Hi Coach, I've run into a real stumbling block training Legs, and was hoping you'd have some insight/advice. I have a specific question, but will give some background info first if I may. (Apologies in advance for the length of the post.)
I'm 54, and have been working legs (either heavy lifting, long-distance running, or both) for 40+ years. When I was at my biggest (early-mid 20s), I could squat respectably (I recall doing 455x5), and had large thighs--about 27" (in 'full-house' condition).
Over the past ~15 years, I have neglected Legs in the gym in favor 'saving' them for running. However, in the last year I've gotten the itch to take one final run at turning my chicken legs back into turkey legs. (My short/high skinny calves are beyond help, I'm afraid.) Thus, I've taken to incorporating a Leg day into my routine. Trouble is, every time I work up to weights heavy enough to limit me to 8-12 reps, I tweak either a hamstring or (less commonly) an adductor, and am forced to lay off for several weeks at least. When I start over, it seems that no matter how careful I am about warming up, not increasing the load too fast, etc, I inevitably strain something. This has happened at least five times since I re-started training Legs.
Here are the leg-related aspects of my current training split:
Day 1: Walk 1-3 hours at 1.5-2 MPH (at my treadmill desk)
Day 2: Jog 30 minutes
Day 3: The Leg day, which goes like this:
1) Start on the Stepmill with a little HIIT cardio: ~5 min warm-up, 5 30-s sprints with 90-s recovery between; ~5 min cooldown.
2) A circuit consisting of:
--x20 BW glute bridges, each held for 5-s;
--x20 seated leg curls, increasing the weight each set (but never coming close to failure; I'm sure I could eke out another 5 reps or so on the final weight);
--x20 leg extensions (ditto);
--x20 calf presses.
These exercises are repeated nonstop x 5 total circuits.
3) Squats on the Smith machine. These are done with my feet well out in front and close together in order to hit the quads (and not the hams). They are done nonlock, with a slow (2-3 second) descent, increasing the weight each set, and with fairly high reps (last workout my sets consisted of 23, 17, 13 and 10 reps). So far, the only time I have strained a hammie on this exercise was when I tried to do a heavier weight for a set of 5.
4) Leg press. Here's where I got in trouble on my last workout. I want this to be my heavy 'meat and potatoes' exercise, so I reverse-pyramid the weight--I do a bunch of 'feeler' sets on the way up to my heaviest weight for the first set. (Note that when I say 'heaviest weight' I'm talking about something I expect to get about 12 reps with.) Like the Smith squats, I keep my feet close together, use slow negs, and do not lock out. Despite all this, on the 2nd rep of my first set (using a weight I had successfully pressed 12x the week before), I felt that all-too-familiar 'rip' in my hamstring, and knew that I had done it yet again.
5) Heavy standing calves (because hope springs eternal)
Day 4: Walk 1-3 hours at 1.5-2 MPH
Day 5: Jog 1 hr
Day 6: Walk 1-3 hours at 1.5-2 MPH
Day 7: Steady-state Stepmill x 30 minutes; light Calves
(Back to Day 1)
Obvious reasons I may be having hamstring issues:
--Chronological age. Even under the best of conditions, 54 y.o. muscles are not as pliable and resilient as, say, 25 y.o. muscles.
--Training age. 40+ years is a lot of wear-and-tear, and it shouldn't be surprising I have lots of tissue that is vulnerable to damage. This is especially true considering...
--An utterly pathetic history of pre-habbing. All I do is stretch my hamstrings thoroughly after walking, jogging or lifting (and this is only because I discovered many years ago that my lower back would be incredibly tight and uncomfortable the next day if I didn't). I have never done foam-rolling, etc.
At long last, my question(s). What are your thoughts as to how I can do growth-stimulating leg work without popping my hinky hammies? Should I drop the jogging? (I do it solely to burn calories--I'm a fat-phobic FFB). Should I stick with lighter weights, but adjust my lifting style to make them more effective (eg, even slower descents; pauses at the bottom of each rep; minimal time between sets, etc)? Or should I give up on legs and start wearing jeans to the gym?
For the record, my sole training goal is Hypertrophy.
Thanks again for plowing through all this, as well as for your time and feedback.