This post-exhaustion routine is set up so that the most neurologically demanding exercise is performed first instead of last (which makes perfect sense, if you think about it). Secondly, the reps and tempo of each exercise are varied. The idea is to knock off as many motor units from the motor-unit pool as possible. Also, make certain that all your weights are pre-set so you don’t inadvertently get some extra rest by messing around with the poundages.
This routine is the opposite of the pre-exhaustion routine Arthur Jones recommended in one of his Nautilus Bulletin books for the youngest-ever Mr. America, Casey Viator. Jones would have his famous trainee do leg extensions, followed by leg presses, and finish off with back squats. This routine was supposedly responsible for the growth of the young Viator’s legs.
Post-Exhaustion Leg Growth Routine
A1. Barbell Hack Squat 3 x 6-8, 50X0, no rest
A2. 45-Degree Leg Press 3 x 12-15, 20X0, no rest
A3. Leg Extension 3 x 12-15, 2012, rest 180 seconds
A1. Barbell Hack Squat
This exercise was brought to the bodybuilding world by Russian wrestler Georges Hackenschmidt. Hackenschmidt had sought to develop an isolation exercise for the quadriceps, and he succeeded. However, in Hackenschmidt’s heyday, exercise machines weren’t exactly commonplace. Hackenschmidt invented the exercise with a barbell in mind, and the so-called Hack Squat Machine wasn’t developed until years later.
A very-low-cost alternative to back squatting, the Hack Squat will promote top-level growth in the vastus medialis. Granted, using a barbell instead of a machine makes it a little uncomfortable, but its effectiveness overrides any comfort problems.
In order to perform a true barbell hack squat, you need a barbell and an adjustable rack so you can place the barbell at an optimal height for picking up and racking the bar. Your heels should be elevated by at least one and a half inches (the depth of a two-by-four) so you can squat with a straight back and your hips are under your shoulders in the bottom position. (It’s better to use a wedged board instead of a two-by-four so the exercise is more comfortable for your arches, but a two-by-four will do). Place the two-by-four or wedged board on the ground under the middle of the power rack. Set a barbell on the rack so it is about four to six inches lower than your gluteal line. Standing with your back to the bar, grab the barbell, preferably with straps (this is one of the few exceptions when you would use straps).
Walk forward until your heels rest on the board. Initiate the squatting motion by allowing your knees to travel as far forward as possible, without allowing your glutes to move back. Keep a slight arch in your lower back. Once your knees have gone as far forward as possible, lower your hips to the bottom position of the squat. Be sure to keep your back upright by pushing the bottom of your sternum up. Don’t allow your shoulders to round forward, and be certain your hips are under your shoulders in the bottom position.
After doing the prescribed number of reps, move directly to exercise A2. Don’t take any rest.
A2. 45-Degree Leg Press
The problem with using leg press machines is that they build nonfunctional strength. However, since the focus of this article is hypertrophy and not necessarily functional strength, an exception is allowable in this case. The standard 45-degree leg press machines work fine for this workout.
One point to remember when you do leg presses is that when you extend your hips and knees, make sure to keep the tension on your thighs by going to 95 percent of knee lockout. To prevent any dizziness, make sure you breathe in during the eccentric contraction and exhale on the concentric contraction. Again, the key is to keep the tension on the muscle at all times.
By the time you finish this exercise, you’ll want to rest, but not yet. It’s time to go directly to exercise A3.
A3. Leg Extension
As a general rule, leg extensions should be avoided because they expose your knees to undue stress. However, when your legs are pre-exhausted from the previous two exercises, you won’t be able to use much weight on them and the stress will be minimal. Also, this is not the type of workout you would perform year-round.
If possible, use a machine that overloads more of the middle of the strength curve, as that’s where the quadriceps are the strongest in this movement. Keep your head in a neutral position and don’t grip the handles too tightly, as that would raise your blood pressure and increase the likelihood of dizziness. Furthermore, try to follow the tempo prescribed. Often when trainees go through this excruciating routine, they start getting sloppy with the tempo by the time they get to this exercise. It’s best to guess light and complete all the reps rather than going too heavy and ending up looking like a penguin having an epileptic fit.
By the time you walk/wobble off this machine, you’ll probably feel quite nauseated. That’s quite normal because of the high lactate levels you’ll have generated. The good news is that high levels of lactate are linked to high levels of growth hormone.
Now, take a three-minute rest before repeating the tri-set. When you’ve gone through it three times, you’ve had enough. Do this routine for six workouts, working your legs once every four or five days.
This routine is very demanding physiologically and psychologically. Make sure you don’t eat anything more than a light meal within two hours before, as it’s easy to become quite nauseated from this routine.
To break through training plateaus it’s often necessary to shock your muscles into growth. Post-exhaustion tri-sets such as this one will do just that!