T Nation

Leg Development w/o Deads or Squats?


#1

I have a herniated disk and just can't seem to be able to find a way to do squats or deadlifts without getting myself into trouble with my back again.

At the same time, I have found myself unsatisfied with the results I have gotten so far with the single-leg deadlifts (bodyweight), leg extensions, lunges, and general bodyweight exercises (e.g., stepups) I have done as substitutes. What I have done with them so far just hasn't given me anywhere near the effect that "big" lifts do.

This is really frustrating because greater leg development is what I would like more than anything else. At the moment, I would like to find a way of doing something that is equivalent to the Velocity Diet workout routine, but without the Romanian Deadlifts, Front Squats and Deadlifts.

I am sure there is a way to get satisfying leg development without these exercises, but I haven't been able to find it yet. Advice from anyone who has been more successful than I would be greatly appreciated.

ps - For the time being, my gym does not have a trap bar


#2

Heavy sled drags and belt squats would work well.


#3

grab a set of dumbbells and hammer your legs with things like lunges, split squats, step ups, etc. No reason why you couldn’t build a mighty set of wheels with that


#4

Get your back fixed and do what doesn’t hurt.


#5

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
Heavy sled drags and belt squats would work well.[/quote]

I will look into belt squats, but sled drags are very unfortunately not available for me. I actually live in a small European apartment surrounded by cobblestone roads. Not only do I not have anywhere to keep a sled, but I also don’t even have a surface to use one on.

I think sleds would actually completely be the solution for me if I could use them. Just by watching people do them I can see that they activate all those deep fibers etc that no number of lunges and one-legged deadlifts ever seem to get to.


#6

[quote]Yogi wrote:
grab a set of dumbbells and hammer your legs with things like lunges, split squats, step ups, etc. No reason why you couldn’t build a mighty set of wheels with that[/quote]

Do you feel that those exercises develop the hamstrings anything like deadlifts do? I can see some combination of split squats and lunges etc eventually getting the quads alright.

But do you really feel they provide good hamstring development from them? Or are there any other exercises that you particularly like for that? My experience with hamstring curls has been that no amount of them ever seems to be able to produce the same kinds of effects that just a couple sets of few stiff-legged deadlifts do.


#7

My back is pretty jacked up too and I have had to experiment a lot to train around it.

Right now I’m doing 3 day EOD full body routine. Day 1 is front squat and primarily stength focus. I find this movement is easier on the back, maybe because the load is lighter than back squats. Also more upright. Day 2 is leg extensions and glute ham raise. Basically, just working the legs a bit while having no load on my back. Day 3 is smith machine elevate split squat for volume. Obviously hits the quads well, but I feel it in my glutes really well too. The smith machine provides balance and makes my back feel safer.

I think getting my goals straight was important. Before the injury(s) I really liked training heavy and low rep. I wanted to be strong. I just kind of accept that I can’t be super strong now and work to have decent looking legs. I still do a bit of heavier work, but not sure how much I get out of it. What I mean, is that my legs aren’t the limiting factor in my front squat, its my back stability. So I am not sure how much squatting really helps my legs grow. I just do it more because i like it. Then I get more enjoyment out of my upper body training where I can still work with the heavier loads.

That said, my legs are still pretty small. So I’m very interested in what some of the more experienced guys have to say. My biggest question is how to program progression into the single leg and machine type leg exercises. There are plenty of squat programs out there, but not a lot regarding the OP’s question.


#8

[quote]2ms wrote:

[quote]Yogi wrote:
grab a set of dumbbells and hammer your legs with things like lunges, split squats, step ups, etc. No reason why you couldn’t build a mighty set of wheels with that[/quote]

Do you feel that those exercises develop the hamstrings anything like deadlifts do? I can see some combination of split squats and lunges etc eventually getting the quads alright.

But do you really feel they provide good hamstring development from them? Or are there any other exercises that you particularly like for that? My experience with hamstring curls has been that no amount of them ever seems to be able to produce the same kinds of effects that just a couple sets of few stiff-legged deadlifts do.[/quote]

yes, I believe they do. Do 5 sets of walking lunges, walk at least 30 strides, and make sure your stride is long enough that your shin is perpendicular to the ground at the bottom of every rep. You’ll feel that in your whole posterior chain, trust me.


#9

Where there’s a will there’s a way…

Go to a tyre store, buy a busted up tyre (you’ll probably need to pay as they sell them for recycling, retreading and swans), drill a big hole and tie a rope through it.

That will work fine on cobblestone s.

Wedge some wood inside the tyre and there’s your platform for adding weight. Just leave it in an out of the way place. Nobody’s stealinga worn out tyre with a plank of wood through it


#10

Yeah you can get fantastic legs without them. Dorian Yates took legs to a new level once he gave up squats.
Can you leg press? If so you’re golden…


#11

Do what yogi and punisher recommend. Also cybex plate loaded squat press is great. GHR if back allows for it.


