Multijoint compound movements will train functional strength and build leg mass, while leg extensions will not.
Leg extension will inhibit movement patterns, potentially causing injury.
While warming up your lower body, begin with some hamstring exercises, this will enhance stability while squatting and reduce knee pain.
Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “leg workouts have to be brutal to be effective”, the ones below were developed with that in mind.
It is exciting times in the Rugby world, the world cup is around the corner and supporters are booking tickets like crazed One Direction fangirls for their ultimate gig. But why should you care? Well you should care because rugby players hold some of the strongest, largest and explosive thighs of any sporting professional, and that should be enough to get your attention.
We can learn a lot from the Rugby player, the physicality of the sport demands that they be at peak physical condition. Weight lifting, adequate nutrition, endurance and mental strength are all critical for their success. Without the strength of their legs, they would buckle under the sheer power of every ruck, tackle, maul and scrum they had to be apart of. It is like the old saying ‘You can’t fire a canon from a canoe’, the message being do not expect to obtain optimal training results if you posses a weak base. To optimally shoot a cannon out of a canoe, you must strengthen your lower body.
MULTI-JOINT STRENGTH BUILDING
As a rugby player growing up, my training incorporated multi-joint strength building movement patterns, such as: squats, hack squats, leg press and deadlifts. Why? Because when you do exercises like leg extensions you recruit your muscles outside of a normal movement pattern, a movement pattern which has no bearing on the sport of Rugby where you use the entirety of you legs. If you isolate your quadriceps you will teach your nervous system a faulty motor-pattern and could risk serious injury. You want to teach your body how to be athletic while building strength, so the best way to build thick, strong legs is to squat, deadlift and leg press.
If you have small quads then for now avoid doing leg extensions, you should just squat and leg press. Leg extensions can be a useful tool for a body builder but if you have poor leg development you must understand the importance of compound movements. The same applies for fancy lunges, they’re useful but not until you have achieved a certain level of leg development.
"Leg workouts simply have to be brutal to be effective"
With this quote from Arnie in mind, I have devised some brutal leg training options for you. Now I suggest a thorough warm up before attempting any of these training options, mobilising your lower body should consist of a few minutes of some steady state cardio, glute activation exercises such as clamshell, kettle bell front squats, supine hip extension and a couple sets of pre-pump leg curls. Hitting the hamstrings, as a warm up will improve muscular contraction, this will aid hamstring contribution to the squat and leg press. Also with pumped up hamstrings, you will feel sturdier at the bottom of your squats!
TRAINING OPTION 1: SIMPLE BUT BRUTAL
Front Squats 5x5 Rest: 120s
Barbell Step Ups 3x10 Each Leg Rest: 90s
Walking Lunges 4x12 Each Leg Rest: 60s
TRAINING OPTION 2: VOLUME SQUAT COMPLEX
Begin the set with a 6 R.M front squat, once complete rest for 15 seconds and perform a 6 rep back squat using the same weight. Now reduce the weight by 25% and do 6 explosive barbell squat jumps. Rest for 3 minutes and repeat two more times.
Expect to have some serious DOMS from this one.
TRAINING OPTION 3: 50 REP LEG PRESS DEVASTATION
Begin with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and low down on the platform. Perform 10 reps at roughly 12 R.M, use 3-second negatives and explode on the way up. Once complete reduce the weight by 20% and narrow your stance. Perform 20 reps with a tempo that allows complete control and tension to remain on the thighs throughout. Drop the weight again by 20% and perform a final 20 reps keeping the tempo strict.
Do 3 sets like this with 120s rest; you may want to include some light quad stretching between each set, your legs will be fully pumped!
TRAINING OPTION 4: NAUSEA INDUCING BACK SQUATATHON
Begin with a stance that is around 5” outside shoulder width with your toes pointing slightly out. Begin by doing 7 reps for 3 sets with 60 seconds rest between. Then do 14 reps for 2 sets with 45 seconds, finally finish with 21 reps.
Note: You may need to ask someone nicely to drive you home after this one!
TRAINING OPTION 5: HYBRID 7/4/7 SQUATTING
This final training option is pure volume, creating a major pump perfect for anyone looking to spark new strength and size gains in their lower body.
Perform all three exercises back to back with as little time between as possible.
7x Front Squats into
4x Back Squats (Use a heavier weight than you did for the front squats)
7x Squat Jumps (Be explosive, get as high as you can)
Once complete repeat two more times resting 120s between sets.
Not Hard Enough?
*A great option if you feel these aren’t brutal enough would be to add 1-1/2 rep squats:
One and a half squats are similar to normal squats. Begin by squatting all the way down, as you come up only go back half way. Then go back down again and come up all the way to the beginning. That completes one rep. I usually keep the reps low with my clients when we do these, they’re a lot of work when you factor in all the half reps that provide more overload by increasing time-under-tension.