In case you've just stumbled onto this site, put some ice on your head while I do a quick recap of what's happening here. Australian Wunder Coach Ian King has devised a 12-week leg program that's among the most unique - and the most effective - that I've ever experienced. The first two workouts (the "quad dominant" and "hip dominant") were posted in "Limping Into October" Part 1 and Part 2. They're meant to be alternated for a period of three weeks, after which you'd progress to Parts 1 and 2 of the second three-week phase, the first part of which appears below. Got it?
One more time: Do Parts 1 and 2 of "Limping Into October" for three weeks, alternating between the two. Then, do Parts 1 and 2 of "Limping Into November," which appear below (Part 2 of the November series will appear next week).
By this time, you'll have repeated Part 1 and 2 of the leg workouts at least twice each (if not three times), alternating between the two. Now it's time to move on!
To you, the outstanding feature of these workouts (apart from the challenge posed to your image by struggling to do movements that involve little or no external load) was probably the extreme muscle soreness. Of course, soreness in itself is not the "key to the inner universe." The rationale behind these workouts is a lot more comprehensive than you might guess, but that's not an issue. If pain was the only thing that you noticed, great. In fact, when I'm supervising someone doing a workout such as the ones presented in this program, I routinely end up facing one of the greatest challenges that any coach faces – trying to keep a straight face while the trainee experiences extreme discomfort! I'm no more a sadist than the next bloke, but it's just that the looks of surprise, pain, and fear are, at times, quite gratifying and amusing.
As I said, though, there's more to the first stage of this 12-week leg program than DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). The retraining of muscle-fiber recruitment and improved joint control are some of the more subtle, yet extremely important, benefits to be derived from this type of program. And, you can't dismiss the isolated overload of each type of muscle contraction (eccentric, isometric, and concentric), or the overload at specific joint angles, etc. I'm not going to bore you with the details. I don't expect that many of you want to know too much about the why – you just want to know how to do it!
So here it is. If you've applied yourself diligently over the last few weeks in the application of stage one, expect to be the beneficiary of some significant gains somewhere during the next stage or two – gains like you have never had before, gains that you'll find hard to believe or understand. I can't even say that I fully understand why, I just know that it happens. The methods that I'm sharing with you are an evolution of natural selection – they survived in my box of tricks because they're super-effective.
I liken what you're about to experience to a motor that has a short hesitation or stall before the turbo charger kicks in. Hang on, and enjoy the boost!
The following is the quad dominant (or first part ) of the two-part leg workout for the second stage of the 12 weeks. For most, I suggest spending three weeks on each of the four stages. Look out for the second part in our next posting. Alternate the two workouts in the same fashion as recommended in the first stage.
High-Bar, Medium-Stance Squats
What a relief! Back to the old favorite. Place the bar as high on your neck as comfortable. Grip the bar with your hands as close to the shoulders as comfortable, and ensure that your elbows are pointing directly down to the ground. Use a shoulder-width foot stance and keep your feet either straight or slightly externally rotated.
Immediately prior to commencing the descent, bend your knees slightly, suck in the lower abdomen, and squeeze your cheeks. This will "set" your pelvis in a slightly posteriorly rotated position. As you lower the weight, keep the hips in line with the spine. In other words, maintain the aforementioned hip position. Don't misinterpret this, though. You can flex forward at the hips, just don't change the hip-spine relationship.
Squat as deeply as you can without exceeding 45-degree trunk flexion relative to vertical. Keep your knees an equal distance apart during the lift. Immediately prior to the ascent, focus on squeezing the cheeks tight and hold them tight during the concentric phase. The aim is to prevent anterior rotation of the pelvis during the initial phase of the ascent. This is a tough technique to master, but the extra effort is worth it.
Follow a progressive warm-up. Begin with a set of ten (approximately 30% of the amount of weight you'll use for your first work set), followed by a set of eight (approximately 60% of the first work set), and concluded by a set of six (approximately 80%).
After resting a minute or two, select a work set load that creates a high degree of fatigue yet allows excellent technique for six to eight reps. Use a three-second eccentric (or lowering phase) with a one-second pause at both the top and bottom. Use a controlled explosive concentric or lifting phase. I say "controlled" because, until you master the hip control during the ascent, you can't afford to accelerate it in a truly explosive fashion.
Sit down between sets. Repeat a second work set two to three minutes later with a load that's about 2.5-5% heavier than the first set. Use the same tempo as the first set.
After resting another two to three minutes, lower the weight on the bar so that you'll be able to do a set of 10-12 (this poundage will probably be somewhere between the amount that you used for your second and third warm-up sets). The only change is that you'll increase the time of the pause at the bottom and the top to two seconds.
Note: Avoid going to failure in any of the work sets in the first week. Add weight with each subsequent workout, with the only possibility of failure coming in the final workout.
The next exercise will be a choice between two. For those with lower levels of hypertrophy, poorer squat technique, and/or other reasons why they shouldn't be jumping while supporting a weight on their back (e.g. arthritis, lower back injuries, or the coordination of a drunken sailor), I recommend the first option – breathing squats. For those who have well-advanced hypertrophy, wish to try something different, don't mind developing explosive power, and don't have any physical contraindications, try the second option – continual controlled jump squats.