#12

Ok, the Velocity Diet workout routine specifies Front Squats, Deadlifts, and Step-ups during the main workouts + One-Legged Deadlifts and Squat Jumps during additional weekend “V-Burn” workouts.

I am thinking I will try doing this workout with Leg Presses substituted for the Front Squats. Everything else in there looks good for me, but I’m still a little undecided on an optimal way of replacing the deadlifts.

Yogi has suggested walking lunges for posterior chain work. That seems like it could be good. Anyone have any further suggestions for additional options I might want to consider? In particular, I wonder if there might be some exercises that would afford more ham isolation/less quad work. It seems like a lot of exercises that work the quads and comparatively few that especially target the hams. Thanks a lot for all the suggestions.


#13

[quote]tsantos wrote:
Where there’s a will there’s a way…

Go to a tyre store, buy a busted up tyre (you’ll probably need to pay as they sell them for recycling, retreading and swans), drill a big hole and tie a rope through it.

That will work fine on cobblestone s.

Wedge some wood inside the tyre and there’s your platform for adding weight. Just leave it in an out of the way place. Nobody’s stealinga worn out tyre with a plank of wood through it[/quote]

Could always do a carpet sled for indoors as well.


#14

I am using trap bar squats at the moment that does not seem to be upsetting my back. I am also using Land mine squats which I find really easy on my back. When I do sled work I just take it to the local park and pull it on the grass that way I do not need a lot of weight the grass seems to create a lot of friction. For gluts and Hams I do kettle bell swings. I find back squat very quickly upset my lower back once the weight starts to climb although my ruptured disc was some time back.
Be careful with the leg press and your lower back make sure your form is spot on. Belt squats I could never get on with

Good luck with your search

cheers Spud


#15

Zercher Squats


#16

[quote]Aero51 wrote:
Zercher Squats[/quote]

I thought these were really demanding on the lower back?


#17

I feel your pain, OP. I’ve got a ruptured disc and can’t do any spinal loading over 100 lbs. Even front squats piss off my back. Goblet squats are a bit better, but still make me nervous.

I’ve been using leg presses instead of squats. Just be careful not to let your butt lift of the pad at the bottom of the reps. I also added Bulgarian split squats. They take time to learn because of balance issues, but I can get a serious burn even with light weights. I’m in need of hamstring alternatives to deadlifts as well; my gym doesn’t have a GHR bench. Does your gym have a slide board or do you have a pair of furniture sliders? Ben Bruno uses these for killer hamstring exercises; check out this link to see them.

benbruno.com/2010/10/slide-your-way-to-a-better-backside/


#18

48 years old, 6mm Disc Herniations at BOTH L4/5 and L5/Sacrum…

and I still Squat and Deadlift. Heres how:

I keep my Erectors Very Very Strong.

I happen to have a SS Bar and use it for both Squats and Good Mornings.

I Squat with more of a traditional Olympic upright spine using Adidas PowerPerfect 2 shoes. 1.125" heel lift.
I use the safety squat bar about 2/3 of the time and a straight bar about 1/3 time.
This works my back a bit more.
I do Glute Ham raises and Back Extentions as well.

I Deadlift traditional even at 73" tall. I make sure to keep my Erectors tight throughout.
I Deadlift trad about 2/3 of the time and use a Dead Trap bar 1/3 of the time.

I have one heavy dead session per week, One heavy squat session per week.
I have one LITE dead technique session per week and one LITE squat session per week.

I am not the strong(est) out there. Just someone who has learned from all the Iron Brothers
here on T-Nation, and from the likes of Simmons, Wendler, Wenning and Tate about taking care of yourself.

Use Epsom salt baths the day after hard training.
Use the foam roller properly and as often as needed.
Use nsaids when necessary for proper rest.
try to keep inflammation, whether from food, training or recovery methods to a minimum.

I am not saying that you will be pain free, just that it is possible to Work Around your Injuries !
If all else fails, jump on the machines and use them to isolate the working muscle of the glutes and legs…


#19

I ruptured L4/L5 and L5/S1 in December and am still healing. I have recently started to incorporate some light high rep squats, but before that I would train legs with mostly walking lunges.

I thought my legs would shrivel to sticks when I stopped squatting and deadlifting, but my quads actually improved with the high rep high frequency walking lunges. Prior to the injury I was limiting myself with the belief that squats were the pinnacle of leg training. I also got a waist belt for pulling my sled; the belt allows me to pull without any compression or shear on the spine.


#20

Either step ups (use a bungie to ease back down if you need to) or the biggest my legs ever got was from stationary cycling on spinning bike for intervals with heavy resistance. Warming up knees first with some light spinning is advised.