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Question: I am a bodybuilding competitor and I am taking the first half of 2013 off from competing in order to bring up some areas that I consider weak on my physique. One of the spots I am really looking to improve upon is outer thigh development and how it splits from my hamstring and side glutes. I love the way Flex Lewis, Phil Heath and Kai Green look in all of their side shots, and would like to get what they have! Any special suggestions for hitting this spot?
Answer: I certainly must agree with you in that all 3 pros you mentioned have cuts, ridges and separations so deep that they almost turn side poses into a “side thigh” shot! And there is no doubt that the judges will take notice of any competitor onstage displaying dramatic thigh muscle and definition. Lucky for you this is a section of my physique that I have been paying extra attention to myself this past year, and I have come up with 3 exercises that seem to work best for beefing and carving up the outer thigh and glutes.
Perform these as you would normally, but instead of simply keeping the feet straight, turn them inward as you reach the peak contraction of the movement. Make sure to hold and squeeze for a count of two at the top before slowly executing the eccentric portion of the lift.
Perform this exercise with one leg at a time, and with your torso angled slightly inward. Thus, if you were to work your right leg you would angle your body toward the left at around 30 degrees off center. This bodily position will also cause your hips, thigh, and foot to be angled inward as well, which is exactly how you want to remain throughout the set. Make sure to bring the weight down slowly and under complete control (as this can be a precarious position for your pelvic structure) so that your knee ends up at about the middle of your chest at the bottom of the movement. As you push upward try to do so with the power of your outer thigh (vastus lateralis) and glute, literally squeezing all the way to the top of the movement. This is not an exercise that should be done with heavy weights, so try and stick with a rep range of 10-12.
This exercise is similar to #2 above in that you will be working one leg at a time, and angling your body inward to force greater recruitment of the outer thigh and glute. So, again, if you are working the right leg, you will angle your torso, hips, thigh and foot inward to the left at around 30 degrees off center. Do not try and go to heavy; control both the eccentric (lowering) and concentric (raising) portion of every rep; squeeze the outer thigh and glute as you push from midpoint to the top. This movement can also be performed with a free weight BB or DB’s, but I personally like the better control that the Smith machine affords on this type of “isolated” exercise.
Two other pieces of advice I can offer would be to use a narrow stance on all of your two-legged squatting and pressing exercises, and also to make use of the abduction machine (you know, the one all the girls usually hang out on). A narrow stance will more effectively recruit the outer thigh muscles, while the abduction machine will carve more detail into the sides of your glutes. Here is a very effective program for getting a more “Heathesque” look to your own side poses.
-Narrow Stance Hack Squats (feet low on platform)…2 x 8-10
-Narrow Stance Hack Squats (feet high on platform)…2 x 8-10
-Angled Smith Machine Lunge or Single Leg Press…2 x 10-12
-Feet Pointed Inward Leg Extensions…2 x 12-15
-Abduction Machine…2 x 15-20