T Nation

Splitting up leg workout

Any comments about the effectiveness of splitting up training specific parts of your legs on separate days?? And what is the best way of doing it?

I’ve traditionally tried to do legs on one day (once every 5 days). For better gains, have decided recently to split my leg workout into separate days for calves, hamstrings and quads, and working them more intensely, but only every 7 days. Some are obvious – leg curls go into hamstring day; leg extensions into quad day. However, there are some exercises that work both hamstrings and quads, and I’m getting conflicting advice from the trainers at the gym and even in some of the mag articles as to what day they should belong.

Here are the exercises in question: Squats (Barbell, Hack, Smith), Leg Press, Step-Ups, Lunges. It seems that the concensus is that all squats, leg presses and step-ups should go into quad day-- and Lunges into Hamstring Day. I've also put Deadlifts and Good Mornings in Hamstring Day, although a trainer told me I should definitely put Good Mornings into Back Day instead.

Or is the fact that most of these really do work both parts so much, that I am fooling myself in thinking I really am having a separate quad and hamstring day?

I guess ultimately it will come down to what the gains are – regardless of how I set my routine up.

i usually have 3 leg work outs. the first will be a quad workout where i do leg extensions, leg press, second will be hamstring where i do leg curls, deadlifts, good mornings, and third workout will be exercises that work both pretty hard such as squats, lunges. i will usually do hamstring workout first, then 5 days later mix day, and 5 days later quad day and keep on alternating like that. as far as calves are concerned i usually put them in the same class as abs and forearms so i don’t necessarily do them on the same day that i do other leg stuff.

Check out 12 weeks for super leg strength. Ita a whopper. I do the split every 5 days as per the course. Try it. JR.

KP, I’ve only recently begun splitting my leg workouts into two sessions, at least three days apart, but I do have a couple of observations. I agree with your friend who suggested good mornings should be a portion of your back workout.

Do you do “all” these exercises each leg workout, or do you rotate some of them? Lunges and squats and presses, for example, in the same workout would be a hell of a lot of work. Here’s a suggestion: on hamstring day when you leg press, put your feet all the way up on the top of the plate, at the outside corners; when you bring your feet back they’ll be outside your chest. Big hamstring workout this way. On quad days, again on the leg press, keep your feet low and straight ahead to isolate the quads a bit. Personally, I squat on quad day, but I think it’s personal choice.

One thing to keep in mind is that almost every exercise will involve “overlap.” That is, your recruit muscles other than the targeted region. For example, when you bench press, you recruit the biceps brachii. The same thing holds true with legs, although you can avoid too much “overlap” between the quads/hams with a simple rule.

This is only a general rule, but it serves our purposes. Namely, when you go below parallel, you begin to recruit the glutes and hams. I mention parallel in my rule because I don’t think leg presses or leg extensions have a role in a serious leg workout; unless you’re recovering from an exhaustive microcycle or need to deplete muscle glycogen for a ketogenic rebound.

I don’t have any studies on hand, but do a little experiment for yourself. Load a wheel on either end of the bar. Squat to parallel. Hold at this position. Then go deeper. When you drive up from bottom, I’ll bet you really “feel” it in your hamstrings.

As an aside: if you want to develop your arse, squat to parallel, hold for 4-6 seconds, then come back up. The girls will thank you for it.


You should seriously check out (if you haven’t already) Dave Tate’s box squatting method. I haven’t had a better hamstring/glute workout EVER! The way I split up my legs these days with squatting is deep squats on ham days and above parallel squats on glute days. Hope this helps.