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The Foundation Training Series: Legs Day



Posted in: Articles by ProSource, Training Articles
By Terry Goodlad | Feb 21, 2007



It's the only thing left for the fire department to save once flames take hold and turn a lifetime of memories into a dump-truck full of ashes. It's what kept child star Ronnie Howard from turning out like child star Danny Bonaduce, and it's the singular fundamental element that will make you into a bodybuilder rather than just a guy who lifts weights. It's your foundation, both physical and mental. The foundation is the base on which all things are built, the template that all decisions are measured against, and in that foundation the cause of every failure or weakness can be found. Nothing in life, and certainly nothing in bodybuilding, is more important that building a strong and complete foundation. This Foundation Training Series is about building a strong foundation both physically and mentally that will stand the test of time with determination, patience, and an unshakable and fearless work ethic.

Under Construction - Ham and Quad Day

Leg Training Leg days are intimidating, plain and simple. Any guy that claims he isn't a little nervous about an impending leg workout is either a liar or he isn't training hard enough. If you put 100% into your training then all workouts are tough. The difference is that training legs can make you lose your lunch, pass out, and leave you gasping for precious air like an East Indian pearl diver. If you can reach that level of intensity in a leg workout then you can't help but get a little anxious about the next one.

Intensity is very important if you want to build impressive legs but long before you work on your intensity, it's important to know you are doing things right so you can get the most benefit possible from pushing yourself to your physical and mental limits. This series is about building a training foundation so with leg days we will go back to the basic concepts of bodybuilding that apply to all muscle groups no matter where they are found on your body and show you how to apply them to your leg workout.

The premise is simple. Just lifting weight will not ensure you are getting the maximum benefit from an exercise. The goal is not for the weight to go up and down, but rather it's to fully contract a muscle group during the contraction part of a movement then keeping tension on that muscle, release the contraction slightly so you can stretch the muscle in a controlled fashion. It will look the same as lifting weights because when you contract the weight goes up and when you stretch it goes down but what is happening to those muscles in each of those two scenarios is vastly different because now you control the movement. If you can visualize how muscle tissue works you will have a greater understanding of what you need to do. Many bodybuilders perform each rep in a ballistic style, bouncing off the bottom and snapping their legs straight at the finish taking all the tension off the muscle. While it doesn't seem counter-productive and the burn and pump indicate you are working hard, you are not stressing your muscles to the maximum of your ability to do so. Think of your car. It can go sixty miles an hour but it takes a few seconds to get there. Muscle tissue is similar in a sense because you can make a muscle contract at 100% of its capability but it will take a small amount of time contracting it for it to get there. That is what power training is about, but that is for another article. That process is purposely there so your body can avoid injuring itself. When you are at the top half of a squat for instance, and you relax your body to rest before the next rep, your muscles are not ready to contract as hard as possible. When you drop down into the next rep the weight feels heavier, your form is often sloppier, and most times the weight doesn't come up very easy if at all. It's not only fatigue that causes this, though this is what the uninformed may think. By taking tension off your muscles then loading them up with stress, the muscles were not able to contract as hard as they possibly could in time to complete the rep.

