T Nation

I Swear I Don't Skip Leg Day


I don't know many women who've had this problem, but I'd love some input if there are any around here who have. I'm prepping for my first figure competition in November and my weakest area is definitely my legs. I've started to gain SOME mass in the last month or two, but it's not by much. I lose mass in my legs so easily if I'm not careful. My leg lifts are looking like this:

On leg day itself (these make up about half of my total lifts, the rest is ab work) -
Heavy ATG squats (previously 3x3, bumped up to 3x8 recently)
GHR negatives for 2x10, I can't do an actual GHR yet so meh
28" Box jumps for 3x12

During the rest of the week I typically throw in some weighted hyperextensions and some pistol squats as well as heavy deads. I've also been doing HIIT on an incline about 5 days a week since my respiratory system isn't in good enough shape to do them longer for ten minutes or so. I'm going to start adding in some hip thrusts to my leg day, maybe to replace box jumps. My leg mass has been getting better since I started adding in more protein to my diet (I shoot for the gram of protein per lb of body weight rule but usually get anywhere between 80-100g per day) but they're still not at all where I want them to be, especially considering that they'll shrink a bit once I'm fully dieted down.

Anyone have any tips on what I can do to build up some leg mass? I don't think that my physique is too disproportionate but I definitely don't have those rockin quads that they look for in figure comps.


You want more leg mass, but are only doing thee sets of squats for your quads? That's what your problem is.

quads grow best with high volume, so try sets of 10 - 15 for your squats. Switching to front squats might also be worth trying.

Use leg curls to get a good pump in your hamstrings too. The GHR negatives are all well and good but leg curls are better for your goal.

Box jumps are a good exercise but not really a mass builder. Adding hip thrusts is a great idea, especially considering you don't have a deadlift variation.

And don't fear the leg press! You can go for stupidly high reps without fear of injury. If you're feeling really masochistic try doing sets of 25. It'll hurt, and you'll hate it, but your legs WILL grow.

So you could try something like this:

-Front Squats 5 x 10-15
-Hip Thrusts 3 x 8-12
-Leg Curls 3 x 8-12
-Leg Press 3 x 25 (ouch!)

I know you said you do a lot of ab work, so you can superset the leg curls and leg press with whatever ab work you want as it won't interfere.

Hope that helps! Remember leg day should SUCK, so don't be afraid to really push yourself.

good luck!


See, I think my legs are just dumb and don't understand how they're supposed to work, because originally I WAS squatting a lot more. I've done a standard 5x5, I've squatted three times a week, I've tried more of a bodybuilding style with high reps, I've tried just going for pure strength... nothing seems to work. I've had the best results doing 3x5 or 3x3 and just throwing on as much weight as I can, but like I said, it still isn't a lot.

I'll have to try adding in some front squats though, I started doing them a while back and stopped for no real reason. Do you know of any other alternatives to the leg curl though? There's a machine at the gym but I can never get it adjusted properly, which is why I haven't been doing them.

But yeah, that sounds great, thanks for the help!


RDS as always has a good plan.

Push the weights. He's right that it should really suck, lol

Saw a program on a blog on a high volume/heavy weight program that was essential 5 sets of 20 squats.

The author claimed it added a couple of inches to his leg girth in 4 weeks. Well from what I remember.

I can find it if you'd like to look it over.


Lol, I usually end up limping out of the gym on leg days anyway but I honestly enjoy it. Though that and the fact that I'm trying to compete in figure in the first place just verifies that I'm apparently a total masochist... but then again I guess all lifters are to an extent. And that would be great if you don't mind looking for it!


That's weird your quads grow best with low reps, but if that's what works best then I guess you should continue with that. I still think you should add a high volume move just to cover all your bases. Keeps reps high and rest short. I'm a big fan of working up to a heavy weight with squats, then dropping the weight right down and doing like 5x10. It kills! Definitely switch to front squats, much more quad dominant.

As for there being no leg curl, well that's a pain in the arse but it's not the end of the world. You can lie on a bench, hold a dumbell between your feet and curl it like that. If you have access to a cable stack with a foot attachment (not all gyms have this) you can do standing curls with that. That's a great exercise as it brings in a bit of glute too.


Like I said, my legs are weird. Weird/a pain in the ass. But those are great ideas, thank you so much! It's leg day today so I'm pretty excited to see how miserable I feel after all of those squats on top of everything else lol. And my gym's pretty small but I'm sure I can make something work as far as the leg curl goes.


Hey Bebop! I've seen you around the forums a bit. Nice. Welcome and best of luck with your figure comp goals!

I think Rds and Busy are right about more volume for quads.

