It’s leg day. You’re tired. You’re tempted to take it easy and wander through a few sets of leg press, extensions, andcurls. Sure, you could attack those exercises with sufficient intensity and make short-term progress.
Eventually, though, your development will get top-heavy and you’ll be the guy stuck in sweat pants, hiding your peg legs. Real men and women—the kind with bulging quads and hanging hamstrings—can pull off short shorts.
This one’s for you, brothers and sisters in the sweats. Over time, we tend to get into a training groove. We hit the same exercises with the same intensity, so our progress slows, crawls, and eventually stops. Don’t get comfortable; get uncomfortable! Try some new exercises—like the five leg legends below—to challenge your patterns and kickstart new gains.
1/ Zercher Squat
This is one of my favorite all-time movements, especially for strength athletes. Zercher squats eliminate many of the problems that immobile people have with back squats. I’ve seen shoulders so jacked-up that people can’t get their hands on the bar when squatting.
Bad hips, weak hamstrings, and a bad back can all contribute to complications with back squats. The Zercher is a great alternative while you fix your jacked-up crap. It heavily recruits the upper back and posterior chain, is relatively easy on the spine, and the bar position makes it simple to squat correctly.
As you start, you may find cradling the bar to be uncomfortable. There are a couple of solutions to this—along with sucking it up, of course. You could use a thick bar, such as a strongman axle. The increased surface area will radically reduce the discomfort.
You could also use a barbell pad, such as those the weak might use during a back squat. Regardless, rotate the Zercher squat into your program. It’s fantastic.
2/ Bulgarian Split Squat
A single-leg squat not only adds a limited amount of instability to your squat (more similar to what you would see on an athletic field than a two-legged squat), but also allows you to train with a lighter load.
This has its place, like when you want to give your spine a break from those disc-crushing poundages. It’s easy to get someone doing this movement correctly with intense loads, and injuries are unlikely. That makes a rear-foot-elevated split squat a great addition to any program.
The most common issue with the split squat is incorrect placement of the front foot. Most will place the front foot too close to the rear, causing excessive knee displacement and potential discomfort.