Developing Great Legs
I’ve got a mountain of muscle magazines dating back to about the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The other night my old friend Ollie and I sat down and thumbed through a stack of them.
“Yes, indeed,” I waved a 1945 classic at him. “They had some pretty great men back in those days.”
Ollie pored over his 1942 collector’s item. “Frank Leight, Gord Venables, Jules Bacon.”
“Bert Goodrich,” I said. “Tony Sansone, Sam Loprinzi.”
Ollie heaved a sigh.
“And nostalgic,” I said. “Where blooms the rose of yesterday?”
Ollie gazed thoughtfully at the ceiling. “That’s Omar Khayyam, isn’t it.”
“No,” I said, “it’s me. I just made it up.”
He rooted deeper in the pile and brought out a yellowed 1937 edition.
“Tremendous.” he murmured.
I picked up the current MuscleMag and a very early Iron Man, opened them up and laid them side by side on the coffee table.
“Do you see the difference?” I asked him. “The one essential difference?”
He frowned at the magazines.
“Bigger,” I told him. “Much bigger.”
“Much, much bigger.” I nodded.
“And colour,” he said. “And better quality paper. And . . .”
“Not the books, Ollie,” I said. “The men in them. The musclemen of today are way bigger than their counterparts of thirty or forty years ago.”
“Right,” Ollie said. “That’s why the magazines have to be bigger. Otherwise the pictures wouldn’t fit.”
QUESTION: What do I need for a prize winning body?
ANSWER: You need a lot of things. You need shape. You need muscle density. You need definition and skin tone and a hundred and one other things. But most of all you need size. Sheer, unadulterated size.
Size! That’s the thing that separates the bull from the calves. Big muscles. Big like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Big like Lou Ferrigno. Big like Lee Haney.
QUESTION: I train hard. Why don’t I get bigger?
ANSWER: Probably because you don’t train properly for the stage you’re at now.
There are three areas of your body that promote bulk. Your legs, back, and rib cage. These areas determine whether you’ll have a Herculean body or a slender one. If you want a slim body, train normally. If you want a massive body, specialize on your legs, back and rib cage very early in your bodybuilding career and at various times throughout it when gains are lagging. Your legs, back and rib cage are your growth stimulation areas. Hard, proper training on them will force gains over your entire body. They also determine your potential for size at any given point in your career. None of your muscles will ever get much ahead of the potential determined for them by your legs, back, and rib cage. If you’re not making reasonable fast gains in muscular bulk, if your measurements aren’t moving, if your muscles aren’t getting any bigger, then you’ve almost certainly reached the potential set by the present development of your growth stimulation areas.
QUESTION: So what do I do?
ANSWER: Increase your potential by short periods of specialization on your legs, back, and rib cage.
QUESTION: How do I specialize on these areas?
ANSWER: Do three months of INTENSIVE leg work. Then do a regular growing routine for a month or two. Then wind it up with three months of equally intensive back work. The leg and back routines force enormous amounts of deep breathing. Supplement the deep breathing with special exercises to expand your rib cage. After that you can go back to your regular routines and grow like a baby elephant.
You’ve got to understand one thing. Intensive means you do every set of every exercise to complete failure, till you can’t budge the weight the slightest fraction of an inch. It means you work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life.
It means you put out every last ounce of your strength and will power each and every time you work out. If you’re not prepared to work that hard, don’t bother doing the program.
Start with your legs.
The program will be in three steps. Do the break-in routine the first month, the middle routine the second month, and the full routine the third month. The full routine is so intense that if you started right in on it, you wouldn’t be able to walk for a week.
Your primary exercise will be squats . . .
If you work out with a couple of other guys there’s no problem. They can spot you. Squat till you can’t come up and then they help you. If you train alone it’s a different ball game. Sticking on the bottom of a heavy squat is like getting hit by a gravel truck. You need a safety device. If you don’t have a power rack or safety catchers on your squat rack, try this:
Hang two ropes from the ceiling about three feet apart and a couple of feet out from your squat rack. Make sure they’re solid. If you train in your basement, screw two heavy-duty hooks into the joists. Put a loop on the bottom end of the ropes big enough to hold your squat bar. The ropes should be an inch or two longer than the distance from the hooks in the joists to the bar when you’re in the parallel position of a squat. In other words, if you go a couple of inches below parallel, the ropes are stretched tight.
