It's a hot Saturday in the Colorado Rockies and I'm at the office trying to think of a topic for an article. I've been sitting here for hours, just staring into the computer screen. I'm frustrated, really frustrated. I'm even thinking about cleaning my office, but I don't have a broom (I just opened up a 20-pound bag of glutamine that was shipped to me, but because of the high altitude here in Colorado Springs, the bag literally exploded, sending glutamine dust into every nook and cranny). I'm at the end of my creative rope. I ask God for help. And then, in what must have been a case of divine intervention, Tim Patterson comes walking in!
He's wearing one of those Monica Lewinsky T-shirts-you know, the one where she has a white mustache, and under the picture is the slogan "Not Milk." Not only that, but he's wearing shorts! Suddenly, the old creativity kicked into gear, and I greeted him with a barrage of insults:
"Are you riding in on an ostrich or are those your legs?"
"With legs like that you must be glad that Colonel Sanders kicked the bucket."
"With legs like that you should start to learn to walk on your hands."
"If you had a better tan, you could be the poster boy for the 'Feed the Ethiopians' campaign."
For some reason, he got pissed and resolved to put some meat on those wheels. Here's the routine I prescribed so he could put an end to the embarrassment:
EDITOR'S NOTE: Incidentally, Charles thinks that the late Jeep Swenson-who weighed in well over 300 pounds-was puny, too.
This routine is the opposite of the pre-exhaustion routine Arthur Jones recommended in one of his Nautilus Bulletin books for the youngest-ever Mr. America, Casey Viator. Arthur would have his famous trainee do leg extensions, followed by leg presses, and finish off with back squats. This routine was supposedly responsible for the growth of young Casey's legs. Unbeknownst to Jones, though, Viator would get on a bike and sneak out of the Nautilus compound so that he could go to the local town gym to squeeze out a few extra sets.
My post-exhaustion routine is set up so that the most neurologically demanding exercise is done first instead of last (which makes perfect sense, if you think about it). Secondly, I vary the reps and tempo of each exercise. The idea is to knock off as many motor units from the motor-unit pool as possible.
With that in mind, here's the leg routine I gave Tim:
Leg Growth Routine A
A1) Barbell Hack Squats: 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps, using a 501 tempo (where 5 indicates how many seconds you should take to lower the weight, 0 indicates no pause, and 1 is how many seconds you should take to squat the weight up).
A2) 45-Degree Leg Presses: 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps, using a 201 tempo.
A3) Leg Extensions: 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps, using a 202 tempo.
A1) Barbell Hack Squats
This exercise was brought to the bodybuilding world by Russian wrestler Georges Hackenschmidt. Georges had sought to develop an isolation exercise for the quadriceps, and succeeded. However, in Hackenschmidt's heyday, exercise machines weren't exactly commonplace. Georges invented the exercise with a barbell in mind, and the so-called Hack Squat Machine wasn't developed until years later.
A very low-cost alternative to back squatting, the Hack Squat will promote top-level growth in the vastus medialis. This exercise is now prescribed by my business associates, like top personal trainer Paul Gagné of Montreal, who really likes to use it to break sticking points in leg development with his clients. Granted, using a barbell instead of a machine makes it a little uncomfortable, but its effectiveness overrides any comfort problems.
In order to perform a true Barbell Hack Squat, you need a barbell and an adjustable rack so you can place the barbell at an optimal height for picking up and racking the bar. Your heels should be elevated by at least a two-by-four so that you can squat with a straight back and your hips will be under your shoulders in the bottom position (I prefer to use a wedged board instead of a two-by-four so that the exercise is more comfortable for the arches, but a two-by-four will do).
Set the two-by-four about four to six inches in the middle of the power rack. Set a barbell on the rack so that it is about four to six inches lower than your gluteal line. Standing with your back to the bar, grab the barbell, preferably with straps. (This is one of the rare instances where I do recommend the use of straps, and the best ones are made by John Schiek. To find out where you can get a pair, call 1-800-772-4435.)
