For every guy who says no leg workout is worth a crap without including barbell squats, there’s at least 10 others who, for whatever reason, simply refuse to squat. Maybe it’s because of a past injury. Or perhaps it’s just a matter of hating squats. Either way, we can’t make anyone do squats. What we can do is offer a leg workout that even in the absence of the “king of all exercises” still blasts the quads, glutes and hamstrings to deliver some serious lower body size. The following “no-squat” routine accomplishes just that.

Training Protocols: Heavy compound movements with high-rep drop sets

The Benefits

Utilizing compound movements and targeting more muscle groups at once will improve your workout efficiency.

Shortened rest periods increase training intensity, releasing more natural muscle-building hormones and charging resting metabolism rates for hours after the workout is over.

Supplemental movements (dumbbell swings and leg extensions) will focus on post-exhaustion techniques to stimulate more intensity and muscle growth.

17-Minute Quads

The Workout

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Leg Press 3 8-10 60-seconds
Leg Press Drop Sets 2 10* 60-seconds
Romanian Deadlift 3 6-8 60-seconds
Dumbbell Swing** 2 15, 20 60-seconds
Dumbbell Lunge 3 8 60-seconds
Leg Extension** 2 20, 30 60-seconds

After completing the workout, do full body static stretching, spending 1-2 minutes on each bodypart with extra time spent on trouble areas like tight hips and upper back. If possible, drink a protein shake with simple carbs at this time too, if not shortly after, to promote proper muscle recovery.

*On the first drop set, use 75% of the weight used for the 3rd set of leg presses and do 10 reps; on the second drop set, use 50% of the 3rd set weight and do as many reps as possible with good form.

**Dumbbell swings and leg extensions serve as drop sets for Romanian deadlifts and dumbbell lunges, respectively.

pro wrestler Rob Terry leg press

Coaching Cues

Leg Press

Focus on controlling the tempo during all phases of the movement: eccentric (lowering phase) and concentric (driving phase).

It is CRITICAL that you do NOT lower the weight to the point where you can no longer keep your lower back flat on the pad. If you let the foot plate go too low you’ll notice your lower back round or tuck under and come off the pad. This puts tremendous strain on your lower back.

To maintain tension throughout and eliminate strain on the knees, do not fully lockout out your legs.

Romanian Deadlift (aka RDLs)

Remember, this is not a traditional deadlift movement. Unrack the barbell from the power cage and take one step back with each leg. From an upright position, powerfully brace your core, soften your knees and slide your hips backward, performing a hip hinge movement.

Keep your torso fixed in a straight line/neutral position.

Keep tension on the lats and maintain your best mechanical leverage advantage by constantly pulling the barbell into your legs during the lowering and raising phases of the exercise.

For more technique cues on RDLs, check out this video:

Dumbbell Swing

Dumbbell swings are an example of a dynamic hip hinge movement.

Do not squat down when the dumbbell swings between your legs; rather, hinge/slide your hips backward.

The power and momentum generated from a powerful hip snap and glute contraction will propel the dumbbell forward and upward into an arc pattern.

Dumbbell Forward Lunge

Hold the dumbbells at your sides as if you’re performing a farmer’s walk. For a progression, the dumbbells can be held at the shoulders as if you’re performing a military press.

Step forward with a broad stride so that as you lower into the lunge, the front leg and the back leg both form 90-degree angles.

The core should be braced and the torso should be upright.

Drive forward, finishing with both feet side-by-side.

Leg Extensions 11 19 13 A

Leg Extension

You should strive to keep constant tension on the quads during the entire set. This means you do not throw the weight – you should extend and lower the weight under control.

If you still have something left in the tank, you can add a 3rd set of leg extensions with even greater repetitions (40+ reps).

Another advanced technique involves wrapping elastic bands around the leg bar and back around the machine to increase the tension and intensity at lockout.

Static Stretching

Check out these lower and upper body mobility videos:

Upper Body Mobility

Lower Body Mobility