The Strength Coach’s Leg Hypertrophy Workout 

Josh coaching TJ through sled drags.

Underdeveloped legs look physically flaccid and perform limply on the field of play! So, if you are a selfie-snapping aesthetic warrior, a bouncer in a belligerent Bakersfield barroom or an athlete, strong, well-developed legs are not a luxury, they are a necessity. Instead of that played-out three sets of 10 1990s Muscle and Fitness workout, let’s try something that is much more effective and a helluva a lot more fun. Exercise: Backward Sled Pulls Very few people know that the year prior to bodybuilding legend Branch Warren winning his pro card in 2001, he quit squatting and started sled pulling. About this Movement Albeit painful, backward sled pulls will take size and strength in the quads to the next level. With the right mix of volume and intensity, sled drags will take you far beyond the training purgatory most reluctantly enter and straight to the depths of anaerobic hell. Because of this, you will increase in conditioning and decrease in excess body fat. Besides blasting the quads and testing your proverbial testicles—this movement will test the strength of your torso and grip. Backward simply means you are facing the sled and pulling it backward.  You will be leaning backward with your arms straight and pulling away from the sled with maximum intensity; if this looks like a relaxing back pedal—add more weight.

National-level bodybuilder, TJ Clark, demonstrating backward sled drags.Training Tips

Never let the sled stop!  Think back to high school physics class, it takes more energy to get an object moving than to keep it moving—the goal is acceleration, don’t stop. Use your bodyweight—regardless of if you are pleasantly plump or sickly skinny!  Lean back, away from the sled, the entire movement; never row the weight, pull it with your body.  Keep in mind, your arms are the weak link not your legs; use your legs. Think of your arms as “hooks” that do not move. When pulling the sled, make sure you are taking fast, short, choppy steps; unlike traditional sprints, long strides will slow you down. Since the goal is to GO HEAVY, force exertion is critical; you will apply more force with small steps. For hypertrophy we want to go as heavy as possible for six to eight trips of 20 yards, followed with a 60-90-second rest interval.  Do not pace these, start heavy and reduce the weight as needed. If you do not have access to a sled we will do a front squat in its place. Bonus Tip Because there is no eccentric phase with this exercise, it can be performed more frequently with a lower risk of overtraining; sled drags done with light weights are a great form of active recovery and a way to build work capacity on non-heavy training days. Try very unorthodox but effective leg training protocols outlined in the Tijuana Barbell Club!

Exercise: Leg Curls The hamstrings span across the knee and the hip joint, they flex the knee and assist in extending the hips, it is important to work both functions to maximize their development. About the Movement For decades, one of the go-to movements for bodybuilders to build the hamstrings is the lying leg curl, for good reason– it works! We are going to make this proven basic a game changer for your hamstring development.  Your hamstrings are composed of primarily fast-twitch muscle fibers, so for growth and/or performance they will respond best to lower reps.  This is why sprinters have such amazing hamstring development!  Bodybuilders, on the other hand, that don’t train hamstrings heavy with lower reps are leaving growth on the table. We are going to counter attack this conundrum with cluster sets. Cluster sets simply mean more sets and fewer reps.  Think 10 sets of three, instead of three sets of 10. Next time you do leg curls, instead of your traditional three sets of 10, use the same weight you would for 10 reps and do three reps, rest 15 seconds and repeat this sequence for four minutes straight, you will get a hell of a lot more volume ergo in less time!


National-level bodybuilder, TJ Clark, demonstrating leg curl cluster setsBonus Tip

If the leg curl stack just isn’t quite heavy enough or you just have yearning desire to try something new, give Nordic leg curls a shot.

Noah Syndergaard, fastest pitcher in MLB, performing Nordic leg curls.Exercise: Romanian Deadlifts To maximally develop hamstrings, both knee flexion and hip extension have to be worked; now that knee flexion has been handled with leg curls, let’s tackle hip extension with Romanian deadlifts.

