By now, you should have at least tried the leg workout that I described in Part 1 of this article posted last week. If all is well, you should be feeling really bad because your legs hurt so much. Of course, at the same time, even though your legs are aching, you're feeling really good because you know that you've done the appropriate amount of damage to your muscle fibers. How's that for an oxymoron?
Now it's time for me to come clean with you – I only gave you half the story. Why did I hold back? Because I knew that some of the things I got you to try in the last workout might have caused veritable culture shock, and I didn't want to push my luck. If you're like anyone else who's tried that particular workout, no doubt, you assumed that it would be easy...until you tried it, that is.
So what's the other half of the story? Actually, to most, that program would have appeared complete. That's because most programs neglect at least 25% of the upper leg musculature. But if you want to maximize your muscle strength, size, and lean body weight, you can't afford to work only 75% of your legs.
There's a theory that some exercises affect primarily the anterior (front) upper thigh muscles (i.e. the quads) while others affect primarily the posterior (hamstring/gluteal). However, as I mentioned, most training programs totally neglect the posterior muscle groups.
As I said, most would have been satisfied that my earlier leg program covered the bases, but I don't believe that it did. Sure, some of those exercises included the hamstrings and glutes – it's very difficult to cut them out entirely in most multi-joint lower body exercises – but here are the major limitations:
- In the exercises where the posterior thigh muscles were involved, they weren't always the dominant muscles being trained.
- The total number of anterior dominant exercises were in excess or outnumbered the posterior dominant exercises.
The issue of muscle balance isn't something that concerns everyone, so those "athletes" whose recreational or sporting activities rarely see them breaking a sweat won't be concerned by the above. But when I stress that relying solely on routines such as the one I gave you – or the majority of routines others gave you – means that you're missing potential muscle mass, strength, and weight, you'll probably get extremely interested!
Now, a little additional clarification before I go on. I refer to muscles or workouts that are predominantly anterior thigh as being quad dominant, and those that are predominantly posterior thigh as being hip dominant. The following is a hip dominant routine that balances out the previous quad dominant routine. This workout contains even more "unique" exercises, including some of my own creation – if I do say so myself, it took a very creative mind to arrive at some of them! But they weren't developed out of a drive to create something different for the sake of being different. They were born out of a desire to ensure that equal emphasis is placed on the upper thigh musculature.
And, just like the previous program, I expect this workout to be done for only a few weeks of the year. In fact, I'd like you to alternate the previous workout with this one so that if you do Part I on Monday, you'll do Part II on the following leg workout before returning once more to the first part. In return, you'll harvest great rewards in immediate stimulation of neural firing (learning to contract the muscles), hypertrophy (muscle growth), and greater neural strength immediately upon returning to more conventional loaded methods. (For a full description of quad dominant and hip dominant exercises, refer to my "How to Write Strength-Training Programs: A Practical Guide" book.)
Remember, you only need to do one set of each of the following:
Leg Abductions and Adductions
The first two exercises are the leg abduction (taking the leg away) and leg adduction (bringing the leg in). You can do these either on a dedicated machine, a low pulley cable, or even lying on your side on the ground with ankle weights.
Sure, you might think that these are useless, female exercises. But remember, one of the aims of this routine is to isolate, learn to recruit, and then pre-fatigue the smaller muscles. I wouldn't ask you to do these exercises again for 12 months, but think about it – how are you going to get the best results? By doing things you don't normally do! (Don't expect an immediate high level of fatigue from these exercises, but when you can't sit down two days later because of the soreness in your glutes, you'll understand how these seemingly harmless exercises fit into the bigger picture of ripping your cheek muscles apart).
I want the abduction done before the adduction to allow priority to be given to gluteal recruitment. Superset the two exercises, using a 323 speed (note the longer pause at each end). In both, use a load that causes you to lose the ability to complete the range that you started with in 12-15 reps.
Single-Leg hip/Thigh Extensions
This exercise has been getting a lot of attention lately as it's the one that Louie Simmons designed a machine to do. Lie on your tummy with both legs extended. Start by lifting one leg just off the floor – don't let it touch the floor for the duration of the set – work one leg at a time. Extend the leg upward so that it's in line with the trunk. Focus on squeezing the glutes (I know, the hamstrings get involved big time, but I want glute focus throughout this workout – you'll appreciate this when you blow out of the "hole," i.e. the bottom position of a big squat a few months later).
If you're using bodyweight or ankle weights, don't worry about warming up. If you're using the device, do one warm-up set with minimal loading for about 15 reps. Make sure that you don't externally rotate the leg too much during the concentric (lifting) phase. In other words, keep the foot pointing to the ground and the heel pointing to the ceiling.
You don't need a special machine to do this exercise, although it is handy. In the absence of a machine, you can attach ankle weights or just use the weight of your leg. Remember, I'm using this as a pre-fatigue and a learning movement, so you don't need high-level "can't walk" loading. Done one-legged, you won't need too much external resistance. Lift the leg in two seconds, hold for two seconds, lower for three seconds. If using the weight of your leg, you may need to take the reps high, i.e. over 20 reps. With ankle weights or a device, work to about 15 reps before looking to increase the load.
