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The Ultimate Guide to Eliminating Chicken Legs

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chckenOver my years in the gym, I’ve developed a penchant for absolutely brutalizing my legs during training and as a result, I’ve built a set of wheels that attract second glances on the streets and reflections of awe in the gym. 

You should see the looks I get when I tell people that I train my legs 3-4 times a week. From curing myself and my clients of having chicken legs, I’ve learned that leg training all comes down to three very important things. 

1. Exercise Sequencing

The sequencing of how you approach your individual training sessions, especially your legs, will make a massive difference on multiple levels.

This is a trick I picked up from John Meadows and is something I’ve found to be impactful across all body parts. It will make your workouts more enjoyable, but perhaps more importantly, your strength levels will be greater when proper sequencing is used.

Proper sequencing will ensure that your legs are flooded with blood before you tackle any back, front, split, or hack squats. This is done by doing isolation movements, ideally hamstring-focused movements before moving onto quads.

ACTION STEP: Start each leg session with isolated hamstring work. This will warm up your pelvic girdle and flood your lower body with blood. As you move from hamstring curls into squats, for example, you’ll find that you feel stronger, more stable, and have a newfound pop in your booty. 

Historically, I only used movements that involved knee flexion (think hamstring curls) to achieve this. Lately though, I’ve been playing with mixing knee flexion with hip extension (swiss ball pikes, bodyweight hip thrusts, etc) and the effects have been ever more profound.

2. Training Intensity

You MUST work fucking HARD to get RESULTS.

Surprise, surprise, right?

I cannot count the number of times I’ve shared equipment with someone and gone through twice as much work as they do in the same time frame. I say this as an example of the intensity and ferocity with which you need to train in order to get the results you’re chasing.

How do you expect to make progress if you’re treating your time in the gym like a stroll in the park?

Aside from actually doing a substantial amount of work, you can also implement various intensification techniques into your session. These techniques are tremendous at driving up your daily volume and intensity. Thus creating enough stimulus to kickstart some sweet, sweet protein synthesis.

Intensification Techniques

Drop Sets: Drop the load by 30-40% and bang out 6-8 more reps. Repeat until you’ve dropped the weight 2-3 times only resting when all drops are complete. 

Rest/Pause Sets: Lower the weight to the stretched position, pause for 1-2s, and then drive it up explosively.

Isometric Holds: In the midst of a given rep, stop and hold the weight. Flex against it for 10-15s.

Forced Reps: You need a partner for these, and I wouldn’t advise doing these too frequently as it’s quite taxing on your central nervous system. Take your last set of an exercise to muscular failure. Pause for 10s before diving back in for the forced reps. Move the weight as far as you can, then have a partner assist you with the rest of the range of motion. Notice I said assist, not do it all for you. Don’t be a baby.

Partial Reps: Similar to forced reps, these are fantastic at overloading either the top or bottom end ranges of a motion. I like to use 25-30% of the full range of motion for the purpose of partial reps.

Loaded and Unloaded Stretches: These are simply phenomenal. Some benefits I’ve noticed from implementing these include better pumps through increased blood flow, improved recovery, and reduced muscle soreness. If you do these weighted, perform them after your last rep of your final set of an exercise and use a load that’s relatively light. Let the weight push down on you. You can perform the unloaded version by statically stretching the target muscle while your rest between sets.

Tempo Manipulation: There’s lots of creative license here. Essentially you’re moving the weight in a manner that allows you to get deep inside your stomach muscles and truly feel them flexing against the load. Feel free to add in 6-second descents, pauses in the flexed or stretch positions, or use the concentric portion to focus on explosiveness.

Add 1-2 of the above onto the last couple sets of an exercise or two later in your session.

ACTION STEP TO IMPROVE YOUR SESSIONS: Add in intensification techniques to the final two sets of your third and fourth exercises. This is where I’ve found the sweet spot to be in terms of being ready to jack up the intensity, but not being too fatigued to prevent you from going balls out on them.

3. Training Density

A long-standing excuse for people who suffer from lackofgainzzzitis is that they don’t have enough time to go to the gym.

…which is bullshit. And you know it.

There’s always enough time for whatever you place value in, yet people will forever lament how much time they think they need to spend in the gym.

I typically only need 50-60 minutes on the gym, though I might spend up to 75 minutes on a long day (usually a full leg session or back and delts). I’m not saying that more would be more beneficial, but you can extract plenty of results from a shorter period if you’re willing to put in the work.

Your intensity and quality of work at the gym will dictate your results.

Work must be done. Sweat must be offered as payment. Sacrifices must be made.

ACTION STEP TO IMPROVE YOUR SESSION DENSITY: Use the stopwatch feature of your phone to limit your rest periods to 60s. While your strength may suffer in the short-term, over the long-term, your work capacity will increase and your strength will rebound quickly.

What All This Means for Your Training

When we get to the root of levelling up your training, it’s really quite elegant and simple.

1. Restructure the order of your session to account for variables such as establishing blood flow, strength, and a focus on generating a strong pump and muscular connection.

2. Bring your rest times down so that your unable to fully recover between sets.

3. Selectively add in some intensification work to the midpoint of your session.

4. Focus less on your overall work and time spent in the gym, while placing the importance on high quality, effortful sets.

Armed with this knowledge and some tangible steps to take, I have no doubts you’ll see some serious #QuadGainzzz over the next couple months.

I challenge you: go forth and force yourself to need a new pair of jeans. 

The Workout

Below is a beautiful leg session that has a perfect mixture of volume, intensity, density, and calculated sequencing.

Run through this 1-2 times per week for the next 8 weeks. 

A1. Lying Leg Curls

  • Complete 3 sets of 8, resting 75 seconds between sets
  • Then do 2 additional sets of 8 that are triple drop sets
  • After all that, get back on the leg curl machine and bring the weight up halfway and hold it there for 25s.

B1. Leg Extensions

  • Complete 5 sets of 15 reps (flexing your toes to your shins), with 60 seconds rest in between each. 
  • On the last two sets, flex at the top of each rep for 1 second.

C1. Hack Squats/Barbell Back or Front Squats

  • Perform 4 sets of 6 with a fairly heavy load. Rest 90s between sets.
  • Do not sacrifice your form for the sake of putting another set of 45’s on the bar. 

D1. Bulgarian Split Squats

  • Hold a dumbbell in the opposite hand to your working leg.
  • Pump out 5 sets of 15 (per leg), resting 90 seconds between sets.

E1. Leg Press

  • Perform 4 sets of 40 with 60 seconds rest between sets.
  • If you need to rest mid-set, don’t lockout. Hold the weight statically.
  • You should HAVE to take breaks on the last 2 sets.
  • This is balls to the wall. 
About the Author

Alex is a self-proclaimed anti-meathead and part-time nerd. When he's not working towards Greek God status or learning how to better serve his clients, he can be found exploring how to further crush life, perfect his flair in the kitchen, or pull the perfect shot of espresso. You can learn what he's all about at MASSthetics .

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