Fires of Hell – High Rep Leg Workout
What can be nastier than an hard leg workout... Probably doing deadlifts during a back workout can get you close to the sensation of tiredness that is to be expected after a hard leg workout — no other muscle groups are capable of that.
Thighs are the largest muscle-groups in the human body, so you need to work them hard to get results. A few sets of leg extensions and leg curls are okay for a warm-up, but those are definitely not enough. Don’t even try to kid yourself: soccer/running/combat sports/etc. will not build enough muscles! There are no work-arounds to this kind of training, if you have any plans about sports.
Heavy loads, low reps – is it the one and only way to go?
Leg workouts, and especially the basic exercises are traditionally done with heavy loads, and in medium or low repetition counts. And no wonder about it as it feels pretty good to get 150–200 kg of weights moving – even if a few times only... But what is the best way to support improvements if the goal is increasing muscle mass, and not the 1 rep maximum load?
Low rep squats with huge loads will make you strong, no question about it. But let’s leave the doctrines behind, and try to do something different – something that you will find much more burdensome than squeezing out a 1 rep maximum.
High rep leg workouts will never become your favorites. I myself know that as I tend to delay it for a day or two, because I know what to expect. The only enjoyable period of this kind of workout comes after finishing it, so while you are in the middle of it... You need the guts to push through!
This program includes complex and isolation exercises too – just the same as for the other muscle groups. First come the squats or leg presses. Then it is time to do front squats, and after that Hack-squats or walking lunges. As everyone has a unique body structure, the best combination of exercises can vary depending on individual capacities and capabilities. For instance in case of very tall people it is likely that high rep squats are more like endurance workouts rather than working the thighs – something that is nice to have a go at, but there is a good chance that concentrated leg presses are more beneficial for the development of the thighs. But for those who can “squat from the thighs” it surely pays to do squats. The description will be about the leg press machine though, as most of you will find that as best for these repetition counts. Those with unsteady knees should avoid Hack-squats – especially the deep squat version – but doing walking lunges in good form is presumably okay. The leg extensor program is finished with leg extensions. After all that comes the stiff-legged deadlift, then leg curls (seated and/or lying). Training the calves is covered in a separate section.
After the warm-up the workout should be started with a few sets of easy leg extensions and leg curls, probably in a superset, done concentrated, and using small load so that your legs can get warmed up and pumped a bit, and to have the joints greased.
Leg presses (or squats for those who can)
After one warm-up set (having leg extensions and leg curls done, it is enough to do just one) you can do your first workout set of no less than 30 reps. In case of leg workouts our previous findings are even more likely to come true: you might feel that you could barely finish those 30 reps at let’s say 200 kg – then you try it at a 220 kg load, and you can still do the 30 reps. Even though the 200 kg load was burning like hell too. So it is very important to use the heaviest weight with which you can still do the reps.
The first set of 30 repetitions can then be followed by sets of 20 reps – choose such a load under which you can NOT do the 20 reps, and then try to still do it! Needless to say that you should not pick a load that is too high to go above 8 reps... Choose weights that you can press 15 or 16 times, and your job is to work that count up to 20. In the first phase it will be a pretty quick process, even though your first workout will be about sizing up your strength, so it might take a few workouts to find the right loads. You need to raise your rep count by 1 each week – set that for a goal, and if you can surpass that, then you do great. Finishing all 20 repetitions means that you can increase the weights used for the sets. Do two sets with the same load – the second set will be obviously of lower reps. As for the final set: load the machine with weights to your 12 rep limit, and then press as many repetitions as you can.
Example: let’s say you’re done with your first 30 rep set at 200 kg. Then you load 2 pieces of 50 kg weight plates, and do 20 reps at 300 kg... You notice that 20 reps were done, so you increase the load. You still press 20 repetitions at 325 kg, so you load some more plates. The 350 kg load limits your rep count to 16 – now you know that next time after the 30 rep set you will need to load 350 kg onto the machine to try the 20 repetition sets.
After one warm-up set (just to get into the exercise, as your thighs are pumped up by then) load the bar with weights that you can do 15 reps with. Do 4 sets with that load, and try to do 20 repetitions in the first set. Do full squats, do not stop at half range!
Hack-squats (or walking lunges)
Do 4 sets again with weights you can do 15 reps with, and try to reach the 20 rep count again. There is a good chance that you will not be able to move tons, but luckily you don’t need to – it is much more important for you to keep the movements under full control in order to avoid knee injuries. If you are tall, or if the machine is designed so that your knees go forward beyond your feet in a squat, then do lunges instead as the machine could shear your knee joints.
When doing walking lunges do at least 10 repetitions per leg, so that one set includes a total of 20 lunges at minimum. Do 30 if you can – the goal is to be able to do that many!
You might not even need weights for that, just a towel around your neck to cling to... Do 4 sets. You won’t be able to do more. Don not use weights / do not increase the load until you can do 30 lunges.
By the time you get to this exercise you wish to be dead (in case you chose your weights right), but you still have some more work to do – 3 sets of leg extensions to kill your leg extensors for good. The weights used are of secondary importance: maintain perfect technique, and reach total tension at the end of the motion – that’s all you need to focus on. Do no drop the rep count under 20 per set. In case you feel your thighs are fagged out, you can be sure that something went very good during the exercises.
As your legs will be shaking after the extensor exercises, it would be grave mistake to start stiff-legged deadlifts where stability is a crucial factor. So we do leg curls: 4 sets, 20 reps, and focus on good form! If your hams get elevated during the exercise, you can be sure to do it wrong – keep your hip fixed on the bench, use your leg flexors only! If you do the exercise right, it takes a surprisingly low weight to provide sufficient resistance, and you will feel that instantly too.
By this time you probably can stand unaided again, so you might want to try doing stiff-legged deadlifts. Let’s keep the count to 20 reps, and 4 sets. It will be a nice way to stretch your thigh flexors too. Try not to pull the weight by your waist, but by the thigh flexors – you need to get the feeling: it is the lower 3/4 part of the motion range that makes the thighs and glutes work hardest, and it is the straightening phase that involves the back muscles more.
In case a machine is available, and you have the energy and time, you can do seated or standing leg curls too as a final touch to your workout... Do 20 reps, and in a concentrated manner. But if you have finished the full workout, you might not have the strength to do so. Every now and then there are days when you feel invincible in the gym – these are the exercises for those days!
Please note: This workout plan is not for beginners, and if you do the exercises right, it represents a very high strain on your body! This applies to former plans too, but it is of even more importance here: do not do such a leg workout more than once a week! Though it is unlikely that you wish to do more... It is best to tell you that anyway.
Other workout plans with high rep counts:
And tell us how it was – if you can ;)
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