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 I and II of the second three-week phase (Part 1 was posted last week, and Part 2 appears below). Got it?
One more time: Do Parts I and II of "Limping Into October" for three weeks, alternating between the two. Then, do Parts I and II of "Limping Into November."
By now, you may have discovered that this three-week stage of the program isn't quite as painful as the first...well, maybe it is, but it's a different kind of pain. It's the type of discomfort that actually gives you a lot of comfort, because you know that you will have recruited every muscle fiber that you have in your legs – a type of comfort that comes from knowing that your legs are growing, and grow they will. I expect that turbocharger of growth to cut in at any moment. You'll feel like you're growing as you sit between sets, or even after the workout as you contemplate the joy of disrupting the body's attempts at homeostasis. The pain may be short-term, or it may not be so short-term. But it'll pay off when you look at picture of yourself taken a few months before and know that you're no longer as small, or when you can't buy those jeans off the rack any longer – damn pity, that!
Anyhow, the following is the second half (hip dominant) of the two-part leg workout for the second stage of the 12-week program. Remember, I suggest that most people spend three weeks on each of the four stages. And if you didn't do the first stage before starting on this stage, may the barbell god pin you down during your next workout!
You know what I'm looking for in this workout – maximum gluteal and hamstring involvement, right down to turning that deadlift into a leg exercise with the lower back serving only to stabilize. Remember the game plan – alternate this workout with the quad-dominate workout for as long as it works, which I suspect will be about three workouts, or three weeks.
On the subject of the length of each of the four phases, if your recovery ability, age, lifestyle, work, or whatever causes you to have less than optimal recovery ability, I'd suggest taking a week off between individual stages. For example, do three weeks on, one week off, and then proceed to the next stage.
If this sounds too radical, sit down and divide the results that you've experienced since you first started training by the number of years that you've been training. If the answer is less than complimentary, don't debate this recommendation. To use a favorite line I often find myself using on athletes, shut up and do it.
Here's the program:
Bent-Knee, Wide-Grip Deadlifts
These are deadlifts like the powerlifting deadlift – the bent-knee variety. However, unlike competitive powerlifters during peaking programs, I encourage you to place technique and selective recruitment over load, at least initially. The deadlift technique that I recommend was outlined in my Question of Power column in Issue 39 of Testosterone. I can't stress proper technique enough!
Keep in mind that there are some strong similarities and differences between the deadlift and the squat. Like the squat, the pelvis should be maintained in line with the spine. Unlike the squat, the deadlift is a two-part lift: from the ground to above the knees is the first part (the spine angle shouldn't change!), and from above the knees to standing is the second part (this is where the spine angle changes).
Other unique aspects of this lift include easing the weight back onto the floor every rep. When done in this fashion, as opposed to just letting the weight fall, it becomes what some call an intermittent lift, as opposed to a continuous lift. Not only does this allow more oxygen to be pumped to the muscle fibers and, therefore, bestowing a greater training effect to Type II (as opposed to Type I muscle fibers), the pause is also placed between the eccentric and concentric contractions and, therefore, eliminating the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). All in all, it means that you have to do more work!
And don't forget, the deadlift presents one of the few real opportunities to balance scapula retraction with the protraction and internal shoulder rotation that you get when you bench – if you focus on holding the scapula in a depressed (down) and retracted (in) position right throughout the lift and, in particular, when first lifting the bar.
Here's how I'd like you to do deadlifts. Use a wide grip, which means hands outside the lines on an Olympic bar. This wider grip requires more flexibility. If this isn't possible or it prevents you from setting your spine appropriately in the start position, go back to the medium, "just outside the shoulders" grip. What I like about the wide (or snatch) grip is the increased trunk flexion (increasing gluteal and hamstring involvement while decreasing quad involvement) that you get in the start, and the lower center of gravity that it forces you into, which increases leg involvement. But don't lose any sleep if you can't manage the wide grip; I would prefer excellent technique over exotic positions!
Following a progressive warm-up of a set of ten (approximately 40% of the first work set), a set of eight (approximately 60% of the first work set), and a set of six (approximately 80% of the first work set), select a work-set load that creates a high degree of fatigue while still allowing you to keep excellent technique for 6-8 reps.
Repeat a second work set two to three minutes later with a load that's about 2.5-5% heavier than the first work set. (Unlike the squat, I pay less attention to the eccentric contraction in this stage of the deadlift program. The concentric phase is now far more important to me.) Use a "controlled" eccentric, a one-second pause taken at both ends – take two seconds on the bottom of the set if needed – and a controlled explosive concentric. I say "controlled" because, until you master the hip control during the ascent, you can't afford to accelerate it. The explosiveness is more appropriate during the second part of the movement when you pull from above the knee and up. Sit down between sets.
Lower the weight on the bar to a load which allows about ten reps. This will probably be a load that's about equal to somewhere between your second and third warm-up sets. Now that the load is reduced, you can clean up any faulty technique aspects which may have broken down during the earlier work sets.
Avoid going to failure in any of the work sets in the first week. Then look to add weight each subsequent workout, reaching the possibility of failure only in the final workout.
Now, let's go to the next movement. Again, I've given you a choice between two movements. For those with an interest in developing explosive power (and getting some great upper back/trap development along with it), I recommend the snatch pull. For those with no desire to learn or do this exercise, stay with the conventional deadlift described below.
