Pure pain. That’s the answer.
If you know me, you know that I’m the opposite of “chicken legs”. While part of it may be genetics, I want to tell you something: I know what makes legs grow.
First of all, I’m going to tell you my theory as to why some people genetically have chicken legs while some people have big legs (I’m talking muscle, not fat), then I’ll go into detail of the best things that I’ve found to make your legs grow.
The Genetic Theory of Bigger Legs
Besides picking the right parents, I’ve always had the theory that the type of activity you do as a child and through puberty will affect your genetic fibre type in muscle tissues.
For example, when I was younger, the three activities I did the most were: sprinting, jumping, and bike sprints. No, I wasn’t working out, I was playing. I was racing my friends. I was playing sports that involved tons of sprinting (soccer, basketball, tag etc), and I rode my bike a ton with my neighbours after school. When puberty hit, my body realized that I was using my legs frequently to produce a ton of force, and rewarded me by not allowing them to be tiny toothpicks and making them mainly fast twitch dominant. My upper body – on the other hand – is a different story.
Workout Techniques to get Bigger Legs
While my legs were genetically inclined to be able to put on muscle easier than most, the methods I use to get bigger legs result in me putting massive amounts of muscle on myself and even my skinniest clients’ legs, so I know that what I’m about to teach you works damn well. Without making you wait any longer, here’s the meat of the article.
Single Leg Strength
A lot of people neglect single leg strength when it comes to adding size on your legs. To me, this seems absolutely ridiculous. Let’s look at this logically. First of all, if you want to get your legs bigger, then workout your legs (no, running or adductor machines does not count). Second of all, you want your legs to get individually stronger so they are both equally strong and big.
My favourite single leg exercises are split squats, reverse lunges, and Bulgarian split squats. Get strong with all of these exercises. When I started using these exercises years ago, I could only do my bodyweight and it would burn like hell. Now, I max out the 100lb dumbbells in my gym. You can (and will) get strong with these exercises, I promise.
The rep ranges I recommend for single leg strength are 2 sets of 5, 3 sets of 3, and 5 sets of 2. Once you can get all the reps for the given number of sets, increase the weight. Always get stronger and never look back.
It wouldn’t be a “how to get bigger legs” article without Widowmakers. This method was popularized by Dante Trudel with his legendary Doggcrapp Training. I also use this method extensively in Phase 2 of Monster Legs 90.
Basically, you pick a lower body exercise and perform it for one set of 20+ reps until failure. Go heavy as shit. Seriously. You will know that you picked a heavy enough weight if you get to 10 reps and need to take 3-5 breaths between each rep thereafter because you think your legs are going to fall off and that you’ll puke all over your wifebeater (ya, I workout in a wifebeater).
My favourite exercises for widowmakers are: Bulgarian split squats (absolutely brutal; take 3min rest between legs), goblet squats with the heaviest dumbbell, back squat (strive to use at least your bodyweight on the bar), hack squat machine (perfect because you can go to true failure and stay safe). Here’s my advice, rotate between all of these exercises monthly. Always try to do 1 more rep. Once you hit 25 reps, add 20 lbs (at least). Also, don’t be ridiculous and only go down to ¼ the depth (quarter squats). You will look really stupid in the gym piling 10 plate per side on the hack squat machine and only going down 2 inches. Leave this for the 40 year old men on the leg press machine or smith machine. These are the type of guys that cheat on their wives with ugly women.
Front Squats, Romanian Deadlifts, Rack Deadlifts, Trap Bar Deadlifts, Back Squats, Hip Thrusts, Single Leg RDL’s
Use “The Rule of 20”. I made up the rule of 20 and I think it’s a badass rule. Here it is in a nutshell: for leg size, all it takes is approximately 20 total badass reps. For example, use 4 sets of 5, 2 sets of 10, 1 set of 20+, 3 sets of 8, 10 sets of 2, 6 sets of 3, 7 sets of 3, 3 sets of 7 etc. Use all these rep ranges and always try to use more weight, but keep perfect form.
If you are confused what exercises to start with, go with the front squat and Romanian deadlift. Lift the concentric portion explosively and lower the eccentric portion under control. You will go far.
Use plyometrics, sprints, and Olympic lifts frequently, but sparingly. What I mean is that you can use these things 2-4 times per week, but don’t use a lot of sets/reps. For example, use 2 sets of 5, 3 sets of 3, etc.
What about Calf Training?
You should do it, but your main focus should be on everything above. With calves, you want to be doing high reps with a strict tempo of the following: lower for 6 seconds, rest at the bottom stretched position for 3-6 seconds, explode up, hold the contraction as tight as you can for 1-3 seconds then repeat. If done properly, you will feel like shit. Use 3-5 sets of 20 reps. Use this method and train your calves twice a week (once seated, and once standing) for a full 4 weeks. Take 4 weeks off and repeat. Hitting the calves hard, then laying off for a while is a great way to make them grow.
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Training Frequency to Get Bigger Legs
If you can’t squat your own bodyweight for 10 reps, then you need to train your legs at least 3 times per week. You can either do full body workouts, or lower body workouts, or a combination of the two. I’m sorry, but people have got to have standards and this is mine. If this applies to you, make it your goal to squat your own bodyweight for 10 reps. It takes work but still isn’t that hard to accomplish.
Once you have reached this point, training your legs 2 times per week is the minimum.
If you are advanced, then we both already know that you probably already have big legs. Yet, if you want even bigger legs, stick with 2 times per week.
In the end, getting big legs takes some work. Train your legs more than once a week with the principals given above and thank me later (once you are able to walk again).
Where to Go From Here
Learn the #1 exercise for bigger legs (hint it’s not squats) on this page: #1 Exercise for Bigger Legs