Put the loops over the empty bar just outside the inside collars. Load up the bar. Now, if you get stuck on the bottom, just sag a couple of inches, let the ropes take the weight, and crawl out from under.
Here’s your first month’s routine:
Warm up carefully. Anyone who does heavy squats with their muscles as cold as a landlord’s heart is completely certifiable.
Wear a full sweat suit. You can show off your muscles after you finish the workout. Do some free or very light squats. Do a couple of sets of prone hyper-extensions with just your bodyweight. Do a little loose running on the spot. You should be sweating slightly when you finish your warm-up.
Your first exercise is squats. Do them in puff and pant style. Three huge breaths between each repetition. Do about twenty reps. I say ABOUT twenty reps because you squat till you can’t do another rep.
We’re going to talk more about hard work next month when you start the middle routine. Just take it for now that work to your limit. Grind out what feels like your last squat and then do five or six more.
QUESTION: How many sets do I do?
ANSWER: Hah! If you can even consider a second set, you haven’t been working anywhere near hard enough. When you finish the set, crawl or hobble – you shouldn’t be able to walk properly – to a bench and do one set of light pullovers. Twenty pounds or so is enough. Do twenty reps, take in all the air you can and really stretch your rib cage. Now take a five minute rest.
Your next exercise is leg curls. Two sets. Do each set for as many reps as you can – somewhere between twelve and twenty. Grind them out until you can’t budge the weight. Drop the poundage about ten pounds for the second set.
Your next exercise is leg extensions. Same procedure as with the leg curls. Two sets of twelve to twenty reps. Each set until you can’t move the weight. Drop the weight about ten pounds for the second set.
Your last exercise is calf raises on the calf machine. Do them to your limit for three sets of fifteen to twenty-five reps. And that’s all the legs work for the first month. It may not seem like much, but if you work to your limit on each set it’ll be plenty.
Do the leg workout on Mondays and Thursdays. On Tuesdays and Fridays do the following:
Bench Press - two sets of twelve reps
Rowing - three sets of fifteen reps
Press Behind the Neck - two sets of ten reps
Curl - two sets of ten reps
Stiff-legged Dead Lift - one set of fifteen reps
Make up your mind whether or not you want to complete the leg specialization. Make up your mind whether or not you’re willing to work harder than you ever have before. If you’re not, there’s really no point starting. If you are, then jump on and watch for big gains.
Leg Specialization, Part II
QUESTION: Why do Mr. Olympia’s arms grow when he exercises them?
ANSWER: Because Mr. Olympia’s arms have the potential for further growth.
QUESTION: Why do they have this potential?
ANSWER: Because Mr. Olympia has attained sufficient development of his legs, back, and rib cage.
As we discussed last month, your legs, back, and rib cage are the growth stimulation areas of your body. Properly exercised, they force gains over your entire physique. They’re the only muscle groups that do this. Your deltoids don’t. Your biceps won’t. You can do biceps exercises till the roof falls in and they won’t do anything for the rest of your body. They won’t even do much for your biceps unless your growth stimulation areas are well developed.
Training routines have changed a lot in recent years. The human body hasn’t changed at all, though. It still responds to correct training methods. It still flunks out on incorrect methods. If you’re not gaining rapidly, you’re probably training incorrectly. Do the correct thing. Specialization on your growth stimulation areas.
We started leg specialization last month. The program was intended to be a break-in for this routine. If you’ve been working as hard as you were supposed to, you’ll be ready now for the next routine. If you haven’t been working hard, then get with it. Don’t try doing this routine without at least a month’s hard work on the break-in.
Start off with a good warm-up. Wear a full set of sweats and get your muscles ready for the heavy stuff.
