HIIT FOR MASSIVE LEGS – Quads and Hams
Having progressed from the beginner to advanced training stage, you’ll no doubt have a pretty good idea of where your individual strengths and weaknesses lie. From here, your plan becomes more about prioritizing your weak points in order to produce a more symmetrical and proportionate physique as you continue to advance in your training.
The formative training years are rewarding for two main reasons. First, we tend to add muscle fast and have less trouble recovering from one session to the next. This provides us with encouragement and motivation to continue in our training efforts. Secondly, we also encounter any genetic limitations we may have; weak points that we must figure out how to address. Doing so ultimately makes us a more well-rounded bodybuilder.
While there are a great many ways to prioritize our weaknesses (many of which have been written about on this site), a major problem for many is that despite any positive steps taken, our weaknesses may improve only marginally, if at all. This leads many to abandon the weak area entirely, or, at best, reduce the amount of attention it receives.
One area many often struggle with are the quads and hams (collectively the vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, rectus femoris, biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus). Despite the best of intentions and a heavy and intense program centered on squats, presses, lunges, extensions, and curls – and all manner of related variations – those stubborn quads and hams continue to lag.
In the 12 -Week program to follow we’ll depart from the traditional leg training fundamentals to which most lifters have become accustomed (i.e., basic leg training mass builders executed with normal straight-sets bodybuilding-style protocols).
Instead, you’ll be hitting the thighs with a combination of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and plyometrics, unorthodox methods for forcing fresh growth.
If you’ve been struggling to add appreciable mass to your quads and hams, you’ll have nothing to lose and everything to gain by employing the following tactics. If your quads are already strong, you’ll likely make them better than ever.
- Despite the intensive, fast-paced nature of the above, all reps are to be controlled at all times (with no bouncing or jerky actions).
- Incorporate cardio plan of your choosing. All cardio is to take place before breakfast in a fasted state.
- All resistance sessions are to take place in the afternoon (after 2-3 solid meals).
- Warm up with five minutes of light cardio before each leg session.
- Stopwatch: to time the duration of select movements and rest intervals.
- Variously weighted dumbbells
- Squat Jumps: 3 sets of 10 reps
- Jumping Lunges: 3 sets of 10 reps
- Circuit 1: Romanian Deadlifts (with DB or BB) for 30 seconds (high intensity)/Leg Curls for 30 seconds (high intensity)/ Jog in Place for 30 seconds (low intensity)/Jumping Jacks for 30 seconds (high intensity)/Jog in Place for 30 seconds (low intensity). Complete twice with one minute of rest between circuits.
- Tabata Weights Circuit: Goblet Squats (wide stance): 6 sets: 30 seconds per set: 10 seconds rest between sets.
- 100-meter sprints: 3 sets
- Complete workout of choosing
- Complete workout of choosing
- Front Box Jumps (10 reps per set) supersetted with 100 Meter Sprints: 3 sets
- Circuit 2: DB Squats for 30 seconds (high intensity)/DB Lunges alternating (one rep of squats directly followed by one rep of lunges etc) for 30 seconds (high intensity)/high knees for 30 seconds (low intensity)/mountain climbers for 30 seconds (high intensity)/jog in place for 30 seconds (low intensity). Complete twice with one minute of rest between circuits.
- Tabata Weights Circuit: Leg Extensions: 6 sets: 30 seconds per set: 10 seconds rest between sets.
The above Quad/Ham specialization plan requires a great deal of muscular endurance and power. This means the body must be well-nourished with sufficient performance fuel to sustain a high-intensity output and the ultra-focused concentration needed to complete each of the technical and intensive movements without faltering.
As you may have noticed from prior workouts and corresponding supplement recommendations provided on this site, a sound supplement stack can make all the difference when it comes to generating the requisite staying power to nail a productive workout.
To maximize the effectiveness of the program above, I recommend using the following three performance products immediately prior to hitting each workout. A failure to do so will likely prevent you from giving your best when it counts.
