By Eric Velazquez, NSCA-CPT ProSource.net
Build bigger quads with this alternative to the all-mighty squat
Goal: Size, Strength
Without question, those looking to build bigger legs -- bigger everything for that matter -- should use the barbell squat. This move remains the best overall exercise for lower body size and strength and overall athleticism. But for serious lifters looking to make faster gains in their quadriceps, you might want to get out from under that barbell and onto the leg press.
Better isolation. We're not just suggesting that the leg press is the best move for quad-building to be contrarian. There's merit to this finding. You see, while the squat is a fantastic way to add size, it is an exercise that requires synergy between so many muscle groups -- your glutes, hamstrings, lower back and core musculature all have to contribute greatly as stabilizers to complete each rep. But when in the leg press, you are free of the burden of balance. All you have to do is lock in and press. The reduced involvement of the adductors, hips and other muscles means that your quads get to act as the main movers for the duration of each set.
Better freedom. Since you are also free to determine your own foot placement, there are far more options for adjusting the muscular emphasis within your quads. Keeping your feet just outside of hip width in the center of the platform is a great place to start. But by moving your feet slightly lower on the platform -- be sure your heels are in contact with the platform the entire time -- you can increase the tension on the quads. Moving your feet just inside of hip width will tax your outer sweep to a greater degree, while a wider stance will hit your inner teardrop a bit better.
You can still squat. Some people like to do the leg press as their second movement on leg day every week. That's fine. There's really no need to completely abandon the squat. In fact, it's never a good idea for any serious mass-builder to abandon the squat rack for any length of time. But if your quads are a lagging bodypart, try starting every other workout with the leg press. Then, once a month, try a volume workout where you perform 10-12 sets of heavy leg presses in the 10-12 rep range, then go home and eat. A lot.
Finish with it. If you're content with keeping the leg press second on your leg mass priority list, try coming back to it as a finisher. After all of your other leg work, come to the leg press and load it with a weight you think you can do for about 60 reps (but no more than 70). Unrack the weight and press through a full range of motion until you reach temporary failure. Then, rest only as many seconds as you have reps remaining to 100. For example, if you fail at 70 reps, then rest 30 seconds and start up again. Continue with these micro-rest sessions until you reach 100 reps. This technique flushes your quads with blood and can trigger the additional hypertrophy that you so badly want.