They say you have to have big tree trunks to carry big branches. If that’s the case, then you better not skip leg day. Growing legs can be difficult for many bodybuilders. For the more advanced bodybuilders, sometimes it isn’t just about the size, but also the deep cuts and striations. Jay Cutler in his prime with his crazy quad size and striations is one of my inspirations.
Tip one: Warm up the muscles you intend to demolish.
I like to get a really solid pump first in my training. When you pump up the muscles right away, you are not just preventing injury, but already expanding the muscles to create more muscle growth. I always do at least 2 sets right away. If you’re really ambitious, try starting your leg day with 4 sets of 15 or more reps. Don’t cheat yourself, control the weight, and make the muscles burn. The first few sets determine the rest of your workout. You can set the pace with high intensity and focus. After the first two sets, I can pretty much tell you how the rest of the workout will be. This may be the most important tip because it not only gets your muscles warmed up, but also gets you to think in the right mindset for the rest of the day. Focus is key to making the muscle do what you want it to do.
Tip two: Go hard, go heavy.
You don’t always have to use free weights such as the barbell to do squats. I like to use the Smith machine when I’m building strength and size. The Smith machine doesn’t allow me to deviate from proper form, so joint pain can be reduced or eliminated. When I use this particular machine for my squat variations, I’m able to increase the load (weight) and put all the emphasis in the quad, hamstring, and/or glutes depending on my focus for that day. Since the machine helps guide proper form, I like to increase the weight each set as I go. I keep 12-15 reps in mind as I do each set. Don’t be afraid of doing extra reps in the last set if you can handle it. The purpose of increasing the weight is so that you can still hit the projected number of reps. If you’re able to do 20-30 reps with ease on the last set, chances are you should have gone heavier.
Tip three: More heavy lifting.
As you pick your next movement, remember that you just taxed your muscles in the last couple of exercises. Be mindful of the weight you’re about to use for the next exercise, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the machine. It’s ok to start lighter and work back up in weight. You don’t want to go too heavy right away and risk injury. Get a good feel for the machine on the first set and then increase the weight after that. The first set should be a solid 15 reps using a comfortable weight. Once you’ve established you are ready to move up in weight, it’s go time. Bring back that intensity and drive through the next few sets of this exercise. When you finish this exercise, you should be feeling the pain of gains.
Tip four: Change angles and foot positioning.
Now that we have accomplished several sets of heavy compound movements, what’s left? Don’t miss a single angle of the quad, hamstring, or glutes. Where your feet are positioned on the platform or ground will ultimately determine what muscles you hit when performing the exercise. Let’s say that my outer sweep is pumped and exhausted, but the tear drop just hasn’t been worked very much. At this stage in today’s training, I would rather give my exhausted muscle a break and focus on what muscles haven’t been worked as much. This allows you to continue going heavy in your lifts, but also evens out the quad development. Bodybuilding isn’t about having only one or two good body parts, nor is it just about being big. It’s important to have a balance of muscle in all areas. So don’t slow down on this exercise. Keep pushing just as hard as you did in your previous exercises.
Tip five: The last push.
Now you are done with most of the heavy lifting. I like to add in drop sets and/or supersets with more reps and higher intensity toward the end of my workout. I believe that this is what brings out the deep cuts and striations. I focus on pumping the muscle as full of blood as possible and completely exhausting the entire muscle group and surrounding muscles until I can hardly walk. I alternate between a couple of different exercises so that I’ve thoroughly targeted every angle. This is the last push—give it everything you’ve got. Shoot for a minimum of 15 reps per exercise in each superset.
Your overall focus on each exercise and every set is to squeeze and contract the muscle with full intensity. Keep constant tension on the muscle for the entire range of motion. This is the difference between training like a bodybuilder and merely going through the motions. Maintaining constant tension and squeezing hard through the full contraction is key to making the muscles burn. Don’t wait until halfway through the workout before picking up the pace. The very first set to the last should have your full focus and attention. Don’t quit before the end because you’re tired. Do you want to be your best or are you going to be average? I train to be my best.
† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. When used over time in combination with an appropriate diet and training program.