Wide-Grip Snatch Pulls
The snatch pull is an explosive wide-grip deadlift taken to above the knees. In fact, you don't just casually stop when you reach the knees. The movement is so explosive that you end up standing on your toes and shrugging your shoulders simultaneously, almost as if you were trying to raise the bar over a ledge that was a just a little higher than you are tall.
If you struggle with the wider grip, use a medium, "just outside the shoulders" grip (clean pull). Basically, the technique is the same as the deadlift except for a more aggressive acceleration in the second pull. Do a warm-up set of about 60% of your work set at six reps, followed by a work set of six reps. The criteria for load selection, in addition to trunk/hip/scapula technique, is the height and speed of the pull (on toes and traps). Avoid any elbow flexion until the last moment, at which time you can allow your arms to pull the bar up slightly if the acceleration has been significant.
For those of you who don't want to do snatch pulls, stick with the deadlift and do another set of what was described earlier in this article. However, do a work set of 15-20 reps this time. No warm-up is needed.
Use the wide (snatch) grip if you're up to it or, alternatively, the medium (clean) grip. If you've got the flexibility needed to do the wide grip, you may wish to challenge yourself by doing the movement while standing on a 20-kg plate which, in effect, will raise your body some two inches off the ground. The reason will be self-explanatory.
In simpler, more conventional terms, this is a "flat back" version of the stiff-legged deadlift. With the bar on your back, take a shoulder-width stance and slightly bend the knees. Don't change the knee angle during the movement! Flex or lower forward from the waist, keeping your chest up and the hip and spine flat (aligned). Only flex forward as far as you can until the spine starts rounding or you get any posterior rotation of the hip. For most, this won't be very far!
You can also accentuate hamstring involvement by pushing the bum back and allowing your weight to drift to your heels during the lowering. Squeeze the glutes during the movement. This increases the hamstring involvement which is, after all, what you're aiming for.
Lower the load over three seconds. Take a one-second pause in the bottom position, and lift the bar in one second. Do a warm-up set of 60% of your work set (about six reps.) Then, do a work set of 8-10 reps. Look out for uneven weight distribution! If one hamstring is more sore the next day than the other, you're unbalanced (workout wise, not necessarily psychologically).
I'm really breaking my own rules by using this exercise name – I usually prefer the name to at least describe the movement! Anyway, place the bar on your back, keep the knees slightly bent, and take a shoulder-width stance – pretty much the same as the Russian deadlift in that the knee angle is not to change during the movement.
The big difference is that, on this occasion, I want you to lower the head down as far as it will go by rounding over in the spine. Keep a good grip of the bar as you approach the bottom position. I really want you to get that head down to the knees, even if it means using only the bar – I want range over load! Use the same warm-up/work set and speed as the Russian deadlift, but perhaps with a little less weight.
If you've done the previous workouts, as I fully expect that you have, you won't need a description of this movement. Of course, I'll grant you the possibility that your memory has become impaired from extreme fatigue. If that's the case, here's an explanation on how to do the movement again.
This is a single-leg, bent-knee deadlift – one of my very own creations! Stand on one leg (starting with the weak side) and bend the other leg up until the lower leg is parallel to the ground. Place your hands on the hips or by your side. The aim is to bend the knee of the supporting leg until the knee of the non-supporting leg is brushing the ground. In reality, you may have to settle for a shorter range (you'll understand why as soon as you do this workout). If the aforementioned is the case – and I expect that it will be – look to increase the range from workout to workout.
You're allowed to flex (bend) forward at the waist as much as you want, and doing so will increase the gluteal involvement. Keep the working knee aligned neutrally throughout the movement. Take three seconds to lower, a one-second pause at each end, and two seconds to lift. No warm-up set needed.
By now, of course, you're an expert on the movement. Do it now, only this time, as I expect your strength and coordination levels have improved, your range should be better. Only when your non-supported knee threatens to touch the ground on each and every rep will you need to consider adding external loading (by holding dumbbells in each hand).
Remember that this is still a situation where I place a greater value over what's happening inside your body than what appears to be happening on the outside. The physical training effect is more important than the visual effect of impressing your fellow gym dwellers.
Here's a synopsis of the exercises outlined in this program:
- Bent-Knee, Wide-Grip Deadlifts
- Warm-Up Sets – 1x10 at 40%, 1x8 at 60%, 1x6 at 80%
- Work Sets – 2x6-8. Speed – 311
- Wide-Grip Snatch Pulls
- Warm-up sets – 1x6 at 60%
- Work Sets – 1x10, 1x6. Speed – 10 (explosive movement)
- Warm-Up Sets – 1x6 at 60%
- Work Sets – 1x15-20. Speed – 311
- Russian Deadlifts
- Warm-Up Sets – 1x6 at 60%
- Work Sets – 1x8-10. Speed – 311
- Good Mornings
- Warm-Up Sets – 1x6 at 50%
- Work Sets – 1x8-10. Speed – 311
- King Deadlifts
- Work SetsWork sets – 1x(as many reps as possible). Speed – 312
Note: The loads for the warm-up sets are expressed as a percentage of the first work-set load.
That's it for the second stage. I'll be presenting you with Parts I and II of the third stage in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I urge you not to sign up for any marathons or dance contests – you won't be able to handle them. I do, however, suggest that you find a tailor to fit your soon-to-be massive legs with some new pants!