Training

Akim Williams' Old School Leg Workout

Just how badly do you want bigger, stronger legs?

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Per Bernal

A GAMUT OF CURLS

With quads in the books, Williams turns to hamstrings. On Saturdays, hams are the focal point of his workout, but on Wednesdays, they come second. Still, they get a firm beatdown.

It commences with standing leg curls, Williams’ favorite hamstring movement. “I feel as if I get the most out of them, so I use the energy I have left over after training quads to do them first,” he says. “I like the concentration, being able to contract them fully one at a time.”

He’ll do three sets, 15 to 20 reps apiece, pyramiding up, before moving on to lying curls for four to five sets of 15 or more reps—as many as he can muster before failure. “I’ve been trying to improve the lower part of my hamstrings, and so on lying curls, I’ve found I can activate that lower part better by doing more of a partial than by bringing my heels all the way [to my glutes],” Williams says.

He’ll also do four to five sets of 15 or more reps of seated leg curls. While he pyramids upward, none of his hamstring movements are about the weight moved, as he’s quick to explain. “To me, the contraction is the most important thing when you’re training hamstrings,” Williams says. “It’s not a big muscle, but if you can control the weight and do the exercise correctly, I think you get a lot out of it [as opposed to] just trying to lift the heaviest weight you can. I really try to go slower so I can feel the mind-muscle connection with my hamstrings.”

Per Bernal

IT’S A STRETCH

While many might lead off hamstrings with the barbell Romanian deadlift, Williams prefers the opposite approach. “I keep the reps higher, focusing more on the stretch during each rep than anything else,” he says.

Williams begins with a plate on each side for 10 to 15 reps, then proceeds to pyramid over the course of three to four sets until he’s at 315 pounds or so. “As I said, instead of just going heavy, I’m trying to isolate the hamstrings and make sure I’m working that muscle all along its length,” he says. While this movement can be done standing on a box or a platform, Williams has found that it works well standing on the floor, where he stops at the bottom just before the plates touch down to keep the tension on the back of his legs throughout the set.

“After that, I’ll usually do some calf work,” he adds. “Standing or seated raises, or both depending on how I feel and how much energy I have left—three to four sets, going to failure somewhere past 15 reps or so.”

 

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