The first exercise is heavy squats in puff-and-pant style the same as in the break-in routine. Do one set of approximately twenty reps. Use spotters. Work until you can’t complete another rep and then let the spotters take the weight.
The squat is the KING of the growing exercises. There’s more value in one set of heavy squats – done properly – than all the other exercises in a program put together. Squats are your key to success. Squats are your route to a massive, shapely body. Get on the band wagon and ride with the big boys.
Squat till the tops of the thighs are parallel with the floor. There’s absolutely no advantage going any deeper. Going to rock bottom doesn’t do anything more for your growing muscles, but it puts a lot of strain on your knees and lower back. If you crock them up, you won’t be doing any heavy squats for a long time.
Don’t stay in the low position. Come up like you sat on a hot stove. Dawdling in the low position eliminates all of the growing benefits from the exercise.
The one factor that can’t be stressed too much is hared work. You’ve got to psyche yourself up and squat like the fate of mankind depended on every rep.
As soon as you finish squatting, do twenty pullovers with about twenty pounds. Do them while you’re short of air. Breathe in as the weight goes back and out as you raise it again. Concentrate on the depth of your breathing and on stretching your rib cage to its maximum.
Take five minutes’ rest after the pullovers. If you worked hard enough on the squats it won’t be a second too long.
The next exercise is leg presses. Load it up heavy and do two sets of about twenty reps. Fix the safety supports in the low position and work at each set until you can’t budge the weight off the supports. Do a set of light pullovers after each set of leg presses.
You have to work into extremely heavy weight to make the leg presses effective. Don’t fool around with light weights. Your gains will come in direct proportion to the poundage you use. Don’t be misled. Big muscles are built one way and one way only – hard work with heavy weights.
The next exercise is calf raises on the calf machine. Do three sets of about twenty-five reps, each set to complete failure. Use a high block under your toes so that your calves are completely stretched when your heels are in the low position. Calf exercises don’t have a growth stimulation effect. They do, however, draw blood into your legs and that helps your thighs. In any event, you’ll need big calves to balance the rest of your physique.
The next exercise is step-ups on a block. Step-ups aren’t done much these days which is too bad, because they’re a tremendous exercise. They work the big thigh muscles beautifully, force enormous amounts of deep breathing, and stimulate growth like nothing on earth.
Use a foot-high block. The block should be wide enough so that you can stand on it with both feet at the finish of each rep. Set it close to your squat rack. Take the bar off the rack and do as many step-ups as you can – about twenty – with one leg.
Then, without putting down the weight, do as many reps as you can with your other leg. Dump the bar back on the rack as soon as you finish and do a set of light pullovers.
For your second set, start off with the opposite leg to the one with which you started the first set. Drive up real hard. You can get a push from the toes of the leg not being exercised.
You’ll find the breathing is something else. When you finish with the first leg you should be literally gasping for air. Keep going and do the other leg no matter what it feels like. Do another twenty light pullovers at the end of the second set.
The next exercise is hack squats on the hack machine. Hacks are terrific for your frontal thigh muscles, particularly the ones just above your knees that give bodybuilders’ legs that unique look. Do two sets of hacks, about twenty reps per set. Again, do each set to complete failure. Do them until you’re stuck in the low position with your thighs absolutely screaming.
Do a set of light pullovers after each set of hacks. Twenty reps with twenty pounds and suck in all the air you can.
Now you go back to the calf machine again. Do three more sets of calf raises, about twenty-five reps per set, each set done to failure. Calves, despite moans to the contrary, can be built.
The last two exercises are thigh curls and leg extensions on the machine, the same as in the break-in routine. This month, however, do them in super-set style. Three sets of each, about fifteen reps per set. Hang on to the machine, grit your teeth, and force each set until you can’t squeeze out another rep.
Do a set of thigh curls first. Then, without any rest at all, do a set of leg extensions. Your legs should now be begging you to stop. Take a one-minute rest and then do another set of thigh curls and extensions with no rest between them. Your legs should now feel like they’re dropping off. Ignore them. Take another one-minute rest and then do another set each of curls and extensions with no rest between them.
