say goodbye to chicken legs forever

Say Goodbye to Chicken Legs Forever

NOBODY wants to be referred to as the chicken leg dude. If you want to stop wearing sweat pants to the gym and playing that ‘out of sight, out of mind’ game, then read on.

One of the most noticeable errors in the gym is the chicken leg physique. These individuals are easy to spot as their upper bodies are built and their legs are highly undeveloped. The problem lies in over training show muscles such as the biceps and chest with little focus on the legs.

If you want to sport a pair of epic legs, then forgetting leg day is a huge no-no for your program. It’s time to suck it up and prepare for a destructive leg day that will grow those chopsticks of yours.

But first let’s talk about the science so you can appreciate a good leg day.

Breaking down the legs

Your legs are composed of four primary muscle groups: the quadriceps; the hamstrings, the glutes and your calf muscles. Understanding how these muscles work and what makes them thrive is everything for your training goals.

Your leg muscles are composed of both slow twitch muscle fibers (type 1) and fast twitch muscle fibers (type 2). Both these fiber types respond to different load and resistance training methods. Type 1 fibers, which are hard to fatigue, have shown to respond effectively to lighter load and higher repetition training. Type 2 fibers, which easier to fatigue, respond better to higher load and lower repetition training.

Since most these muscles contain both sets of fibers, training the muscle with different loads and repetitions should be implemented. Since your legs are composed of so many muscles, having two days a week designated to legs will help ensure strength gains and help organize your training methods. Let’s breakdown the major muscles in your legs and what helps optimize results.


A dominant lifter should possess are quads that command nations. Your Quadriceps are composed of both type 1 and type 2 fibers. The vastus medialis oblique(teardrop) is a little slower twitch, the rectus femoris(center) is fast twitch dominant and the vastus lateralis is slightly faster twitch. Targeting both fiber types with different load and repetition training is essential for quadricep growth.

One of the most beneficial exercise for the quads is the back squat. A good training technique to implement on your back squat to hit all those fibers is using an ascending pyramid technique. Ascending pyramid sets are multiple sets completed within an exercise with an increase of weight on each set while lowering the repetitions.

Another great exercise to blast the quadriceps are front squats. You’ll need to start with a lighter weight than your back squat and start at about 25% of your 1rpm. A good training method to use with this exercise is the isometric hold at the bottom for 10-15 seconds. Isometric training methods simply are positions held for a prolonged period of time. Putting these fibers under more timed stress is a great way to build strength because the muscles respond very effectively to time under tension techniques.

Both these squat variations target the quadriceps primarily, but also hit many other muscle groups in the leg. Whether you want to get bigger, stronger or increase your endurance these training methods will help you reach your goal.


The glutes should always be a focus because who doesn’t like a nice butt? Yeah you might need to buy new jeans, but having strong glutes helps enhance athletic performance, prevent lower body injuries and will catch the ladies’ attention.

The glutes are composed of three muscles; the gluteus maximus (largest muscle in the body), the gluteus medial and the gluteus minimus. To train the glutes you’ll need to train them often and with high volume.

When training the glutes it’s important to get these suckers activated. Why would the biggest and strongest muscle group need help getting activated? One reason is that our society has been driven more towards sitting and therefore our booties are becoming dormant leading to what most call “Gluteal amnesia”. Squeezing and activating the glutes throughout the exercise will increase the mind muscle connection and lead to more effective training.


The hamstrings are a muscle group that require some extra love and attention. There’s nothing more disappointing than seeing a nice set of quadriceps only for the individual to turn around and have having hamstrings flatter than my grandma.

This muscle group are composed of 70% fast twitch fibers so heavy loads, explosive training and eccentric movements are important to incorporate in your hamstring program. With the dominant existence of fast twitch fibers in hamstrings should definitely push you to emphasize methods such as eccentric training.

