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Supersized quads fill out a pair of jeans in the best of ways (especially these pairs, designed specifically for guys with muscular legs.) They also help you power through grueling cycling workouts and long runs. But you can’t just focus on your quads if you want thick ass thighs. You also need to build the muscle groups around them, namely your hamstrings, and also your glutes—the most massive muscle group in your body that, when strong, translates most to athleticism, power, and strength.
So, we’re going back to the basics, nixing complicated moves in favor of simple exercises that overload your glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.
What follows is a series of strength training moves and cardio exercises from RAGE Fitness trainer Danny Musico, C.P.T. and C.S.C.S. You can incorporate these moves in to your leg routine individually or roll them all in to one cohesive workout (that you can do twice a week on non-consecutive days.)
Here’s a good rule of thumb for determining weight: If you can bang out 20 reps with relative ease, increase the weight; if you’re struggling to do just eight reps and begin to lose proper form, decrease the weight. With this in mind, Musico suggests 3 sets of no more than 10 reps for the strength training moves, and no more than 30 minutes at a high resistance for cardio. Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to thicker, more defined legs.
“Use weights and a squat rack, or even a kettlebell,” Musico says. Really get creative and change up the variations. The goblet squat (using a kettlebell or dumbbell) is perfect for beginners because it reinforces basic squatting form and reduces the risk of injury to your shoulders or lower back. However, once you get more comfortable and advanced, don’t count out barbell back and front squats. When you add a barbell, your core and lower back are engaged more and needed for support, so the workout becomes more dynamic and hits more target areas.
Plyo Box Jumps
To really challenge yourself, Musico suggests building up the height and repetitions, while maintaining your speed and explosive power through each jump. Nearly all variations build off the basic box jump: From a stand-still position on the ground, squat down, and explode up onto a box. From here, you can play around a bit. Start standing on top of a box that’s about two to three feet high, then drop down to the ground in front of it and explode back up to a taller box that’s directly in front of it. You can set up a series and work on increasing speed and height, or you can work on power by performing box squats to box jumps (from a seated position on a box, explode off the ground and onto a higher box).
Note: To reduce the risk of injury, step down off the box one foot at a time, and when jumping up, really focus on landing softly.
Weighted Box Step Ups
“Weighted box step ups are awesome thigh blasters,” Musico says. “Add kettlebells or dumbbells to each hand and do this exercise as a straight step up, or do it with a lateral side step up to really help define and shred those quads,” he adds. Also, drive through your heel, not your toes; this will put the stress on your glutes rather than your knees.
When performing a deadlift, stick with a classic double-overhand grip. If you use a mixed grip, you can cause muscle imbalances and throw off your flexibility since muscles on one side of your body will be differently engaged and more involved in the lift. Next, look at your stance. The wider you hold the bar, the farther you’re going to have to haul it. Keep your feet at hip-width and place your hands right outside your shins instead. Deadlifts are great leg-builders because they stimulate your hamstrings, glutes, and of course, your core and traps.
To really polish off your quads and glutes, you gotta go heavy and explosive, Musico says. Hold dumbbells in either hand, a medicine ball in both hands, or wear a weighted vest to really challenge your lower body. Lunge forward, backward, and laterally on either side to really hit your muscles from every angle.
Wall Squat Sit
To amp up the old school wall sit, Musico suggests adding a weight. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in both hands, close to your chest, add a bar across your lap, or hold a medicine ball in front of you with your arms extended out for added difficulty. You can even use a Swiss ball (pictured). Place the ball against a wall and stand with your back against it. With your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes turned out, squat down as low as you can, rolling the ball down as you go. This variation will seriously test your stability.
Cardio on Arc Trainer
Who says cardio can’t build muscle? An Arc Trainer is great for adding size to thighs—so long as you use it correctly. “Turn up the incline and resistance to get your ass up that mountain,” Musico says. An advanced, non-impact, resisted cardio machine, Arc Trainers are equipped with weight loss, power, and cardio workouts so you’ll torch calories and transform your chicken legs.
Cardio on Stationary Bike
“Get on a [stationary] bike and turn up the tension,” Musico says. You probably avoid bikes because they cook your legs, pound your heart, and torch your lungs. They hurt like hell, but that’s what you need. Try a few brutal workouts (below), and remember to shake things up from time to time. For instance, try pedaling backward. Cycling in reverse activates your quads even more than forward pedaling, and requires your brain to work harder since the motion is foreign to your body.
Cardio on Helix Machine
A lateral trainer like the Helix machine tones your core, inner and outer thighs, and packs muscle onto your glutes and quads. By continuously engaging your body in a lateral motion, you really target your lower body muscles and core—more than you’d be able to achieve on a treadmill.
Load up the plate stack, and keep the weight heavy and challenging, Musico says. Pay special attention; you don’t want the weight to be too difficult where you round your lower back since this can cause serious damage (i.e. a herniated disk). Keep these explosive and continuous. Pump through the reps and keep a limited range of motion—your legs should stay at 90-degree angles. Remember, the closer your knees come to your chest, the more you up your odds for injury.
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