Leg Day! To Be Or Not To Be?
It was about 10:00 A.M. Sunday morning when my phone began to ring. Doing the very best I could to ignore it, I pulled the covers over my head and let the answering machine pick it up.
"Hi, this is Eric. I'm not here to get your call right now. Please leave me a message at the tone and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.Beeeeep."
"Still sleeping you lazy bum? Get up! It's Frank. I know you're just laying there, probably with the covers over your head. Hellllooooo!" (Finally, I picked up the phone.)
"Alright, shut up already"
"Did I wake you? I hope I didn't wake you"
"Yeah right! What's going on?"
"I just figured you might want to get up and get a good meal in. Today is leg day partner!"
"Oh shit! Today is legs?"
"Yup! Unless of course.."
"Well, it's beautiful outside. It's supposed to get up to 90 degrees today. Great day to get a tan by your pool. I mean, we could do legs tomorrow."
"Damn you. Why did you have to say that? I'll call you back!"
Now fully awakened by the phone call from my good friend and training partner Frank, I rolled out of bed and went into the backyard. The sun was shining and the pool was glistening. So I walked over and dipped my hand in.the water temperature was perfect! I started thinking to myself
"It would be a shame to waste a day like this. My calves are still sore from the workout Friday. It's hard to train legs when your calves are sore. Also, my lower back feels kinda tight. And.
Then I thought
"Would you be thinking this way if today was arms or chest day? Quit being a whimp! Get in there and TRAIN YOUR WHEELS!"
So then I headed into the house, called Frank, and told him to meet me at the gym at 11:30.
Now I need to tell you that I didn't intend on getting to the gym until 12:00. You see Frank has a slight "punctuality" problem. He's on time about as much as most cable TV repairmen. So I figured if I tell him 11:30, he should roll into the gym right about 12:00.
After taking a quick shower I picked out a good "leg training outfit," which for me means work boots, sweatpants, a thick sweatshirt and a baseball cap worn backwards. Then I gulped down my favorite MRP along with a few thermogenic capsules and a bowl of oatmeal, packed my workout bag, and rested for thirty minutes while surfing my favorite discussion board (IronMagazine.com Forums) and then, headed to the gym. On the way there I began feeling nervous about my impending torture. Leg day can do that to you. Terrible thoughts raced through my head.
"Man I hate leg training. All that weight, all those reps. The nausea, the light-headedness. It sucks!"
Anyway, I arrived at the gym at exactly 12:00.Frank got there at 12:17.What would today's excuse beflat tire, important phone call, locusts, alien abduction?
"Sorry I'm late Eric. You see I"
"Don't tell me. It's cool. Let's just go trash our legs!"
While warming up with some light stretching, I decided we'd do a high intensity, low volume type of workout today. Four exercises for quads, three for hams and one for the inner-thigh; one set per exercise (not including warm-ups) taken to total failure with all the trimmings-forced reps, partials, and negatives.
"Why so few sets today, Eric?"
"Well, we've been going with higher volume the last few weeks, without always going to total failure. It's time to switch gears to keep our muscles from adapting to one type of workout."
"OK, cool. So what's first?"
"What's our rep range today?"
"We're gonna do it all. We'll do our first two exercises real heavy, like 4-6 reps, to stimulate those high threshold fibers. This will also serve to "wake up" our nervous system, which makes higher reps even more effective later in the workout. After the heavy stuff we'll really freak our legs out with a crazy high rep set of at least 30 or so. Then we'll finish in the medium range of about 10-15 reps. This way, all our fibers will get a beating!"
"What do you mean by different muscle fibers? I thought a muscle is a muscle."
"No Frank. You see, your muscles, if you had any (the trash talk was now under way) are composed of Type I or slow twitch fibers, and several kinds of Type II or fast twitch fibers. Each of these fibers respond best to different types of training techniques and strategies."
"OK Eric, whatever you say, but all this talk about fiber is giving me the urge to take a sh."
"Stop! I get the point. Now quick, get over to the hack squat before we lose it."
With that, we headed over to our favorite hack machine. While walking over, Frank was yelling on the top of his lungs,
"Let's get ready to rrrummbleee!!!"
After a few warm-up sets we were ready for the heavy iron. We loaded five 45ers on each side and set the foot platform to the correct angle. I stepped on, put my traps under the pads and grasped the safety handles tightly. With my eyes closed, I took a moment to clear my head and get psyched. "Let's do this," I yelled as I slammed the safeties open. Just before I started, however, I glanced into the mirror in front of me and noticed that there was an extra "quarter" on each side.
"Frank, you sneaky bastard. Are you nuts?!"
