We’ll outline some of the methods that have successfully worked for our clients. There are three starting points from our experience that you may fit into:
A. You haven’t been trying to grow or strengthen your legs and you follow no specific “leg day” in resistance training program.
B. You’ve been trying unsuccessfully to grow or strengthen your legs and you follow a cookie cutter “leg day” along with your resistance training program.
C. You’ve tried everything from jumping lunges to heavy leg press to grow and strengthen your legs and you don’t seem to be getting the results that you once did.
For all three starting points, a reasonable and healthy goal to reach for is to increase strength or volume across basic compound movements successfully and, upon measuring, see an increase in each leg circumference monthly.
This person can successfully reach their leg growth goals following a progressive overload weight training program utilizing a linear progression model along with a caloric surplus composed, ideally, of mostly whole foods. The major movements to be used include back squats, front squats, conventional deadlift, wide stance deadlift, leg extensions, leg curls, and calf raises. A good starting point would be to perform back squats, front squats, conventional deadlift, and wide stance deadlift all once per week in any configuration at approximately 5 sets of 5 reps and to perform the more isolated movements: leg extensions, leg curls, and calf raises, at approximately 3 sets of 20 reps with a maximal stretch and contraction. The key to seeing increased strength and lean mass is in the linear progression model for this person. That means that you should be increasing the weight (even if its 2-5lbs some weeks) on all of these movements every week.
This person can successfully reach their leg growth goals following, again, a progressive overload weight training program, but with a more phasic progression. The concepts previously mentioned still stand in regards to exercise selection and frequency except this person may benefit more from varying the rep ranges. For example, 10,8,6 week 1, 5×5 week 2, 3×3 week 3, and 5,3,1 week 4, then restart and the goal is to increase the weight each phase as compared to the prior phase. Additionally, comparatively, the weight should be heavier for fewer reps. In the example I just mentioned, the least weight would be used for 10 reps in week 1 and the most weight would be used for 1 rep in week 4 and everything in between would be between what was used for 10 reps and what was used for 1 rep.
This is perhaps the most difficult type of person to bring about results because their central nervous system and muscles are very angry with them currently. Almost always, I’ve found that person C will require an extended deload followed by a systematic program in concert with a caloric surplus composed, again, ideally, of mostly whole foods. An extended deload, that I’ve seen work well before, usually consists of something to the effect of 1-2 weeks of just rest and eating when hungry (maintenance calories) followed by a gradual building of volume and intensity in basic compound movements over a 3-5 week period. After the central nervous system is reset, person C essentially becomes person A and now they are ready for a tailored leg training program that includes progressive overload to build strength and lean mass along with a caloric surplus to supply nutrients.