Walk through any gym and you'll have a hard time finding well-developed quads. Great or even good quads are even more rare among older trainees. Ask any old timer about leg training and he'll tell you stories of how big and strong he used to be.
You don't have to be that guy, nor do you have to have mediocre legs in general.
If It Ain't Hurtin', It Ain't Workin'
Legs are subject to a slightly different set of training rules. They need their own training regimen and it needs to hurt. If you're training your legs with similar protocols as your upper body, then you're in effect doing "maintenance-mode" training for your legs.
Maintenance mode is that type of training you do on vacation or over the holidays when you desperately hope not to lose any size or strength. And if you're training with 12 reps or less, your legs ARE losing size in the long term.
You've probably picked up the idea that anything over 12 reps doesn't build size or strength, but legs, especially quads, are an exception, and they often need 15 or more reps per set to grow. They're one body part where a lactate buildup is absolutely necessary.
Try the once-a-week routine below for a change of pace and see how you do. Bonus: There's virtually no knee pain associated with it. The lighter weights you'll end up using are much more joint friendly. Your muscles, though, will feel like they've been hit by a bat!
14 Weeks of High Reps and High Pain
Weeks 1-7 – Work Legs Once a Week
8 sets of 15 reps. Do a 4-second eccentric (the negative or lowering phase) and a "fast as you can" concentric (the lifting phase).
Sets 1 and 2 are a breeze, then the pain begins. Start with a relatively easy weight, like 135 pounds. Parallel depth or slightly lower is fine. Keep the time short in between sets but do catch your breath.
- Progression: Add 1 rep per week until you hit 20 reps.
- The Rest of the Workout: Do additional glute, hamstring, and calf-targeted exercises as needed to complete the workout. Keep these in the 8-10 rep range, though, as we're focusing on quad development during this period.
Weeks 8-14 – Work Legs Once a Week
Leg Press With Bands
4 sets of 15 reps. Do a 4-second eccentric and a 3-4 second concentric. Attach bands to the leg press as shown in the video.
Start with a manageable weight and bands that are pretty strong. Emphasize the pressure on the balls of your feet (i.e. toe side of the foot). If you've never done these, you'll discover what it's like to experience post-set pain that lasts 60-90 seconds.
- Progression: Add 1 set per week until you reach 10 sets.
- The Rest of the Workout: Do additional moderate-rep glute, hamstring, and calf-targeted exercises. Keep these in the 8-10 rep range.
Upon completion of week 14, go back to week 1 and repeat the program, this time adding a bit of weight.
How to Tell If It's Working
You'll probably gain weight on this, but you'll know it's happening or about to happen when you finish dinner but find you could eat another dinner. After a few weeks, your upper body lifts should start to go up rapidly.
Personally, I gained about 8 pounds on this program, 6.2 of which was muscle. I'm 48 and no drugs were involved.