And that’s it. Your legs should be like rubber. If you worked hard enough, you shouldn’t be able to walk normally for at least an hour.
It’s impossible to describe to you the absolute necessity of hard work. Hard work means everything. You can develop the body of a Hercules with it. You’re nowhere without it.
Do this routine for the next month. Work the leg routine on Mondays and Thursdays.
On Tuesdays and Fridays do the following:
Parallel Bar Dips – 3 x 12
Pulley Chins – 3 x 12
Press Behind Neck – 3 x 10
Incline Curls – 3 x 10
Triceps Press On Pulley – 3 x 10
Prone Hyper-extensions – 2 x 12
Crunches – 2 x 15
QUESTION: What results can I expect?
ANSWER: Unless you’re an extremely advanced bodybuilder, you can expect to add about two inches to your thighs, about four inches to your chest, gain ten to twenty pounds, and increase your strength twenty-five percent during the entire specialization period. When you go back to regular training, you can expect your other muscle groups to register improvement almost from workout to workout until you again reach the limits of your growth potential.
Pour everything into this program.
You’ll get out of it exactly what you put into it. Next month we’ll look at the third and final segment of the growth stimulation program.
Leg Specialization, Part III
The other night I got woken up by a phone call about 2:00 A.M. I rolled over but it kept ringing. My wife sat up.
“Get the phone,” I told her.
“Are you crazy?” she said. “It’s on your side of the bed.”
“The walk around the bed.”
“I’ll walk on your head,” she said. “Answer it.”
I picked up the phone.
“Is this McCallum?” a voice snarled at me.
“I think so,” I mumbled. “Who’s this?”
“So you write for MuscleMag?”
I cleared my throat.
”Yes, indeed.” I said. “And I’m proud to do it. I want to shine the light of my experience on the problems of the struggling bodybuilder. But no thanks are necessary. Just knowing that there’s someone out there . . .”
“You moron,” he screamed. “Are you trying to kill me? My legs are so sore I can barely walk on them.”
I hung up the phone and rolled back into bed.
“Who was it?” my wife asked.
“A grateful fan,” I said. “Sounded like your father."
One thing the growing bodybuilder has to learn is that if you work hard in the sense that I mean it, your muscles will occasionally get sore. There will come a time in your career when no amount of work will make them sore, but that may be a long way off for most of you. For now, figure on occasional soreness or lower your expectations and switch to easier programs.
The average bodybuilder doesn’t know ships from shinola about hard work. He confuses quality with quantity. He performs endless sets with baby weights, trying to pump up like the Goodyear blimp. Walk up to one and ask him how his mother is.
“Gotta get a pump,” he’ll mutter. “Gotta get a pump.”
He thinks he’ll end up looking like Hercules.
The cold hard fact of the matter is that he won’t. Light, prolonged training doesn’t induce growth. It eleven reps with 150 pounds in the bench press is your absolute limit, then one set of twelve reps will make you grow. Fifteen sets with 100 pounds won’t do anything except use up your time. If you’re working hard enough, it isn’t necessary to spend all day in the gym. It isn’t even desirable unless you want to be a squat rack junkie.
Despite all the commercial claims to the contrary, there really aren’t that many secrets to success in bodybuilding. Hard work is one of the few, and the only reason it’s a secret is for commercial reasons. You can’t sell it in a bottle and you can’t make it into a pill. You can’t put it up your nose and you can’t shoot it in your hip. If gym owners told the truth about hard work, they’d scare away 90% of their clientele. Nevertheless, and perhaps unfortunately, hard work is and will always be the major factor in your progress.
A long time ago, a man named Louis Abele specialized with incredible intensity on his legs for three months. Then he specialized for another three months on his back. Then he went on a general program. He did this several times during his training career. He was so impressed with the results that he wrote it up in detail a good many years before most of you were born.
