Spinnin’ Your Wheels on Leg Day
Get more out of your leg-day training, and Craig’s surprise pick as his No. 1 move to build big quads.
By Craig Richardson, IFBB Pro, Photography by Jason Breeze; Model: IFBB Pro Craig Richardson
[Q] Craig, I don’t consider myself a crazy lifter but even with my basic leg routine – squats, romanians, curls and extensions – I leave the gym feeling sick on leg day. What gives?
[A] Legs are the biggest muscle group we have. In order to fill them up with blood, that blood has to come from somewhere else and that means up top. It takes a lot of blood to fill up the leg area; it takes so much that it can literally make you nauseous. I’m nauseous after every leg workout. Don’t be afraid of it; you’ll get past it. It usually takes about a month or two for you to become accustomed to it, but it’ll never fully go away. It’s also a matter of food. With hard leg training, you’re burning through your energy stores (glycogen) faster, so your blood sugar can get low rather fast. I get lightheaded no matter what I’m eating, so I always try to make sure that I have enough fuel in the tank to make it a bit easier. You might try eating a bit more complex carbohydrates the day before training legs to see if that helps.
[Q] Everyone says that the squat is the king of all lower-body lifts. Even people who don’t squat say that! Do you agree?
[A] I believe that if you squat correctly, yes, you can build some good size. That being said, I think that leg pressing is the key to greater leg size. With that exercise, you can lock yourself into the machine and not worry about balancing the weight and just focus on pressing the weight up and down. When you squat you’re using your hips, quads and lower back and you have to concentrate so much because it’s such a tough exercise. In leg pressing, if you keep your back flat and your butt close to the machine you can train as heavy as you’d like without the worry of balancing the weight. So for me, the leg press is the big daddy of all lower-body exercises. The most I’ve ever pressed was about 1,600 pounds (equivalent to 35 45-pound plates) for reps. The machine itself held about 1,200 and we had a 300-pound guy up there holding one plate, then we wedged another one in there somewhere. I got 8–10 reps.
[Q] Is it important to incorporate a big mass builder for hamstrings ⎯ like romanian deadlifts ⎯ into my workout or are leg curls enough?
[A] I think it’s a good idea to add one of those mass builders in there. For one, with a romanian deadlift the hamstrings get worked from the hips, not the knees. This means you’re working them in a completely different manner than with leg-curl movements, even though both target the hams. It helps with shaping the hamstrings and your glute-ham tie-in as well. I don’t think RDLs add too much mass to the bodypart but it gives the illusion, which is important in this sport. Sometimes, the tape measure doesn’t matter. It’s all about appearance.
[Q] What’s your overall philosophy about leg training if you don’t compete?
[A] The gym that I started training in during my amateur career was Body Works Hardcore in Paterson, NJ, where everyone took great pride in leg work. Even guys who didn’t compete took pride in being able to do legs harder than anyone in the gym. It’s very important for the ego to be able to train them heavier and harder than everyone else around. Not everyone can do it. We believed that gym separated the men from the boys. A true warrior works the legs knowing that he’ll be sick after the workout. It’s not that some guys don’t want great legs, it’s just that they don’t want to go through the pain it takes to get them! And that’s how you can tell who’s really serious about putting in the work necessary to build a complete physique.
CRAIG’S QUAD ROUTINE
Try Craig’s leg routine, designed to build new size, strength and detail into your quads.
Leg Extension superset with Bodyweight Walking Lunge – 4 Sets x 30, 25, 20, 15 Reps
Leg Press superset with Bodyweight Sissy Squat – 4 Sets x 20, 12, 10, 8 Reps
Hack Squat superset with Bodyweight Squat* – 4 Sets x 15, 20, 20, 20
*Craig rests 1–2 minutes after each superset grouping.
*Craig takes these squats to about parallel and then comes up to a point just short of full lockout to keep constant tension in his quads.