This unique product provides the perfect balance of key electrolytes (bicarbonate and citrate forms of Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium and Calcium for optimal absorption), medium-chain maltodextrins and specially engineered carbohydrates to enhance muscular endurance, strength, power, and recovery, making it especially beneficial for those wanting to keep training intensity high for the full duration of a hard workout.
With zero simple sugars and long-chain carbohydrates, CARBION+ is non-bloating and the perfect solution to the sugar crashes and digestive problems that tend to plague other products. Best of all, it’s the most efficiently absorbed performance drink on today’s market, which ensures you’ll receive the active ingredients when you need them most.
Best known for advancing muscle protein synthesis, the BCAAs also serve as a clean fuel source for anaerobic output, thus making them an important part of any good pre-workout stack.
AMINOCORE provides a hefty, highly-bioavailable 8.18g per serving total of the BCAAs Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine to heighten intra-workout muscle anabolism while boosting energy and recovery.
Also manufactured to provide just the right ratio of BCAAs to ensure that muscle is not broken down for energy purposes (an inefficient process that may lead to muscular weakness and a lowered metabolic rate), the anti-catabolic AMINOCORE both directly and indirectly promotes lean muscle building and continued metabolic enhancement.
There can be no denying the importance of the famed stimulant effect in supercharging the senses and putting the lifter in the right frame of mind to power through the toughest of workouts. For serious lifters only, IMPACT IGNITER provides such a heighted state while also intensifying focus, drive, and mental clarity through the addition of a powerful nootropic blend.
In addition, this product doubles as a potent fat burner. Through its powerful thermogenic and lipolytic effects it depletes bodyfat reserves and uses the liberated fat for fuel – thus, IMPACT IGNITER enables to lifter to achieve shredded conditioning while also enjoying greater endurance through enhanced fat mobilization.
As with all forms of intensive training, always be sure to properly hydrate both before, during, and after each of the workouts featured in the above plan. A failure to consume sufficient H2O can have dire consequences when it comes to optimizing physical and mental performance. Optimal hydration, on the other hand, improves the circulation of blood flow and nutrients to working muscles while also assisting with the removal of metabolic by-products and waste. 1,3,10
Proper hydration also ensures that the joints are well-lubricated and body temperature is properly regulated. To assist with hydration a sound ratio of key electrolytes is a must. By taking CARBION+ prior to each session you’ll receive the electrolytes needed to keep your body performing at a high level.
Often used for rehab or to improve athleticism, plyometrics are best suited to enhancing functional movement patterns so as to boost sporting performance.4, 5, 8 This style of training can also be used as an effective and efficient way to build muscle, as a full complement of fast-twitch muscle fibers must be engaged to generate the force necessary to successfully complete each rep in the shortest possible timeframe.9, 11
Plyometric movements are completed in a high-velocity manner, taking advantage of the physiological phenomenon known as the stretch-shortening cycle to improve the capability of the neuromuscular system to quickly generate maximal force. In essence, plyometrics pre-stretch a muscle through an eccentric contraction while maximizing elastic energy storage within that muscle. When kinetic energy is rapidly released on the positive phase, a powerful concentric contraction is produced, which shocks the bigger and bulkier fast twitch fibers into becoming larger and stronger.
The plyometrics movements included in the program to follow are:
To perform: Stand with feet hip distance apart; bend at the knees to fully lower the body into a squat position while keeping the spine straight, chest up, knees behind toes, and arms to the front of the body for balance. Push with the feet to explode into a full extension, launching the body straight up while swinging the arms overhead (or backward, behind the body). Land softly into a deep squat.
To perform: Stand in front of a suitably elevated box with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend into a half squat position, swinging arms back. Next, swing the arms forward and explode through the concentric phase, fully extending at the hip and knee joints. Landing on the box as softly as possible, ensure the same half squat positioning is achieved (if box is too low, you’ll likely land in a full squat). Push body backwards off the box and land softly, again in a half squat position.
