That's right, squats! What other movement would you put at the beginning of your legs workout routine? If you've been making the leg press the mainstay of your lower body training, it's now time for the change that will take your whole physique to another level. The squat is called the king of all exercises for a reason - it's the best mass builder there is.
First of all, concentrate on perfect form. Take a medium-width stance that feels strong. There's really no point in brining your feet in close together just to involve more quads. You'll get plenty of quad development if you're squatting heavy weights! Place the bar lower on your rear delts if you can, and higher up on your traps if you can't do that.
Once you're in the standing position with the bar on your back, fill your belly with air and push your butt to the rear. The sitting back motion at the beginning will help you recruit your hamstrings and glutes and move more weight. Squat back and down until your thighs are parallel to the ground, and stand back up. Repeat until the set is over.
For this first movement, warm up and add weight gradually until you get to your heaviest set of five reps. Slightly more or fewer is okay, but aim for a weight that allows you to get five reps with no possibility of a sixth! After a few minutes' rest, drop the weight and do another set of 8-12 reps. If you've given your all, that's all the squatting you need for the day.
2. Leg Curls
Most lifters would head to the leg press next, but you're not most lifters, are you? Developing big, strong hamstrings is hard, and you need to prioritize it every legs workout if you want it to happen. Start by warming up with a few easy sets of 10-12 reps. Then, pick a weight that allows you to just barely eek out 15 reps. That last one should be a do-or-die effort. Rest 30 seconds, and do a few more. Rest 30 seconds again, and do just a few more again. Your hamstrings will be absolutely toast if you give each of these three "mini-sets" your full effort.
3. Walking Lunges
Nope, we're not going to the leg press yet! Lunges are a hard, free weight movement that you can't do properly if your legs are totally fatigued. Take a minute to recover from the leg curls, then put a bar on your back and start lunging up and down a clear space in the gym. Add just enough weight to the bar so that 3 trips of about 20 steps per leg is difficult. You don't need to kill yourself on these to get the full benefit, nor should you. Don't go to failure and make some poor employee mop you up off the floor because you killed yourself in this legs workout routine!
4. Leg Press
Finally, we get to the machine that most lifters unfortunately call home on legs workout routine day. You already squatted hard, though, so you've earned the right to blast away on an easier movement. Don't think it's going to be easy, though!
Use a foot placement that feels the strongest. For most people, this is relatively high and wide on the platform. No, it doesn't matter that your feet aren't low and close together - your quads will still gets LOTS of work. Moving lots of weight and involving your quads AND hamstrings is more important for overall leg development than feeling the burn in your quads, anyway.
You're already pretty warmed up, so quickly work up to a weight that challenges you for 10-12 reps. Make sure to use a FULL range of motion, going as absolutely low as the machine will allow. Most guys do a kind of half knee-bend with way too much weight just so they can load up tons of plates. Their legs still don't have much to show for it.
After that initial set, catch your breath, wait a few minutes, then lower the weight just a little bit and bust out a set of 20. I don't care if it takes five minutes and you have to take 10 breaths between every rep, you are GOING to get all 20 reps. This is the kind of hard training that will truly set you apart from the pack and give you tree trunks for legs.
5. Leg Extensions and Leg Curls
You're pretty much done at this point. You've stimulated your legs as much as is necessary with the first four exercises, and you are in store for some serious growth as long as you eat enough. To finish with a good pump, head on over to the machine area and do a few supersets of leg extensions and leg curls for 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps. These should not be too hard, but they should burn. After each round, stretch your quads and hamstrings. Hobble out of the gym and prepare to do it all over again in a week!
What About Calves
Whether they put them in their legs workout or do them on a different training day, most lifters do not give a good effort to their calf training. There's no way you're going to be able to train your calves proper about this grueling legs workout routine, so head on home and train your calves another day.
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