I've learned to go heavy with lower reps for hams. Then lighter with higher reps for quads. The thinking is fast twitch muscle fibers in the hams respond to heavier weights, but quads are more of a slow twitch muscle group so you need volume.

I've worked on legs a lot this year. I usually do one hard leg day where I alternate a quad dominant exercise with something that is more hamstring dominant. Since you like heavy low rep squats, that can be your big strength move of the day - then just add more accessories with higher reps for your quads. That should give you the best of both worlds, so to speak.

For quads I like to mix these up.

Trap Bar DLs
BB Squats
Hack squats with my feet close together - The best quad burner for me. I like 4 sets of 15.
Walking DB lunges - I usually use the 40's which is heavy for me. :slightly_smiling:
Pyramids on Leg Extension Machine - High reps. Burn them out.
Leg press. I used to always do this as a single leg exercise, but now I'm usually using both. Try it both ways, and vary your foot position.
Somersault Squats on the Smith with just the bar.

EDITED for some clarity.


Hi, and thanks! I've seen you around as well, you know your stuff. That makes sense, I'll definitely have to try that. I only added in high rep front squats and hip thrusts today since my ankles were giving me grief (thank you five-inch posing heels) but doing just the front squats as RDS recommended MURDERED my quads.

Next time I plan on adding in low rep back squats and some leg press and switching things around a bit, and I'll have to add in some of those exercises you suggested and see how I like em. The equipment in the gym I go to is pretty limited so not all of them will be options for me, but at least we're supposed to be getting a hack squat machine soon so that should be doable.

Thanks a lot for the help!


they call me the Quadkiller!

not really, but they should.


It would be appropriate. If it tells you anything, I rubbed my quads down with a gel that normally relieves muscle soreness in HORSES (like, that shit is not approved for human use but you're not the boss of me, FDA) and my legs are still useless for anything beyond making me cry like a three-year-old.



Just lay off the ketamine


Front squats suck, IMHO.

Well I suck at them, lol.

I understand the quad pain, did my 531 1 day on squats Friday, 5 x 10 of Fronties for accessory work.

I felt it when I stepped on the ice Sunday to play hockey.



... Should I not be using that for a pre-workout?

You brave bastard. I don't know how you could go play HOCKEY after that. The most physically demanding thing I did the day after I did my front squats was fold some laundry.

I do agree that front squats suck at least compared to back squats, but I like the effect that they have aka making me hobble out to my car every time I do them. Nothing short of going for a 1RM has the same impact for me as far as back squats go.


There are so many days in the week. For me to lift and get in my 3 days of skating, I tend to not get a lot of choices.

I currently skate on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. 2 hours each day during the week, 1 or more on Sunday.

So to try to get in my deadlift and squat days, I always end up skating right after a legs day.


they call me the Quadkiller! [/quote]

You are so corney hahahaha!


You're welcome! About the Hack Squat, I always thought there was no need for it if you do BB squats, but that thing gives you a lot more freedom. You can vary your stance more, since you don't have to worry about balancing the bar. I've tried to emphasize the lateralis to get a more pronounced outer curve, and several people suggested using the Hack with my feet close.

BTW, You can also ask questions about hypertrophy in the BBing forum, and you'll usually get more responses. For a long time, I was reluctant to post over there because it's nearly all men, but they will usually be really helpful. The PW forum is pretty quiet in terms of advice from more experienced people. Most of the guys assume it's just a lot of girl's logs (which for the most part it is), so some of the more helpful people won't see your question over here.


if someone offers you ketamine, just say neigh!



I agree with more volume for the legs. I would honestly add in some sort of sled drags/pulls, weighted carries. Believe it or not, they have always done wonders for keeping mass on the legs. Another one of my favorites is fairly heavy squats with 200 meter to 400 meter sprints between sets. There are many different ways to add volume, so try increasing your work capacity to include more in the future.


Lots of good advice above, and if you feel you've broken through your leg-plateau, then by all means ignore what I'm about to say. However, should you feel like you're still stuck in a rut: You mentioned in the OP that you're doing HIIT 5d/week.

Assuming it's legs-based (ie, running, cycling, elliptical-ing, etc), that places a tremendous workload/recovery demand on your wheels (per Lyle McDonald, a hard HIIT workout places as much stress on your recovery system as a full-on leg day).

Couple all that HIIT with the (escalating) lifting demands you're putting on your legs as you try and force them to grow, it means that in essence you're working legs 7-8x/week. For many (most?) people, that's a set-up for serious overtraining. (Even more so if you're running a caloric deficit to boot.)

Like I said, if you feel you've broken through and are progressing again, carry on. But if not, consider backing off the HIIT, and see if your legs don't respond. Best of luck with your prep.