FLEX: How did you structure your leg workouts in the past year to make the improvements you’ve been after?
FOUAD ABIAD: Hany [Rambod, trainer] and I really believe that blood volume is the key to muscle growth, hence his FST-7 program [fascia stretch training, doing seven sets of an exercise with minimal rest between sets]. So basically, I want to leave the gym with the biggest amount of blood volume in my quads. I start with a hamstring move, then two quad exer- cises, back to another ham exercise, and at the end I go back for one or sometimes two more quad exercises to really polish them off before I walk out the door.
Your workout starts with a hamstring exercise and a lot of people would say this could compromise your ability to squat or press with maximal weight. What is your logic for starting with the leg curl and how does it affect the rest of the workout?
My objective is not to outlift anyone or break any records in the gym; those days are gone for me. I have suffered quite a few minor quad injuries and have come to the conclu- sion that I’m just not a powerhouse squatter. I start with hamstrings because they are lagging and I don’t see why they should go last. Why do quads always have to go first? Hany and I decided that mixing up the workout would be best for me. Training hams first gives my legs a good warm-up and actually makes me feel more stable when I get to squats.
Have you ever trained quads and hams separately or is it always on the same day?
I actually train hams twice a week. I like to get the blood in them more often than one big training session. I think when you train quads you are inevitably training hams at the same time, so doing two exercises to really burn them out only makes sense. But two exer- cises aren’t enough to make your hams grow, so I do another two or three exercises on another day to keep them growing.
Speaking of the squat, it’s the granddaddy of all leg moves and you aren’t afraid to get after it. What has it done for your leg development?
I love the squat, but as I said, it’s just not a power move for me. I do it because it’s a great overall leg developer. It’s a love-hate thing because I want to dominate it, but I have to be careful of injury and I’m prone to it in that area. Longevity in this sport is first and foremost, so I don’t go crazy with the heavy weights. I’ve found that squatting a little lighter in the range of 10–15 reps builds more than doing sets of 4–6 or 6–8 reps. What form and techniques do you use for the squat? My form for squatting was always shit, until I decided to stop lifting with my ego. When I started bodybuilding, I did these things I called “power squats” — whatever the hell that is. I was basically bending my knees about two inches and then standing back up — what a joke. I would run around telling people I squatted seven plates. How embarrassing. Now I lift for growth and I really focus on the feel. I pick a spot on the wall above me and set my sights on it. That keeps my head and back up so I can sit in the hole. I always try to go to 90 degrees or lower. I’ve found that it hurts my knees when I don’t go deep enough. The rep speed is always slower on the way down and more explosive on the way up. My stance is a little wider than shoulder width and I usually only get up to 405 pounds each week.
The leg press is next and you keep your reps pretty high (5 sets of 20). What is the focus here and why the high reps?
For my entire career, I have focused on doing everything heavy; that works on most bodyparts, but not all. For quads this year, I decided
I was going to employ some high-rep movements and see how it worked. All the guys with amazing quads usually do high-rep some- thing. Tom Platz, Branch Warren, Ben Pakulski, Erik Fankhouser — these guys all kill it with a lot of volume. It not only worked well for my leg growth, but it also allowed my injuries to really heal and my legs just kept feeling better each week.
My form is a little different than most: I like to keep my feet about an inch or two apart and low on the pad; I believe that gets my quads the best. Keeping my feet that close also impacts the outer sweep. But I’m careful not to always do that — I do use other foot positions so I don’t end up with imbalances in my legs.