To perform: Aim to achieve a good stride length but don’t reach too far with the legs (ensure feet make proper contact with the ground on each stride). Using arms to help generate force and keeping the body tall (no bending forward), stay relaxed and aim for a fast pace, but don’t push excessively hard on each stride (with good form and a relaxed state the speed will take care of itself).
An effective modality for both cardiovascular and muscle building improvements, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) requires that short periods of explosive, high-paced work be alternated with equal or slightly longer periods of rest (or slow-paced active recovery protocols). The overall objective with HIIT is to cram as much high intensity work into the shortest possible duration in order to save time and maximize results.2, 6
Unlike regular strength and endurance training methods, HIIT keeps the body moving for much of the duration of a session (or sequence of movements) – switching from a low to high intensity output at regular intervals (a minute of slow jogging alternated with 30 seconds of sprinting for 20-30 minutes, without rest, being its purest form).
For the purposes of this article we’ll be incorporating various types of HIIT circuit to fully overload the quads while maximizing bodyfat reduction.7, 12 The key to getting the most from the following circuits is to adjust intensity accordingly. Here, heart rate is to be kept at around 80-85 percent of its maximum capacity during the high intensity bursts and around 70 percent of heart rate maximum during the lower intensity work.
Romanian Deadlifts (with DB or BB) for 30 seconds (high intensity)/Leg Curls for 30 seconds (high intensity)/ Jog in Place for 30 seconds (low intensity)/Jumping Jacks for 30 seconds (high intensity)/Jog in Place for 30 seconds (low intensity).
DB Squats for 30 seconds (high intensity)/DB Lunges alternating (one rep of squats directly followed by one rep of lunges etc) for 30 seconds (high intensity)/high knees for 30 seconds (low intensity)/mountain climbers for 30 seconds (high intensity)/jog in place for 30 seconds (low intensity).
Goblet Squats (wide stance): 6 sets: 30 seconds per set: 10 seconds rest between sets.
Leg Extensions: 6 sets: 30 seconds per set: 10 seconds rest between sets.
- Ayotte, D. et al. (2018). Individualized hydration plans improve performance outcomes for collegiate athletes engaging in in-season training. J Int Soc Sports Nutr15, 27.
- Bacon, A.P. (2013) VO2max Trainability and High Intensity Interval Training in Humans: A Meta-Analysis. PLoS ONE 8(9): e73182.
- Belval, L. N. et al. (2019). Practical Hydration Solutions for Sports. Nutrients, 11(7), 1550.
- Davies, G. et al. (2015). Current concepts of plyometric exercise. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 10(6):760-786.
- Gjinovci, B. et al. (2017). Plyometric training improves sprinting, jumping and throwing capacities of high-level female volleyball players better than skill-based conditioning. J Sports Sci Med. 16:527-535.
- Gillen, J.B. et al. (2016) Twelve Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves Indices of Cardiometabolic Health Similar to Traditional Endurance Training despite a Five-Fold Lower Exercise Volume and Time Commitment. PLoS ONE 11(4): e0154075.
- Gillen, J.B. et al. (2014) Three Minutes of All-Out Intermittent Exercise per Week Increases Skeletal Muscle Oxidative Capacity and Improves Cardiometabolic Health. PLoS ONE 9(11)
- Ozbar, N. et al. (2014). The Effect of 8-Week Plyometric Training on Leg Power, Jump and Sprint Performance in Female Soccer Players. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 28(10)
- Peitz, M. et al. (2018). A systematic review on the effects of resistance and plyometric training on physical fitness in youth- What do comparative studies tell us?. PloS one, 13(10)
- Riebl, S. K. et al. (2013). The Hydration Equation: Update on Water Balance and Cognitive Performance. ACSM’s health & fitness journal, 17(6), 21–28.
- Swanik, K. et al. (2016). The effect of shoulder plyometric training on amortization time and upper-extremity kinematics. J Sport Rehabil. 25(4):315-323.
- Viana, R.B. et al. (2019). Is interval training the magic bullet for fat loss? A systematic review and meta-analysis comparing moderate-intensity continuous training with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) British Journal of Sports Medicine 53:655-664.