A well developed pair of legs not only looks good but is also a great part of a healthy lifestyle. Having muscle strength and endurance in your lower body just makes life easier. You can perform better in sports, lift things more easily, and just generally get more out of life.
So how do you develop a killer set of legs? One of the best ways is by utilizing the properties of a heavy-light workout. You alternate between heavy days and light days to build strength, power, endurance, and shape. This type of program is great for a wide range of people because it covers more aspects of usefulness than just building bigger muscles; we are also looking to build useful muscles.
You will have a heavy day and a light day. You can mix up days however you would like such as simply alternating every-other workout or even going two-heavy days followed by two-light days. You might even decide to mix things up by doing both those options to keep your legs guessing! No matter which workout you are doing all reps should be done at a slower pace and perfect form should be the goal.
The Heavy Day
We will focus on the big exercises that build muscle size and strength. A rest period of 1 to 2 minutes between each set is recommended. Warm-up with 10 minutes of light cardio to get blood flowing in the muscles and then do light stretching for the entire lower body before you get started. The final set of each exercise should be the heaviest weight you can handle for the prescribed reps with prior sets being warm-ups progressing up in weight.
- Squats – 5 sets of 5 to 8 repetitions – If you are new to squats start in a Smith Machine to help with balance and form.
- Stiff-Legged Deadlifts – 4 sets of 5 to 8 repetitions – Use a barbell but only load 25 lb plates or stand on a box to ensure maximum stretch.
- Leg Press – 4 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions – Aim for a full range of motion. Don’t load on more weight than you can handle then just do half repetitions.
- Lying Leg Curls – 3 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions – Go slow and hold the contraction for a two-count at the top.
- Hack Squats – 3 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions
- Seated Calf Raises – 3 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions – Go very slow and hold the stretch for a 3 count and contraction for a 3 count.
- Standing Calf Raises – 3 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions – Go very slow and hold the stretch for a 3 count and contraction for a 3 count.
The Light Day
Light days are all about endurance and muscle shape. Warm-up with 10 minutes of light cardio to get blood flowing in the muscles and then do light stretching for the entire lower body before you get started. For these exercises you will pick a weight that you can handle (70% of maximum for rep range) and then proceed to do all 5 sets with that weight resting only 30 seconds between each set.
- Dumbbell Squats – 5 sets of 12 reps
- Dumbbell Lunges – 5 sets of 12 reps
- Hamstring Curls – 5 sets of 12 reps – Standing or lying down, single or double leg.
- Leg Extensions – 5 sets of 12 reps
- Standing Calf Raises – 5 sets of 12 reps – Full range of motion with no bouncing.
- Donkey Calf Raises – 5 sets of 12 reps (or seated calf raises if your gym doesn’t have a donkey machine)
The light day might seem easy at first but you should really start to feel it by the third set. If not make sure to increase the weight slightly the next session. But, even if you don’t feel it too much during the workout, be prepared for some additional soreness the next day because endurance work targets different muscle fibers. Make sure to stretch after each workout as well to speed up recovery.