Training the eccentric movement of a lift by slowing down the lowering period will put more emphasis on growth. Using eccentric training in your hamstring program can also prevent future hamstring sprains that no athlete wants to put their body through. The hamstrings are worked in compound exercises like the back squat, but the quads take more of the load so creating a program with exercises like the lying leg curl and straight leg deadlift are quite important.


Please do not go to sleep every night having nightmares about your endless future with small calves. The calves for many are the most stubborn muscle group of them all, but they grow with some good old hard work, patience, and knowledge of the muscle!

Your calves are composed of two primary muscles; the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is composed primarily of fast twitch fibers and your soleus is composed primarily of slow twitch fibers. Drop sets, alternating foot positions, and iso holds at the top should all be implemented in your calf training.

A good example of athletes with proper calf development are dancers and boxers. Why are these athletes developing these stubborn muscles better than others? Simply put, they’re constantly on their toes.

The positioning of the feet and body in certain exercises also dictates which part of the lower leg you want to target. With exercises like the standing calf raise, your gastronemuus will be targeted more so keep those repetitions high on this exercise. The seated calf raises targets the soleus primarily so incorporating heavier loads is a good way to build those stubborn mules.

Time for leg day boys!

Don’t just head to the leg extension machine every leg day and half ass your way out of a solid leg day. Understand the structure of the muscles and how they grow to enhance your quality of life and performance. The muscles are composed of different types of fiber that adapt differently to stimuli and understanding this concept for each muscle group will make your legs gains come quicker than you’d expect. Focusing on the eccentric and isometric training in your sets can really grow stubborn limbs you’ve desperately been wishing for by forcing the muscles into more time under tension.

Don’t forget that a key part into any strength training program is incorporating progressive overload.  You don’t have to write in a journal or document your weight every gym day but being mentally aware of what weight you’re lifting and how long you’ve been lifting at that weight is critical for your program.

Leg day sample workout

  1. Hip Thrust- 12-15 repetitions with 3 second isometric hold

2. Back Squat – 1×12-15, 1×10-12, 1×6-8

3. Front squat- 3×12 with iso hold at the bottom

4. Bulgarian split squat- 3×10 with isometric hold at bottom

5. Lying legs curls- 3×8 3 second eccentric

6. Calves

  1. Standing calf raises on smith machine
    1. 3×8
  2. Calf raises on standing calf machine with full ROM
    1. 3×20 isometric hold at the top
  3. Seated calf raises, drop set with isometric hold at the top
    1. 8-12  
    2. 12-15

Bonus; Walking lunge challenge

Lose the ego and laziness and put those beasty legs of yours through this ultimate challenge. Try ripping out a page from the navy seals training program and rep out a 50-yard walking lunge set. To put your legs to the brink of annihilation, incorporate an iso hold at the bottom.

This is not something to try unless you’ve been on a solid leg training program and have built up the muscular strength and conditioning. Start hitting that squat rack for some destructive heavy load lunges to build up the strength to handle this challenge. Incorporating walking lunges with a lighter load also is important to train for the conditioning portion.

To complete this challenge like a true warrior, you must be mentally prepared. Overcoming the onset of pain that will be certain requires you to turn off that noggin and worry about the task at hand. Make sure the training for this challenge pushes your mental strength to the brink of defeat. Once your mind gives out, there’s no chance for your body to keep going so mastering mental fatigue is crucial! This isn’t a challenge for everyone but if you consider yourself a beast, time to challenge that body and mind with this set!

About the Author

Hi, my name is Jacquiline Smith and as a Certified Personal Trainer for over 6 years, a National/State championship athlete and mum of two; I have gained extensive knowledge on the health and fitness industry. My personal experience with weight loss, athletic training and strength and conditioning puts me in a unique position to not only educate my clients, but also inspire my clients to reach their goals. I’m currently in the sports medicine program at Orange Coast College and on my way to a masters degree in Exercise Physiology from Cal State Fullerton. Find more about me at my Facebook Page.