Remember, there were no steroids in those days. There was no sophisticated equipment. No one knew a gram of protein from a lump of sugar. Abele couldn’t spend long hours every day in the gym. He wasn’t being subsidized by a magazine or an equipment manufacturer. He earned a living as a carpenter. The only thing Abele knew about was hard work, but he knew all about that. He said he worked so hard when he squatted that his teeth ached from the heavy breathing.
Results? Abele set new records. He became the world’s heavyweight lifting champion. He built 18 ½ inch arms on 7 ¼ inch wrists way back when 15 inch arms got you membership in a muscle club. It was called the 15 inch arm club, believe it or not. He built 28 inch thighs on 9 inch ankles when 22 inch thighs got you over a tall building in a single bound. He built a 52 inch chest when all the 44 inch chest men in the world wouldn’t have filled two tables at a bridge tournament. Where did he lay the credit? On unbelievably hard work on the growth stimulation areas.
If you learn nothing else from this series, learn about hard work.
Do the following on Mondays and Thursdays.
Start off with squats. You’re going to do eight sets of about eight reps. Use the first three sets as warm-up sets. Do a very light set. Then add some weight and do the second set. Then add some weight and do the second set. Then add some more weight and do the third set.
The fourth set should be with your maximum poundage. If you make the full eight reps, add ten pounds and do a fifth set. If you make eight reps on the fifth set, add ten pounds and do the sixth set. Try to add weight for the seventh and eighth sets. Anytime you can’t make the full eight reps, drop the weight about ten pounds or so for each of the remaining sets.
Do a light set of pullovers after each set of squats. Ten reps with about twenty pounds is plenty. Just concentrate on stretching your rib cage.
You’ll notice that the reps are considerably less than the ones used in the first and second months of the specialization routine. That doesn’t mean you don’t work as hard. It means you use heavier weights.
You’ve got to grind. You’ve got to squat with very heavy weights. If you want to look like Platz, you’ve got to lift like Platz. Don’t think you’ll grow on light work until you look like Platz and then you’ll be as strong as he is. That’s not how it works. It would be nice if it did, but it doesn’t.
You’ve got to lift weights like Platz and then, if you’re lucky, you might look something like him. Following the superstars program won’t make you look anything like him unless you’re also lifting his poundages.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to do heavy squats. Get spotters if you can. Step under the bar, lift it clear of the rack, and then back up two steps. Just get clear of the rack. If you feel like a long walk, do it some other time. For now, save your strength for the squats.
Pad the bar heavily and ride it low on your shoulders. The padding will take the pain out of it, and riding the bar low will cut down the leverage against your lower back.
Space your feet comfortably. Your heels should be a foot or so apart with your toes turned out about thirty-five degrees. Some men squat in their bare feet, but it’s not a good practice unless you make a living treading grapes. You’ll do a lot better with your feet tucked into a sturdy pair of boots.
The next exercise is leg presses. Do five sets of ten reps. Every time you make the ten reps, add ten pounds for the next set. Every time you don’t make ten reps, take off ten pounds for the next set.
Do another set of light pullovers after the final set of leg presses.
The next exercise is squats on the hack machine. Do five sets of twelve reps. Use the same weight adjustments as in the squats and leg presses – add ten pounds for the next set every time you make he full twelve reps, and take off ten pounds for the next set every time you don’t make the full twelve reps.
Do a set of light pullovers after the last set of hack squats.
Finish off the workout with calf raises on the machine for five sets of twenty-five.
On Tuesdays and Fridays, do the following.
Incline Bench Press – 3 x 10
Long Pulley Rowing – 3 x 12
Upright Rowing – 3 x 10
Close Grip Barbell Curls – 3 x 8
Seated Triceps Press – 3 x 8
Stiff Legged Deadlift – 1 x 15
Bent Knee Sit-up – 1 x 25
This is the last month of the leg specialization program. Don’t forget, you’re not doing it just for your legs. You’re also doing it for the growth stimulation effect it will have on the rest of your body. You’ll never get truly Herculean until you develop the maximum potential of your growth stimulation areas.
Give it your best shot. Give it everything that’s in you.
An archive of helpful advice compiled by IGer's.
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