6 tips to grow and develop your legs

Written by Mark Coles - Follow on Google+ | Facebook | Twitter

Are you experienced at lifting weights but struggle to develop and grow your legs? In the early days of training my legs, I used to purely focus on strength, and I was also limited with equipment choices due to training at the first personal training gym that I opened.

A body part that I was never happy with when I was younger, has now turned into a strength and one I only want to improve on.

So what made my legs grow?


1. Learning how to contract them when I train.

I used to just focus on moving the load as powerfully as I could. Learning strength & conditioning in my early days, it was all about speed and power. When I really put my mind into the muscle, lowered the load and contracted, my legs started to grow fast

2. Learning how to cope with pain, and letting it become a friend of mine.

A lesson I learned from my mentor and coach Miloš Šarčev. Milos always told me that when you start to come out of pain, go right back in and find it again. A lesson that sticks firmly in my mind whenever I train legs. Those of you who know me will know that I don't like to train legs unless it hurts like hell.

3. Knowing which exercises / foot placements target which parts of my legs.

This is where getting a clearer understanding of anatomy and exercises comes in. High foot placement vs low foot placement on the leg press makes a huge difference when it comes to targeting quads vs hamstrings. Knowing how to recruit different muscles by squeezing your feet in different places, is also key to targeting the right muscles. Bringing a sweep to my quads came from relentlessly working on narrow hack squats, but also contracting in the right place with constant tension.

4. Variety of exercises.

I quickly acknowledged that the more variety I placed upon my legs, the quicker they responded. So I switched up my training programmes every 3 weeks. I also tried to get as many different exercises into my workouts as I could.

5. Manipulating rep ranges.

I always used to work on strength lifts around the 4 - 6 rep range and the highest I'd go for hypertrophy was 12 - 15. My biggest changes came about especially in my quads, when I started working with sets up to 30 plus reps. I might do 15 heavy reps followed by a triple drop set. I might do 10 heavy reps and then continue with rest pause sets of 3 reps until I couldn't get any more. One thing I like to do now, is adding in high rep sets later into my workouts when I'm more fatigued. To really drive blood into the muscle and facilitate the hypertrophy mechanism of cell swelling. Adding in giant sets has made a huge difference to my legs, as this is where I can get a lot of exercises, rep and tempo variations into one session. Plus I can drive a lot of nutrients (carbs) into the cells during the workout.

6. Training them frequently, followed by reduced frequency phases to allow them to super compensate.

Guilty of training legs once per week back in the day, I made a change to that after I prolapsed a disc in my back 7 years ago. I'd train quads twice and hamstrings once a week for 2 months straight, and then back off for one month of training them once per week. I rotated this pattern for nearly 2 years (sometimes doing hamstrings twice and quads once).

Training legs that frequently helped turn one of my weaknesses into a strength, and one I only want to get better.

"If training legs doesn't frighten you, you aren't going to grow.

Welcome hard work and embrace the pain. 

If you want to pick up some of my training programmes, you'll find them in my 8 Week Physique ebook. Click the button below to find out more 

8 week physique

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