Training

Old School Advice: Shock Your Quads into Growth

Ronnie Coleman's 3-exercise routine for leg separation and growth.

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Old School Advice: Shock Your Quads into Growth
Chris Lund

 QUESTION 

No matter what I do, I can't seem to add much size, or develop any deep muscle separation, in my quads. Am I stuck with small, smooth legs?

 ANSWER 

When I wanted to slap slabs of deep and striated muscle onto my quads in the shortest time possible, only the most extreme shock program of conflicting principles would do. This is it.

To stimulate comprehensive growth for all the muscles in the quadriceps group, you need extremely heavy straight sets of free-weight squats. To burn deep separations into all of that mass, you also need to keep pounding away with nonstop pump sets. You already know how much I love supersets and giant sets, but what I’m talking about here are descending sets that are more extreme than supersets and giant sets.

Here’s how the workout plays out. First, so five all-out sets of squats to exhaust the thighs. Then do three sets of leg presses in orthodox fashion, but on the fourth and heaviest set, after you've ground out about 15 reps, start to strip off the plates (preferably with the help of a training partner or spotter) as you go into descending mode and work the thighs into submission. Follow the same pattern with leg extensions, and by the end of the session, your thighs will be fried.

Here are the descending-set shock-training rules you should follow:

  • Use this workout every fourth leg day.
  • Use a full range of motion for every rep.
  • Use a spotter (or two), to strip your plates and to keep you going with minimum rest between sets.
  • Use only your quad muscles, not your hips or joints. Do not cheat. Contract and extend the muscle at a steady pace, without jerking. Concentrate on making the muscle pump itself full and tight.
  • Your muscles can deceive you. Just because you’ve pumped them numb doesn’t mean they’re finished. I assure you, they can still handle another series of sets, so hit them again, and then again.
  • Warm up with leg extensions, four sets of 30 reps per set, pyramiding in order to pump the muscle tight, so it can serve as a shock absorber for the heavy squats to follow. Build the pump smoothly and feel the blood flush into the muscle. Use a full range of motion, but since this is a warm-up, don’t bother with peak contractions; they’ll come later, when you use descending sets for your heavy extensions. Just keep pumping.

EXERCISE 1: SQUATS

Do five pyramided sets of these, but every set is 12 reps. Try to reach failure at 10 or 11 reps, and then gut out anywhere from one to three more on sheer willpower. Full range of motion is absolutely essential; none of this “squatting down to parallel” stuff. Squeeze your butt all the way down to your ankles. The misconception is that you lose power “out of the hole” when you go below parallel, but the opposite is true: The lower you squat, the more compression you build in your quads and the more explosion you have off the bottom.

Since I always maxed out on my last set, good form was foremost in my mind. No pitching forward, no arching my back, and I kept my butt lower than my body’s center of gravity. Never does it thrust backward and upward. Concentrate on getting a pump in your quads.

Chris Lund

EXERCISE 2: LEG PRESSES

Here, you’ll definitely need a spotter — better yet, a spotter on each side. First, pyramid up through the normal four sets for 15 reps per set. When you attain maximum pump during the heaviest set, have your spotters quickly strip a plate from each side and, without rest, continue with another set. When you're again pumped to the max, have them strip another plate from each side and continue without rest. Keep these descending sets going all the way to the bottom, until you're pressing only one plate on each side for a maximum pump. Every rep is full range.

Chris Lund

EXERCISE 3: LEG EXTENSIONS

These are performed following the same set and rep pattern as the leg presses. Pyramid up through four sets to failure, using enough weight to keep your reps at 15. At the top of each rep, peak contract. As soon as you reach maximum pump during your last and heaviest set, immediately drop the pin in the weight stack about 20 pounds and, without rest, continue another set to maximum pump. Then immediately drop the pin another 20 pounds and continue in this nonstop manner all the way to the bottom of the stack, until your quads feel as though they’ll pop open like overcooked hot dogs.

 Ronnie Coleman'S QUAD SHOCK ROUTINE 

  • Squats | SETS: 5 | REPS: 12-15
  • Leg Presses | SETS: 3 | REPS: 15
  • Leg Presses | SETS: 1 | REPS: 15*
  • Leg Extensions | SETS: 3 | REPS: 15
  • Leg Extensions | SETS: 1 | REPS: 15*

* After the 15th rep or so for this set, go immediately into descending-set mode.

 FLEX 

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