Thursday, August 11th, 2005. Leg day. My strength was just a bit off today, but aside from that, the workout was incredible… the techniques I used on the horizontal leg press machine pumped up my quads like balloons (with zero stress on the lower back). Read on to find out more…
I’m still out of town and I trained at one of my old stomping grounds, Paramount Health and Fitness in Berwick, Pennsylvania. Had a lot of good workouts there back in the day!
I started with front squats again, just like last week. The first light set felt good - 16 reps with 185. Last week I did 15 reps with 185 on the first set. I usually do 2-3 light warm up sets, then also a high rep pump set first before going into heavy sets. Alternately, I will pyramid up through several high rep sets. I know this fatigues the quads and might cut back the poundages I can use on later sets, but that’s fine with me. I’m not doing these for powerlifting records, but for quad development. What I was trying to achieve is to really get some blood in the quads first before going to heavier work sets, and provide a good warm up to my knees and lower back.
When I got to 225 lbs, I knew after the first set my strength was down a little. I did 12 reps with 225 lbs last week, then went up to 235 and 245. Today I barely got 8 reps on the first set with 225, then 7 on the 2nd and 3rd sets, and trust me when I say that 7 reps on my 3rd set was an all out effort.
This was the first time I experienced a noticeable drop in my strength on a particular exercise this year. This is something I always keep a close eye on because strength is in indicator of progress in your workouts and a decrease in strength might be an indicator of insufficient recovery, poor night’s sleep, poor nutrition or overall overtraining.
Before a contest, a strength drop is bound to happen sooner or later, and in fact, it is not smart to keep trying to push heavy weights during the last few weeks prior to a show. Sure, it looks great on the pro bodybuilding video tapes, and some of the pros show off and brag about how much they lift just 2 weeks or 3 weeks out. However, this can be very dangerous because the body is depleted and dried out and many a muscle strain or tear has occurred from excessive heavy training in the final weeks.
The thing is, 225 lbs is not heavy for me. My all time best is 315 for 6, and in the past I routinely worked out with 245 - 275 for multiple sets of multiple reps on the front squat. So I was a little concerned, but my quads got a good working out just the same. My effort was 100% on all sets.
After front squats I moved on to one legged leg presses using a horizontal (supine/lying on your back) leg press machine. This can be a waste of time or absolute killer of a growth-inducing workout, depending on whether you get the form right. In the lockout position, it is 100% total rest. There is zero tension on the quads when you lockout in this machine, so the rule is : no locking out. In order to reinforce this rule and take it to a higher level, I don’t even come close to locking out: I only use a 3/4 range of motion and I go deep emphasizing the very bottom of the range of motion.
I set the machine adjustment to allow me to go super deep, then simply push up to 3/4, then right back down and repeat. If you have long legs, the foot of your non working leg will lightly touch the floor (but don’t cheat by pushing with the non working leg). If you have short legs (like me), your non working leg will just sort of dangle there off the machine (better, actually, because you can’t cheat by pushing with that leg).
To make it even more challenging, I slow the tempo to a 4030, which is slow constant tension: 4 seconds negative, no rest at bottom, 3 seconds positive, no rest at top. I use various foot positions from workout to workout, but today I put my feet fairly low on the platform to emphasize the low quad (vastus medialis or “teardrop” part of the quad). This foot position puts a little more stress on the knee (not recommended if you have knee trouble), but since the weight was fairly light and the form strict, I find it targets the part of the quad I want to work without stressing the knee.
The temptation is to lock the knee out when the burn gets unbearable, but you simply have to keep your NO-lock out, slow tempo through the burn until you hit TRUE muscular failure. This is safe on a horizontal leg press, as no spotter is needed (as on a 45 degree leg press). Also, there is no rest between sets. Your left leg gets its rest when the right leg is working, and vice versa, so its like 6 sets without stopping and without getting off the machine.
I can’t describe the pump you get from doing these leg presses with this type of form, you have to experience it for yourself. Although your weights will need to be reduced, I’d have to say this is at least 300% more effective than if you do reps quickly and rest/lock out at the top. One legged leg presses are also great on the 45 degree leg press, but I find that variation his much more glutes and hams than the horizontal machine (so which machine you select is based on which part of the leg you want to focus on).
I finished off my quads with high rep lunges, a little lighter than usual. 30-40 reps total per set. These were performed with the barbell on my shoulders, stepping forward and alternating left leg, then right leg.
The hamstring workout was just 4 sets of really strict leg curls, and 3 sets of reverse hyperextensions. After doing some heavy rows earlier this week, I decided not to do stiff legged deadlifts today in order to give my lower back some recovery time. If I constantly pound the low back on back day and then again on leg day with high stress exercises, my low back seems to become more susceptible to injury. I’ll go back to stiff legs next week. In fact, I may be switching to the stricter form of stiff legs with lighter weights, or maybe to dumbbell stiff legs next time.
I’ve been consistently hitting calves really heavy, and am seeing the difference. My calves look like they’ve experienced some substantial growth. I usually don’t expect to see much size growth when on a diet, but I think this is very much due to the fact that I’m concentrating on hitting calves much harder than I have before. Calves are really easy to “blow off”, and are often left to last on a leg day. At that point, after squats, etc., you don’t have as much energy to work them with the focus of other body parts.
I’ve been hitting my calves twice a week, and have frequently been coming back in a separate session to hit calves (and cardio) when I’m fresh. I realize not everyone has the flexibility in their schedule to allow them to double split (two separate workouts a day), but it’s highly effective if calves are a lagging body part for you. An alternative is to do them first, although I’ve found that my legs shake during the rest of the workout if I do calves first, so I usually don’t do that. Today I did calves last, but I didn’t slack. Pushed them hard and heavy again.
Well, that’s all for today. Tomorrow is a rest day (just cardio), and Saturday, I’m back in Jersey and will be training with Kostas again. Check for the next post on Saturday… Shoulders and triceps!
Published on 11 August, 2005