Walk forward until your heels rest on the board. Initiate the squatting motion by allowing your knees to travel as far forward as possible, without allowing your glutes to move back. Keep a slight arch in the lower back. Once your knees have gone as far forward as possible, lower your hips to the bottom position of the squat. Be sure to keep your back upright by pushing the bottom of your sternum up. Don't allow the shoulders to round forward, and be certain your hips are under your shoulders in the bottom position.
After doing the prescribed number of reps, move directly to exercise A2. Don't take any rest.
A2) 45-Degree Leg Presses
For those of you who are familiar with my training concepts, you know I'm not a big fan of the leg press machine as it builds non-functional strength. However, since the focus of this article is hypertrophy and not necessarily functional strength, I'm more than willing to make an exception.
In this case, my best pick for a leg press is the Cybex Squat Press Unit. This device reduces spine compression to a minimum. I also like the seated leg press that's made by Atlantis. However, if your gym doesn't carry either one of these pieces of equipment, use the standard 45-degree leg presses.
I don't think it's necessary to describe how to do a leg press, but keep in mind that when you extend the hips and knees, make sure to keep the tension on the thighs by going to 95% of knee lockout. And, to prevent any dizziness, make sure you breathe in during the eccentric contraction and exhale on the concentric contraction. Again, the key is to keep the tension on the muscle at all times.
By the time you finish this exercise, you may want to cough up a lung or two. Guess what, though? You're not ready to rest, yet. It's time to go directly to exercise A3.
A3) Leg Extensions
As you probably know by now from my previous writings, I'm certainly not a big fan of leg extensions because they expose the knees to undue stress. But, when the legs are pre-exhausted from the previous two exercises, you won't be able to use much weight on them. Consequently, your knees will be protected.
If possible, use a Strive Leg Extension Unit since their unique target loading design allows you to focus the overload more in the middle of the strength curve, and that's where the quadriceps are the strongest in this movement.
Keep your head in a neutral position and don't grip the handles too tightly as it will raise your blood pressure and increase the likelihood of dizziness.
Furthermore, please try to follow the tempo prescribed-generally, when trainees go through this excruciating routine, they tend to start getting sloppy about the tempo by the time they get to this exercise. I recommend that you guess light and complete all the reps rather that going too heavy and end up looking like a penguin having an epileptic fit.
By the time you walk/wobble off this machine, you'll probably feel quite nauseated. That's quite normal because of the high lactate levels you'll have generated. The good news is that high levels of lactate are linked to high levels of growth hormone.
Now, take a 3-minute rest before repeating the tri-set. When you've gone through it three times, go outside, lie flat on the concrete, and watch some ants procreate until you feel well enough to go home.
Do this routine for six workouts, working legs once every four or five days. I'll run Part B of this routine in a few weeks.
Keep in mind that this routine is very demanding physiologically and psychologically. Make sure you don't eat anything more than a light meal within two hours before doing this grueling routine or your pre-workout meal will end up redecorating the gym floor faster than Clinton can modify the taste of his cigars. Expect to get quite nauseated from this routine (not the cigar routine-the leg routine).
Make sure that all weights are pre-set so that you don't inadvertently get some extra rest by screwing around with the poundages.
You might also want to employ a little trick I learned from Dr. Eric Serano. He was giving a consultation to one of my clients, a junior hockey player who'll soon be joining the ranks of the NHL. Eric Serano's dietary tricks-along with my training- helped this kid gain 16.8 pounds of lean body mass in just 8 weeks.
The trick is to ingest 0.17 g/kg of lean body mass of branched-chain amino acids one hour before training, and ingest another 0.17 g/kg immediately after your workout. A good source of these branched-chain amino acids is Advanced Genetics (888-629-6277).
You can learn the physiological basis of this trick and many others by attending my joint seminar with Eric on Alternating Body Composition in Phoenix, next December 5-6. Call before November 13 to get a 25% discount.
Although I exaggerated the state of Tim Patterson's legs at the beginning of this article, I'm happy to report that he no longer works as Shelly Duvall's body-double in shower scenes.