So, the first thing you want to learn in this program is muscle control. For illustration purposes lets look at how you will perform the barbell squat. First before you load the bar on your back you want to address it in the rack with your feet spaced shoulder width apart and facing the bar. Reach out and grip the bar firmly with your hands where they will remain through the set. Set up under the bar and without lifting the bar out of the rack, set your stance, arch your back, and tighten every muscle in your body. Draw your elbows back to tighten your upper back. Don't lift the bar out of the rack but instead just contract your legs slowly until the bar leaves the rack because of the contraction. Take one step back from the rack with each foot to set your stance keeping your body tight and as solid as possible so nothing relaxes. Set up and re-tighten your body, flexing your lower body as hard as possible then slowly begin to stretch your quads by lowering the bar to a squat position at one steady speed. When you reach the bottom of the movement don't bounce but contract your lower body until the weight starts to rise up and you are in a standing position. When you get there make sure you contract your lower body muscles as hard as possible never releasing the tension. Then repeat the process until the set is done. When you do this the first time you will notice two things. The weight doesn't feel as heavy on your body as it used to making you feel rock solid and more confident. You will also find that this is a much more taxing way to train and after a couple sets your muscles will be screaming. Of course that's nothing compared to how sore you will be in the days afterward, which if fed and rested properly will mean growth. When you start, don't be frustrated. It often takes two or three weeks for your body to learn this level of constant control. Stick with lighter weights and maintain good form and control as those are the most important elements of building your leg training foundation. When your body and mind can do this consistently without interruption, you will start to use more weight and when you do, your work ethic, your discipline, and your genetics will be the only limit to your progress.

Weeks 1 through 3
  • Start each workout with a 5 minute ride on the stationary bike to warm your body.
  • You will pre-fatigue muscle groups with a concentration exercise before using heavier compound exercises so you can get a pump and physically feel the muscle group you are working, therefore more easily identifying it in your mind so you can concentrate on it easier. If it's pumped you can feel it working easier.
  • At the peak of each movement, hold the contraction for about one second contracting as hard as you possibly can. Use a weight about 50% to 70% of your maximum normal training poundages.
  • Stretch between sets and rest enough that you can contract hard and feel a pump through the workout.
  • The two days following your workout when you are stiff and sore, without using any resistance simulate the leg exercises you did while contracting your sore muscles. This will help train your mind to find those muscle groups when you train again.
  • You will train your hamstrings before quads as its impossible to put 100% into them after quads.

Exercise Sets Reps
Laying leg curls (use 20% of your usual resistance) 2 20
Laying leg curls 3 12
Adductor machine 3 12
Stiff leg deadlift to knees (back arched, butt way back) 3 12
Seated leg extensions (use 20% of your usual resistance) 2 20
Seated leg extensions 3 12
Leg Press 3 12
Barbell squats 3 12


Week 4
  • Warm-up the same as always.
  • Pre fatigue your legs with the first two sets using about 20% of your normal working weight on that exercise.
  • This week add weight to your working sets so you are at about 70% to 80% of your normal working weight.
  • Stretch in between sets
  • No longer hold a peak contraction at the top of the movement but maintain the same speed up and same speed down throughout each rep.
Exercise Sets Reps
Standing leg curl (use 20% of your usual resistance) 2 20
Standing leg curl 3 8
Adductor machine 3 8
Laying leg curls 3 8
Hack squats (use 20% of your usual resistance) 3 8
Hack squats 3 8
Smith Machine front squats 3 8
One legged leg press 3 8


Week 5
  • Same warmup and pre-fatigue sets as always.
  • Increase your working poundage's to 80% to 90% of your normal working weight.
  • Stretch in between sets.
  • Maintain the same speed up and same speed down throughout each rep.
Exercise Sets Reps
Adductor machine (use 20% of your usual resistance) 2 20
Adductor machine 3 8
Standing leg curl 3 8
Stiff legged deadlift to knees 3 8
Walking lunges leaning forward over knee 3 50 ft
Leg Press 3 8
Leg extensions 3 8


Week 6
  • Same warm-up and pre-fatigue sets as always.
  • Increase your working poundage's to 90% to 100% of your normal working weight.
  • Stretch in between sets.
  • Maintain the same speed up and same speed down throughout each rep.
Exercise Sets Reps
Adductor machine (use 20% of your usual resistance) 2 20
Adductor machine 3 8
Standing leg curl 3 8
Laying leg curl 3 8
Leg extensions (use 20% of your usual resistance) 3 8
Barbell squats 3 8
Hack squats 3 8
Walking lunges leaning forward over knee 3 50 ft.


Read Foundation Training Series: Back Day
Read Foundation Training Series: Chest Day



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