A well-balanced physique is important in both bodybuilding and general aesthetics. Even the general public will bring out how ridiculous someone looks with an IFBB-Pro level upper body and twig legs. If you have weak legs or just want to bring them up, try out this sample power-hypertrophy bodybuilding routine centered around building up your legs.
This routine will focus on working the legs twice per week. Yes, you will be sore until your body adapts. No, if you’re getting adequate rest and proper nutrition, this will not be overtraining. Do not think that just because you are sore, that you are overtraining (and vice versa – you can be overtrained and less sore!). But, focus on proper rest and nutrition because the legs are such a huge muscle group and will be trained hard, twice per week, so this DOES require extra attention to recovery.
The first day will be the “power” day. This day will focus on lower reps, higher weights, and more compound movements. The goal is to perform lifts where you would fail and reach absolute failure between 5-8 repetitions. This means that if your absolute failure was on repetition 5, you could not complete rep 6 without assistance. Also, do not sacrifice form to move more weight. We’re trying to build your legs – not your lower back (as you see, some people squat as if they’re completing a good-morning exercise or a deadlift with the bar on their back). The goal is to build MUSCLE, not win powerlifting shows with this routine. This will build the foundation of the mass you’re going to slab onto your legs, as well as shocking your CNS into overall growth.
The second day, which will be spaced evenly throughout the week, will focus on more “bodybuilding” movements. The reps will increase, and isolation exercises will increase, but do not think the intensity will lower. You will still be training to absolute failure on most sets. Because the heavy compound exercises might not contract every single fiber of all the muscles in your legs, we will use isolation-exercises and exercises that require less weight to perform but can create different angles to ensure the muscles of the legs can be fully contracted.
Monday: Legs (Power)
Tuesday: Chest and Triceps
Wednesday: Back and Biceps
Thursday: Legs (Hypertrophy)
Friday: Arms or Shoulders
Monday Routine – Power
Allow yourself a few warmup sets as you gradually add weight, especially on heavy compound exercises like barbell squats and on your first exercises. These will also work as “feel sets” to allow you better determine a weight to use in order for you to hit your absolute failure in the rep range specified without having more left in the tank. If you pick a weight and get to the last rep of the rep range and feel you have more than 2 or 3 reps that you could complete, rack the weight and do not count it as a working set. In order to progressively overload the muscle, we want to focus on continually adding weight to give the muscle a reason to keep growing.
Barbell Squats – 3 working sets, 5-8 reps to absolute failure
Leg Press – 3 working sets, 8-10 reps to absolute failure
Leg Extensions – 3 working sets, 8-12 reps to absolute failure
Straight-legged Deadlifts – 3 working sets, 6-8 reps to absolute failure
Lying Hamstring Curl – 3 working sets, 8-10 reps to absolute failure
Calf Raise – 3 sets, 10-12 reps to failure
Thursday Routine – Hypertrophy
The hypertrophy day includes many of the same principles for intensity as the power day, but provides a different stimulation to keep the muscle “guessing”. People hate to use the term Muscle Confusion but that’s essentially what it is. Your muscle is now given a new stimuli in the form of increased reps, different angles that isolate different heads of the quadriceps and hamstrings, etc. Leg extensions have been shown to maximally contract the quadriceps more than any leg exercise due to the angle of the hips. You may notice that completing a set of leg extensions to failure gives your legs a knotting, sharp burn more than any exercise. This is because there are more total fibers contracting than any other exercise, which is why they are the focus of this secondary leg day.
Leg Extensions – 4 working sets, 10-14 reps to absolute failure
Barbell Squats – 3 working sets, 10-14 reps to failure
Walking Lunges – 3 working sets, 12-16 reps to failure
Lying Hamstring Curl – 3 working sets, 12-15 reps to absolute failure
Seated Hamstring Curl – 3 working sets, 12-15 reps to failure
Calf-raise of your choice – 3 working sets, 20-25 reps to failure
If hamstrings are your bigger weakness (as in, your quadriceps are decently developed but your hamstrings are lacking) then you may choose to simply complete your hamstring exercises first. Why? The prioritization principle. By focusing all of your energy on this muscle group first, you will be able to exert it to a greater degree, move more weight, which in effect will create more overload to the muscle.
Remember, not any one routine works for everybody and not one routine is the best. You may choose to take certain fundamentals from this routine and apply it to your own, as well as your exercise selections. If you have injuries, certain exercises may need to be substituted.