Ok, I need some advice on quad training. It seems like no matter how hard I try to target the quads on a quad dominant leg day, my hamstrings are more sore the next day. Recently I switched to front squats for my main exercise and I feel it more in my quads than with back squats, but then the next day its the same story, hams a little sore, quads fine. A quick rundown of my current routine for quad dominant leg day looks like this - front squats 4 work sets, leg press 3 work sets, barbell hack squats 2 work sets, leg extensions 3 work sets. I have a lanky build with long legs and arms, which is probably most of my problem. I’m confident my hams are plenty strong, judging from my deadlift numbers compared to my squat numbers. I’m actually happy with my quad development but I’d just like to be able to really blast them some times without hitting my hams quite as hard. Any suggestions? Oh yeah, and barbell hacksquats are some what awkward for me because the bar rubs my hams hard on the way up. I’m thinking about ditching them. Any help? Thanks
This won’t be a ‘long’ answer, just a tidbit you can try for one session. I would do a little work on the quads to ‘get them in the groove’ on the leg extensions first. Say, 3 or 4 sets of light weight. This will allow you to feel them better when doing the more traditional exercises. After leg extensions (getting a slight burn in them), do squats but with a 2x4 under the heels. Go light, and focus on the eccentric. You should be able to feel the quads better because they are a little tight from the extensions. Mentally focus on the quads. Pause at the bottom of the squat. At the end of your work out (very end - after throwing whatever else in) do a couple sets of super-slow, heavy leg extensions (tempo 4142). Switching it up, and letting the machine find the muscle for you should help. Give it a try - maybe only one workout. OH - remember, sore might not be the goal of a workout. The reason your quads might not be sore is that you stretch them properly after a workout (subconsciously) but you don’t stretch your hams enough, and they stay tight … try stretching your hams more (light stiff-leg deadlifts … 10,2,5,2 tempo) and you should feel the quads better.
You might want to try single leg lifts and see if the result is similar. My guess is that you squat like a man and go all the way down. Charlie Frances once wrote that the hamstrings are used to a large degree in rock bottom squats. You also might be squating more like a powerlifter by using a wider stance, but I’m just guessing. When a wider stance is used the hip extensors take over the load due to the change in the hip joint angle. Another idea might be to take a narrower stance, like feet 6-8 inches apart, and squat as low as your flexiblity allows, which will be greatly reduced from normal squats.
Bring your stance and do your front, hack and dumbell squats as narrow as possible. Elevating the heels helps also. A wedge is optimal, but sometimes putting my heels on a 5lb plate. Use dumbell squats instead of the barbell hacks for a change and real heavy 1/4 squats will also target the quads. Leg presses with the feet low and close together are good also.
Do you have any knee problems of any sort? The reason I ask is because if the joint is vulnerable then the body will compensate by decreasing muscle activity…in the case of having screwed up knees it can be very hard to get fatigue into the quadriceps without the hamstrings and glutes taking over everything. If that is not the case then I sugggest you really focus on maintaining an upright body posture and work on control/stability type exercises that focus on the quadriceps. Some good ones are the first part of Ian Kings limping series…I think it’s limping into october from 2000. Or his more recent Bring on the Pain for lower body part II. Those articles will give you plenty of controlled exercises that will have you feeling your quads in no time at all.