Choice A) Breathing Squats
This golden oldie is a variation of doing 20 continual reps while having an airline vomit bag tied around your neck. When your great-grandfather was doing this exercise (after reading about it in Ironman magazine when Peary and Mabel Rader owned it), he may have been doing it to "expand his rib cage." I don't know how much science has come out in support of that claim, but there's been a significant amount of studies showing the unique benefits of performing intermittent reps (such as breathing squats), including:
- More reps can be performed at the same weight.
- Reduced amount of oxygen to the working muscle, allowing increased activity of and, therefore, enhanced training effects (including hypertrophy) on FT muscle fiber.
To do these, use a three-second lowering phase, with a one-second pause in the bottom position and, during the first ten reps, a one-second pause at the top. During the lifting phase, use the aforementioned "controlled explosive concentric." During reps 11-15, use a two-second pause at the top (breathing twice). During reps 16-20, use a three-second pause at the top (breathing three times).
Make sure that you have a spotter, as you might find your legs getting wobbly – and if the leg fatigue isn't bad enough on its own, the multiple breathing technique could spin you out. On completion of the set, don't walk toward an area that doesn't have something vertical to lean on – or you might find yourself horizontal.
Do one set and move on to static lunges.
Choice B) Continual Controlled Jump Squats
Lower the weight on the squat bar to approximately the weight you used during your first squat warm-up set (for some, this may consist of only the bar!).
Do a normal squat as described earlier. Control the lowering and take about two seconds to hit bottom. Pause for one second at the bottom, and then jump in the air as high as you can.
Upon landing, decelerate the descent, but don't stop it abruptly. In other words, let your knees act as shock absorbers. Just fight to stay in control as you lower and repeat the cycle described. Look for 15-20 reps.
If you choose to do this movement, hold the bar tight against your back. You don't want it to – as the airline industry is fond of saying – "shift during flight!"
Do one set and move on to static lunges.
Place the Olympic bar on your back – or, if you prefer, grab a pair of dumbbells – and take a long step out with your weaker leg. The horizontal length of this step will be determined by the shin of the lead leg during the lowering part of the movement. In other words, keep the shin of the lead leg fairly vertical (not because I support some bogus story about how the knee shouldn't go past the vertical line of the toes, but rather because I find this to be a superior position for loading the appropriate musculature).
The bottom position should be where the knee of the rear leg is almost brushing the ground. The top position should be just short of full range of motion. Do all of the reps with one leg (the weaker one) before repeating the movement with the other leg. Yes, you can take a short rest between legs, but no more than 30 seconds.
Take three seconds to lower the weight, pause for one second at each "end" of the movement, and lift with controlled explosiveness. This movement doesn't need as many complex directions as the squat. But as Charles Poliquin pointed out in last week's Question of Strength column, keep the trunk upright.
I recommend that you do a warm-up using about 50% of the weight that you'll use on your first work set. Do about six warm-up reps per leg. After the warm-up, put a load on the bar that creates significant fatigue (not failure, and definitely don't let your technique breakdown at all during the first week) between 10-12 reps per leg.
Do only one work-set per leg during the first workout. If you later feel that you want to use more volume (which I doubt), you can add a second work set for each leg. If there's a significant difference in strength or size between one leg and the other, you may choose to do an additional set for only the smaller or weaker leg.
You know that I wouldn't want you to miss out on doing these delightful unilateral movements, so here we go! Stand on one leg beside the squat rack or some other supporting structure. Place the other leg out so that the heel stays just off the ground at all times. Bend the supporting knee and go down as far as you can while keeping your foot flat on the ground. Take three seconds to go down and, without a pause, lift yourself up with a controlled explosive.
Initially, I suspect that your range will be limited, but as you get better at it over time, aim to increase range as well as – and maybe even more importantly – reps. Using only your bodyweight, I expect somewhere between five and ten reps on day one, but look to use dumbbells to make it harder if you exceed 15 reps. If this is the case, however, I have to wonder what you were doing during the earlier part of the workout because, if you truly busted your stones, you should be severely fatigued by now!
Use the squat rack to hold onto for balance if you need to (and you probably will), but don't get sucked into the temptation of using it to pull yourself up. Remember that this is leg day, not lats day!
Here's a synopsis of the exercises outlined in this program:
- High-Bar, Medium-Stance Squats
- Warm-Up Sets – 1x10 at 30%, 1x8 at 60%, 1x6 at 80%
- Work Sets – 2x6-8, 1x10-12. Speed – 311
- Breathing Squats
- Work Sets – 1x20. Speed – 311
- Continual Controlled Jump Squats
- Work Sets – 1x15-20. Speed – 20
- Static Lunges
- Warm-Up Sets – 1x6 at 50%
- Work Sets – 1-2x10-12. Speed – 311
- Single-Leg Squats
- Work Sets – 1x(as many reps as possible). Speed – 301
Note: The loads for the warm-up sets are expressed as a percentage of the first work-set load.
That's it! Give it a go, and stand by for Part 2 next week!