Single-Leg Back Extensions
Some know this as a hyperextension. It doesn't matter what you call it. Get on a normal bench or one specifically made for the movement. Make sure that your hips and legs are supported while you lie face down with your trunk hanging off the end. You'll need to go from your head nearly on the ground to where the upper body is in line with the legs. Provided that you're up to it, only hook one leg under the foot holders – or, if using a standard prone bench, have you partner hold down only one leg. You may have been thinking about how easy this routine has been up to this point, but the honeymoon's over – you're about to face reality!
Lift the trunk/upper body in two seconds. Hold for two seconds. Lower for three seconds. If you can't do at least five reps at the speed indicated, go back to using both legs together. Remember the weak-side rule, and start with the weaker leg (if you don't know which one that is, you'll know shortly!) You don't need to do a warm-up set – go straight into the work set.
Single-Leg Standing Deadlifts
Let the fun begin! Stand on one leg. Keep the other foot off the ground but roughly parallel with the leg doing the supporting. Bend the knee of the leg supporting your weight slightly, but remember not to change that knee angle during the exercise (get a partner to watch for this, as it will be tempting!). Now, bend at the waist while allowing the back to round and reach slowly toward the floor. If your range allows, touch the floor with the fingertips and return to the starting position. Use a speed of three seconds down, pause for one second at the top and bottom, and three seconds up.
You may struggle with balance, but persist – you'll also be developing the muscles in the sole of the foot! The first time you do this, you may find that you're touching down with the non-supporting foot regularly to avoid falling over. That's okay, but try to minimize this in later workouts. When you've mastered this exercise, touching of the ground by the non-supporting leg means that you've worked to failure and it's time to terminate the set.
Don't be surprised if you can only do five reps on the first day! Look to increase the reps from workout to workout. Hold light dumbbells in your hand only when you get to ten reps at the speed indicated. No warm-up set is necessary. Remember the weak-side rule.
Single-Leg Good Mornings
This is exactly the same as above, except I want you to start with a broomstick or 10-kg bar on your shoulders as you would while doing a conventional good morning exercise. You'll be working the same muscles, but I've simply shifted the external resistance and affected the joint angles at which the load will be experienced.
Hold onto the broomstick/bar with your hands in the normal fashion. Apply the speed, reps, and load guidelines of the above exercise. Again, don't panic if five reps is your starting situation, and respect the weak-side rule.
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. When you can do more than 15-20 reps full range, look to hold dumbbells in the hands. This, I suspect, is a long way off!
King deadlifts are one of my favorites and, after you see the benefits, you'll probably share my appreciation for this move.
Again, the moment you've been waiting for – normalcy. Starting from the bottom position, with the weight resting on the ground, take six seconds to lift the weight to a standing position. Lower in three seconds (refer to my article in Testosterone Issue 39 for technical pointers). Focus on using the glutes to get out of the bottom position. If you're experiencing lower-back pain or excessive fatigue, you're using a technique that's different than what I recommend. Remember, I want all of the work done by the glutes and the legs. The back is mainly a stabilizer.
Do six to eight reps. If the 20-kg bar or similar blows you away by this stage of the program (and don't be surprised if it does), you won't need a warm-up set. If you're capable of using 60 or more kilograms in the work set, use a warm-up set, but you don't need to be as strict with the speed.
Here's a synopsis of the exercises outlined in this program:
- Leg Abductions and Adductions: Perform one set of each, doing the abduction before the adduction. Do 12-15 reps using a 323 tempo.
- Single-Leg hip/Thigh Extensions: Do one set per leg, using a 322 tempo. Strive for 15-20 reps – 15 if you're using resistance, 20 if you're not.
- Single-Leg Back Extensions: Do 8-10 reps using a 322 tempo.
- Single-Leg Standing Deadlifts: Do 8-10 reps using a 313 tempo.
- Single-Leg Good Mornings: Do 8-10 reps using a 313 tempo.
- King Deadlifts: Do 15-20 reps using a 3121 tempo.
- Deadlifts: Do 6-8 reps using a 3161 tempo.
- Don't intentionally go to failure on any of the exercises in the first workout. On each subsequent workout, go closer to this failure so that by the last workout you take it to the limit.
- Do only one warm-up set and one work set in the first workout. If you feel you need to add a second work set on any of the exercises in later workouts, do so.
- Use this workout once every four to seven days, depending on your recovery ability.
- Take 30-60 seconds of rest in between exercises.
- Do this workout for only two to four weeks – you'll know when it's time to move on. This type of training has a lot of benefit if used sparingly.
- Follow the weak-side rule. Always work the weak side first. Don't do more weight or reps on the strong side than the weak side can handle. If the imbalance is between, say, 10-20%, look to do an extra set on the weak side. If the imbalance is between, say, 20-50%, consider doing only a total of 25% of the reps on the strong side compared to the weak side. If the imbalance is greater than 50%, don't do any reps on the strong side until the imbalance is reduced.
The workout has been unusual, but so is the DMS (delayed muscle soreness). If all goes well, you're going to feel muscle soreness in a way and in places that you've never felt before!
Editor's note: I tried Parts I and II of Ian's workout this past week. It's really unique, and I felt that I had blasted my legs. Of course, the most difficult part of the workout was shrugging off years of brainwashing. Doing exercises with little or no weight was a hard pill to swallow, but once I reminded myself that I didn't care how different or weird the movements looked, I had a great workout. Remember, screw the pack mentality and give this workout a try!