When leg day rolls around, is it better to train more like a bodybuilder or an athlete? If you’re asking yourself this question (meaning you’re undecided), perhaps the answer is both. Bodybuilders train their quads for maximal hypertrophy, while football and basketball players are more interested in developing explosive power to enhance speed and jumping ability.
For a typical gym rat who’s neither a competitive bodybuilder nor a serious athlete, the best bet may just be a leg workout that incorporates mass-building principles as well as a quick dose of explosive movements. The following workout offers just that. It addresses power through box jumps; hypertrophy via front squats in a moderate rep range and drop sets of hack squats; and, for good measure, a hefty workload for your stabilizing muscle fibers with unbalanced lunges. Frankly, it’s a great routine for the guy who wants to look good from the waist down at the pool this summer and also have the ability to engage in the occasional pick-up game without getting embarrassed.
Keep your movements under control. Your lower body will be on fire during these drop sets, but don’t rush through the reps. The machine will help you keep your form strict, but still concentrate on keeping your lower back flat or slightly arched (not rounded).
Unbalanced Walking Lunge
The intention of this exercise is to train core stability and balance while also working the quads and glutes. Hold a moderate-weight dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand while you do lunges, keeping the other hand free. Focus on keeping your torso upright throughout – don’t let yourself lean to the side holding the weight.
Treat this as your big lift for the day. The 8-10-rep range is designed to promote hypertrophy, so you should be coming close to failure on all four sets. You want to be strong on every set, so don’t skimp on rest periods. Take 2-3 minutes between sets.
Doing an explosive jumping exercise further warms up the lower body while activating the fast-twitch muscle fibers you’ll be calling on for front squats. Go with a 20- to 30-inch plyo box. If you don’t have one available, use a weight bench instead.
Precede this workout with a five- to 10-minute low-intensity warmup on the cardio machine of your choice.