Here's what you need to know...
• Squats can't be beat for big legs, but that doesn't mean you should do them first in your workout.
• Hamstring curls, lying or seated, can pump the hamstrings with blood, making squats feel sturdier.
• Prioritizing the hamstrings will give them that much-desired "hang" that defines well-developed legs.
Nothing compares to squats for leg size. While other exercises certainly have merit, squats should form the core of your workouts. But that doesn't mean you should start your leg training sessions with them.
Start Your Leg Workouts with Hamstring Curls
I always start my leg days with hamstring curls for a few reasons.
First, leg curls are incredibly underrated as a hamstring developer. Starting your workout with leg curls allows you to place considerable emphasis on the hamstrings, as opposed to just tossing in a few meaningless sets at the end of your leg workout.
Second, most lifters are extremely quad-dominant. If you look at bodybuilders doing the classic side chest pose, it's rare (below the professional level) to see one with thick, hanging hamstrings. Sequencing leg curls first addresses this issue.
The Big Benefit
There's also a larger benefit, one not found in any Pub Med search: doing leg curls first will make your squats "feel" better. With pumped-up hams, you'll feel sturdier in the bottom position of the squat, and your hips will seem greased during each squat repetition.
Furthermore, as strange as it sounds, you'll find that your knees need less warming up after starting with leg curls. Again, no peer-reviewed data to back this up, just decades of experience and hundreds of client testimonials.
The other nice thing about leg curls is that you can easily employ techniques like drop sets and partial reps to further drive blood into the muscle. Provided you're using good form, this can quickly produce impressive gains in hamstring strength and thickness.
Remember, do this first on your next leg day.
Lying Leg Curls
2-3 warm-up sets
3 sets of 8 reps with a hard flex at the top.
On the fourth set, do 8 reps followed by 25 partials from the stretched position. Just move the weight 4-6 inches from the bottom.
Your hamstrings will feel like Jell-O when you're done, but will soon look like granite!
Editor's note: John Meadow's complete Reactive Pump program can be downloaded for free here.