Key Exercises and Strategies for Building Upper Leg Mass, Separation
Nowadays advanced bodybuilders include more exercises that work many of the quadriceps muscles in relative isolation, thanks to machines which allow isolation training of areas such as the leg adductors and abductors. Still, a routine based on the core exercises that place maximum contraction and stress on the quadriceps remains one that can produce even better results.
Focusing on Upper Leg Supersizing
For top-ranked national amateur competitor Jeff Schwartzer, a core routine for legs that continued to respond well to a very consistent regimen produced unusual upper leg results for size and separation. “My quads seemed to respond well from the beginning, but I also trained them harder than any other body part,” he recalls. “I was kind of infatuated with training them–I loved the pain and feeling I got.” Jeff’s exercise routine has consisted of four key movements, all performed during one training day as follows:
1. The Leg Press
First, do a warm-up, such as walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike for five to ten minutes. When positioning yourself on the leg press, keep your feet about four inches apart and push from the middle of the foot. Keep the speed of movement moderate, especially as you get near the end of the set avoid increasing the rate of the repetitions. Perform four sets ranging downward from 50 to 35 repetitions, while also increasing the weight. Recommended increases are a 25-45 pound plate on each side of the machine.
2. The Barbell Lunge
Perform by alternating legs. Left leg, followed by right leg equals one repetition. Use a full range of motion, but pay close attention to form. Perform four sets ranging from 12 to 10 repetitions, increasing the weight with each set.
3. Smith Machine Squats
Keep your feet approximately six inches apart. Perform each repetition until the knee is at 90 degrees of flexion, or slightly beyond. Perform four sets of 15 repetitions and try to increase the weight with each set, depending on your prior experience.
4. Leg Extensions
Perform these at a moderate tempo, strictly controlling the weight in the eccentric portion of the exercise. Do four sets ranging downward from 30 to 15 repetitions, and as with all the other exercises, try to increase the weight with each set.
Jeff further points out about this routine: “I train all my body parts once a week, with the exception of calves which are trained twice, and I actually don’t do those on this legs training day. Instead, I put them on opposite days from quads and hamstrings. Time allowing, we’ll even separate hamstrings and quads in different sessions within that day.”
Better Form and Performance for Better Results
Schwartzer explains that being aware of how you are training the legs is somewhat different than how you react in training the upper body: “When the chest is good and pumped you know the workout is over. With quads, when you feel that good pump, you know that you are only halfway there.” Also, performing an effective range of motion in each of these exercises is critical: “The second main part is that with squats, for instance, I go to a minimum of parallel with most of the time below parallel on every rep. No half squats or almost parallel. I feel that is the only way to truly blow up the legs. You have to train them unlike any other body part.”
Including some variety within this routine, at this advanced stage and after many years of training, is something that Jeff does for himself but also recommends for other advanced athletes. For instance, instead of just performing squats on the Smith machine, he will also do free form squats at every other workout nowadays. The advantage to this is that free squats will require the stabilizing muscles to work as well, whereas with Smith machine squats “you don’t use your stabilizer muscles because you’re on those tracks so you don’t have to worry about falling forward or backwards. You really won’t know that unless you actually do a free weight squat -that’s why I still like to get back to them once in a while and do them!”