About the Movement      To put it bluntly, many big, strong, high performing, SOBs have been built with Romanian deadlifts! Start this movement standing upright, picking the barbell up off of a power rack; if you don’t have one, deadlift the weight conventionally off of the floor. Take a stance between hip and shoulder width; place your hands right outside of your thighs. Use a pronated grip (straps are okay). Slightly bend your knees and keep your back flat. Lower the bar, while keeping your chest up by pushing your hips back and purposely putting tension on the hamstrings. Lower the bar to mid-shin level (your torso should be parallel to the floor). Lift the weight to the starting position by extending the hips. Keep the bar in close to your body; the further it drifts away from you, the more stress will be put on your lower back Word on the street is this movement was introduced to the US when Nicu Vlad of Romania and his coach, Dragomir Cioroslan, were in the US in 1990 for the Goodwill Games. When asked its name, they said they had no name for it, so Americans just called it the “Romanian deadlift”.  Whether it originated here or in a Tijuana barroom has no relevance—its relevance is its effectiveness. has provided an excellent demonstration video HERE. Training Tips    

Perform this movement heavy but never at the expense of sacrificing technique or tension.  Use three to four sets of six reps, using a controlled two to three second eccentric and forcefully contracting on the concentric portion of the lift. Romanian deadlifts can also be performed with dumbbells. If you have a history of lower back problems, avoid this movement.

Bonus Tip If you want to try something different, try the single-leg version of this movement. Besides the typical unilateral benefits, it will build balance. The single-leg version smokes the hamstrings and can be done with dumbbells or a barbell. Exercise: Walking Lunges Quoting Metroflex Gym owner Brian Dobson, “The walking lunge has now become standard for upper leg separation and glute/ham tie-in.”

About the Movement     In Ronnie Coleman’s prime, he did walking lunges with 405 pounds for 50 yards! Place a barbell on your back then step forward with one leg, keeping your torso upright, while making a 90-degree angle with the leg that is in front without letting your knee go over your toe; return to the starting position and repeat for the specified number of reps.

Training Tips Lunge variations not only assist in total leg development but also strengthen the core and increase stability for heavy squatting! If the space is available, do these for three to four sets for 20 yards!  Keep in mind the goal is to safely cover the distance in as few steps as possible; this will allow you to focus on quality repetitions not just finishing the set.  If the space is not available, perform three sets for eight to 10 reps on each leg.

Bonus Tip If you have shoulder mobility issues that do not allow you to place a barbell safely on your back or you just want a change of pace, do walking dumbbells with lunges. Exercise: Juarez Valley 15 Bodyweight Squats No good ol’ fashion ass kicking would be complete without a great finisher!  That is exactly what the Juarez Valley 15 is.

About the Movement The beauty in the movement is its simplicity!  This is just a bodyweight squat.  Squat down below parallel, come back to the starting point and repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Training Tips The exercise may not be novel but how we are going to attack it, is. The Juarez Valley method was first presented to in May of 2015 in an article entitled “Prison Workout: The Jailhouse Strong Routine.” The concept is fairly simple: repetitions are performed in descending order on all odd-numbered sets, but repetitions are performed in ascending order on even-numbered sets. In the middle, they meet! A Juarez Valley 15 is performed liked this: Set 1—15 reps Set 2—1 rep Set 3—14 reps Set 4—2 Reps Set 5—13 Reps Set 6—3 Reps Set 7—12 Reps Set 8—4 Reps Set 9—11 Reps Set 10—5 Reps Set 11—10 Reps Set 12—6 Reps Set 13—9 reps Set 14—7 Reps Set 15—8 Reps Between each set take an eight-foot walk, the equivalent of a jail cell; perform this as fast as possible and keep track of time. Your goal is to continually beat your time, not add reps.

National-level bodybuilder, TJ Clark, finishing off with a Juarez Valley 15 BW squats.

Bonus Tip To make this even more intense, pause each rep for one second at the bottom position and do not lockout at the top, stop one inch shy of your legs being locked.  Paused reps are intense, so is continuous tension; combined brings intensity to a whole new level.

Final Thoughts So whether you want to have massive tree trunks for summer speedo season, perform better or just take a break from the vanilla three sets of 10 you’ve been using since the second Clinton Administration, you now have the blue print to legs that look strong and perform strong!  ]]>