The Secret to Legs with Size, Strength, and Endurance
There are countless leg workouts in magazines and books that promise big results. Many are good workouts, but the secret to continued progress is to keep your muscles from adapting, while building on what you have already done. What I mean by this is that mixing and matching great workouts just doesn't work very well. You do need to change your workouts frequently to keep your muscles growing, but if you don't plan properly, you could be wasting time.
When you plan your workouts properly, each workout builds on what you accomplished the workout before, so that you keep moving forward, instead of taking steps back each time you change workouts. A good example of this is how many Powerlifters have trained for decades. They begin a training cycle by using lighter weights for higher reps. The first week or two they might do 3 sets of 8 repetitions. The next couple of weeks might be 5 sets of 5 reps. Then they add weight and drop their reps each week until they are ready to test themselves for a single maximum repetition. This is usually done in a contest, with judges and strict rules. This works well if your goal is to lift as much as possible in one lift for one repetition.
In bodybuilding, the weight you use does not need to be as heavy. It is more important to use muscle tension and volume of training to stimulate the muscle to grow. A Bodybuilder might choose 4 different exercises for a muscle group and do 4 to 6 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions for each exercise. You won't build as much strength training like this, as you will training like a Powerlifter, but you should increase your muscle mass and improve your muscle shape and definition more.
A Triathlete has fantastic endurance, especially in their legs. They can swim, run and ride their bikes for hours on end, with great intensity! They do not have much muscle size, and most cannot lift much weight. They train so that they can move their bodies as fast and as far as possible, so great strength is not necessary, and size is counterproductive.
All of these sports have something in common. They train with a very specific goal in mind. To achieve the best possible results in these sports, they have to. This is even more obvious in the case of the Triathlete, than it is for Bodybuilding and Powerlifting. I believe that Bodybuilders and Powerlifters should cross train once in a while to break through their plateaus.
I have competed in Bodybuilding, Powerlifting, Strongman, and Highland Games, not to mention several mainstream sports. I trained differently for each of them, except for the Highland Games, which I just did for fun while I was training for Powerlifting. Out of all of those sports, I have been most successful at Strongman. One of the things I like the most about it, is that you have to be well rounded. Without enough strength, you don't stand a chance. If you are too small, you won't be able to move some of the implements. If you can lift a weight, but get tired too soon, you will be left in the dust. You also have to have unbelievable mental toughness and desire to be successful. I mean, let's face it, Strongman events hurt.
The point I am making is that, as a Strongman competitor, I need Size, Strength and Endurance. That is truer for the legs than for any other part of the body. This is also true for other sports that involve both quickness and power. Football, Baseball, Rugby, Soccer, and Sprinting all come to mind. To do that, I can't afford to focus on Strength only, like a Powerlifter. I can't spend my time building size for the sake of size either. I certainly can't spend hours running, swimming and biking if I want to have the power and size that I need. I believe that I have come across a good leg workout that helps me build Size, Strength and relative Endurance for my sport. I still do specific event training, but that is mostly for technique.
This workout involves doing just Squats for your legs, and doing it once a week only. The first two weeks you perform 10 sets of 10 repetitions with only one to two minutes rest between each set. The 10 sets of 10 routine is more commonly known as German Volume Training and it is BRUTAL. I only do this for two weeks, because I want strength as well. This training is excellent for improving your endurance and it will stimulate muscle growth as well. Be aware, that you will be very SORE for a few days after the first week. The second week, you should be able to add some weight to the bar and you won't be as sore. I won't go into details about nutrition here, but if you want to take advantage of the muscle growth potential of this workout, you had better eat enough protein and good quality food.
The following two weeks you squat for 8 sets of 8 repetitions. This is great for muscle growth because it is lower in both sets and reps than the first two weeks, so you can use more weight, but it is still a high volume of work to stimulate muscle mass increases. Just like the first two weeks, you should be able to add some weight to the second week of 8 sets of 8 reps.
Weeks 5 and 6 will be about going heavier and making the transition from training for size, to training for strength. The workout will be 5 sets of 5 reps of Squats. Now that we are going heavier, it is especially important to pay attention to proper form. Make sure to maintain an arch in your back and sit back and down into the squat rather than allow your knees to go out in front of your toes. I explain proper form for the Squat in more detail on my Powerlifting Squat page. You will want to do a couple of warm-up sets before you get to the first of your 5 heavy sets. If you haven't been wearing a lifting belt, it is time to start when you get to this part of the program. Just as in the other sections, you should be able to add at least a little weight on the second week (week 6) of this part.
The 7th and 8th week are true power training. The workout will be 3 heavy sets of 3 reps. Warm up and then get to it. Think pure power and get psyched up for each set. After these two weeks, you will have completed your 8-week cycle to increase the Size, Strength, and Endurance of your Legs. If you have done this in preparing for a Powerlifting contest, take another week to do 3 sets of 1 repetition, and then rest for at least 10 days before contest day. If you are not trying to peak for a strength contest, start over with the 10 sets of 10 and do it all over again. You should be stronger the second time through, and well on your way toward dramatic improvements in Size, Strength, and Endurance.
Good luck with your training, and make sure to save some money for some new pants with bigger legs!
For those who are not familiar with my name, I am a National Level Strongman competitor in the United States. I lift stones that weigh just under 400 pounds, flip a 900+ pound tire routinely, and lift logs overhead. I eat regular food and drink a protien powder, that's it. My strength comes from my training, and that is why you can benefit from my programs.
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