No body part is more painful or excruciating to train than quads. If you want to make noticeable improvements in your leg development, you need to embrace this pain and chase it on a weekly basis – there’s no other way around it.
In the past three years, my legs have come a long way, and I discussed many of the programming shifts I made in my article here. But one thing I didn’t touch upon was the mindset shift.Previously, I’d stop to take deep breaths and rest-pause my way through a set at the first sign of lactic acid, burn or pain.
Now, I deliberately run myself into an imaginary wall and aim to bring myself to failure all at once. This means less rest-pausing, more muscular tension and a consistent connection to the quads throughout the set. It’ll make the set SO much harder, but what you’ll find is if you take this approach of ‘driving yourself into a wall’, you’ll be able to eek out extra reps while keeping continuous tension.
It’s also much less intensive on the nervous system, and decreases the risk of burning out or running into any niggles and injuries.
I discuss this method of ‘clean’ set execution in more detail here.
Besides this mindset shift, I’ve got two tricks I like to use to maximise quad training.
As always, we’re going to assume you’ve chosen the right movements for your body type, you’re chasing progressive overload, and you’re maintaining perfect form.
Here we go…
1. Paused, Deep Reps
Paused reps work with almost every body part. They work so well because you increase time under tension, reduce momentum and you ensure the muscles, not the joints, are doing all the work.
However, no other body part makes full range of motion, paused reps as painful and rewarding as when you’re training quads.
During your next leg workout, make it a point to pause at the bottom of every squat, leg press or single leg exercise. Even a slight stop will make a big difference to the intensity of the set, and the overall muscle recruitment.
2. Dig Your Feet
On every exercise you perform, you want to create a stable base to lift from.
When training quads, focus on digging and gripping your feet into the floor or pad at all times. This is especially important during the eccentric phase of the movement, where creating tension in your feet will enhance the level of stability in your lifting, allowing greater loads to be lifted.
If you can master this foot tension, you’ll increase the muscular recruitment along the whole length of the quad.
Bonus Tip - Squeeze!
If you struggle with generating a mind-muscle connection to your quads, try contracting your quads as hard as possible for 6-10 seconds in between warm up sets.
When you combine this simple activation drill with maintaining ‘foot tension’ during deep, paused reps, you have the perfect base to start implementing progressive overload, which will turn your twigs into tree trunks!