jumping into the heavy compound thigh exercises. Extensions are also great for building separation into the front of thighs. Be sure not to jerk or throw the weight up when performing these. A slow controlled movement is what you should strive to achieve. Also, concentrate on the quads as you perform the movement, lifting with them on the way up, holding and squeezing for a second at the top of the movement, and then controlling the weight on the way down. Quick explosive movements — the kind I see so many people do — can easily lead to a knee injury.
LEG PRESSES OR SMITH MACHINE SQUATS
Either of these exercises will serve you well as a squat-replacement exercise. I’ve found that each relieves much of the hip stress I feel when performing squats, so I’m able to hit my thighs in a way squats simply won’t allow. As with extensions, it’s important to consider your form. I’ve seen many guys bounce their upper thighs off their rib cages at the bottom of leg presses. This is an excellent way to crack a rib or damage a knee. Slow and steady wins the race with both of these exercises. Also, don’t forget to consciously contract all your thigh muscles through each and every repetition.
I recommend performing these with your toes pointing slightly outward, at around a 30-degree angle to your center line. By doing this, you will more effectively target your inner thighs — an area that many bodybuilders neglect. Focus again on keeping a fluid motion from beginning to end with a pause at the bottom of the movement. That doesn’t mean you’re resting at the bottom. Stop a few inches before you reach rock bottom and hold for a count of one. This ensures that you’ve taken all momentum out of the motion and that you’re using only thigh power to push that weight back up.
I perform one main set per exercise, but I advise others to do two sets and follow the accompanying recommended routine.
Although there are only six working sets to this routine, I suggest performing two light sets of 25-30 reps of each exercise prior to jumping into the heavier working sets. Again, this is done to help avoid injury as well as to get your legs into the proper groove or range of motion.
Go for 12-15 reps per working set. I generally use a slightly lower rep scheme for other bodyparts, but since your thighs together comprise your largest muscle group, I believe they deserve to be hit with a bit more volume than the rest of the body. Perform this routine twice per week, use a full range of motion, and the results will come.
DORIAN YATES' THIGH ROUTINE
- Leg Extensions | SETS: 2 | REPS: 12-15
- Leg Presses | SETS: 2 | REPS: 12-15
- or Smith Machine Squats | SETS: 2 | REPS: 12-15
- Hack Squats | SETS: 2 | REPS: 12-15