"Just shut up and do it birdlegs!"
Sufficiently pissed off by Frank's commentary on my leg development, I proceeded to perform five rockbottom reps with what was a record weight for me. I was quite satisfied but Frank was not.
"Don't lock those safety handles until you give me ten partials!"
When I completed the set, I needed a fire extinguisher for my quads and my traps felt flattened by the force of the weight.
Frank then did his set in a similar manner, albeit with less weight. (Sorry Frank can't have people thinking you're as strong as I am).
Next we made our way to the squat slide machine and performed one warm-up set and one all out set of about six reps. However, we finished our set with forced negatives rather than partials. Forced negatives are when your partner applies some extra pressure during the final one or two eccentric contractions. These are torturous, and feel like they get to those "deep" fibers. They hurt bad and get you nice and sore. (Something only a bodybuilder could be happy about!)
As we walked over, or should I say hobbled over to the leg press; we noticed a pitiful, but all too common sight. A young kid was in the machine and had it loaded to the hilt with 45 lb. plates. He did about 30 reps but was going down only about an inch on each rep. He was screaming and yelling so everyone in the gym would notice his "incredible feat of brutal intensity." Unfortunately, I've seen storks with bigger legs!
"How many sets you got left big guy," asked Frank.
"I'm all done. Should I leave the weight?"
"Nah, strip it down to six plates per side."
As he walked away, he looked proud but confused that someone twice his size was about to use half the weight.
"What's the deal with this set Eric?"
"Thirty five to forty reps minimum, or until you pukewhichever comes first!"
Frank, sporting his "deer caught in headlights" look responded, "All right, but I don't see a bucket around here!"
As I began to rep-out I felt really good. However, at about rep thirty a wave of nausea overtook me. At rep thirty-four I could no longer hear what was going on around me and I beganwellseeing things. At first I just saw spots, but then a small, green, muppet-like creature appeared before me. I think it was Yoda from the Star Wars movies because he kept telling me to "use the force." Anyway, I got my forty reps and a mind blowing, skin stretching pump! As I lay on the floor gasping for air I thought to myself, "Why couldn't I have picked golf?"
Our fourth and final quad movement was leg extensions. We decided to do medium reps, about fifteen or so, really accentuating the peak contraction and good slow negatives. As I sat on the machine, my legs still shaking from the previous set, I told Frank to really push me on this one.
"No problem. What weight do you want?"
"Gimme the rack!"
Just then Frank's "hot chick" radar went off! (Actually, I call him "Darth Radar" -wow, another Star Wars reference!)
"Man! Speaking of racks, check out the blonde in the red bodysuit. She's double-D-licious!"
"Frankie, shut up and put the pin in!"
"Yo Eric, what do you think she does for chest?"
"I'd say, plastic surgery."
With our testosterone levels now just a little higher, Frank put the pin in the last hole and I immediately fired up the first rep in explosive fashion while controlling the negative. At rep 12 twelve I had nothing left, however, with Frank's constant supportive encouragement (he was calling me a "big pussy"), I managed three more forced reps. My quads were so pumped that my sweatpants now fit like bike pants!
Now it was Frank's turn. He set the weight at 180 lbs., but before he got started I pulled the pin and set it at 210 lbs.
"Eric, what do you think you're doing?"
"Sorry Frank, pay back's a bitch!"
With quads now behind us it was time for hamstrings. For hammies we did lying leg curls with feet pointed to truly isolate the muscle, seated leg curls, and stiff-leg deadlifts. On the deads we made sure to keep a slight bend in the knees, our backs straight, and to stick out our rear ends on the descent to get a really good stretch. These are important points as the wrong form on this exercise will limit one's results or even cause an injury. Although we were quite tired we didn't let up on the intensity one bit as we stretched, squeezed and blitzed our hams just as we did our quads.
We finished the workout on the adductor or "inner thigh" machine. I know most macho bodybuilders only pay attention to this machine when a scantily clad babe is on it, opening and closing her legs, but it happens to be an important movement for men as well. Having well-developed adductors makes you stronger on compound movements such as squats, helps prevent injuries, and gives a more complete look to the thigh, especially when your bodyfat is low.
With the workout now behind me I had a chance to reflect upon my day at the gym while on my drive home "Man I love training legs. All that weight. All those reps. The nausea. The lightheadedness. It's awesome!"
A few minutes later I was home. With sweat still dripping from my forehead I blended and swigged down a shake made up of whey isolate, simple carbs, creatine and glutamine. I then changed into my bathing suit, went out back and immediately jumped into the pool. The water felt even better than it had earlier because I was secure in the knowledge that I had won yet another battle in the war for bigger, better legs!