high reps squats for leg mass and size

by Jason Stallworth

September 22, 2019

There’s no doubt that lifting heavy weights builds muscle mass and strength. However, the rules change a little when it comes to leg day

You may be surprised to learn that you can gain more muscle size in your legs from doing high reps instead of low reps with heavier weights.

In this post, I’m going to tell you why high reps work better for leg size. And you’re also going to get 2 brutal leg workouts(2, because I want you to start training legs twice a week!)

Best Rep Ranges for Leg Growth

Before we get ‘in too deep’ (like that Genesis song ‘In Too Deep’…hey, Phil Collins is the best!),  there are a couple of caveats you need to know:

  1. I’m not going to tell you to stop doing heavy squats. I’ll explain more about that later.
  2. Hamstrings actually respond best to a medium rep range, so most of your extreme high rep ranges will be done for your exercises that target your quads.

The ‘bulk’ of your leg workouts will be targeting the larger leg muscles which are your quads and glutes. These are typically worked simultaneously in most leg exercises (specifically squats and leg press). 

Because your hamstrings are engaged in most leg exercises, like squats and leg press, you’ll only do one targeted hamstring exercise in each leg workout.

Your leg workout is going to look something like this:

  • Squats: Moderate reps, 8-12
  • Quads (Leg Press, Leg Extensions): High reps, 15-25
  • Hamstrings: Moderate Reps, 8-12

There’s an article on T-Nation that explains why you should treat every muscle different in regards to rep range called Tip: Don’t Train Every Muscle the Same

Why Quads Respond Better to High Reps

Your quads are the largest muscle in your legs. They also contain more muscle fibers than any other part of your legs. 

With that, your legs have the capacity to take on more workload and overall volume. This is because your quads have a high amount of slow-twitch muscle fibers, meaning they have a greater supply of blood, as James Buckingham at Precision Nutrition explains in this article Train According to Muscle Fibre Types

Let’s take this information to the real world…

How many times have you seen guys load up the leg press machine with as many 45 pound plates that can fit? Probably countless times!

Now…time for TRUTH: How many of those guys had huge, bodybuilder-looking legs? Exactly…lol!  

This doesn’t necessarily mean that going heavy on leg day is completely ineffective. But it clearly means that heavyweights for a few reps may not be enough to gain muscle size in your quads.

Your Solution to Building Monster Legs

Like most things in life, there’s no one sure-fire way to build huge legs. Rather, it takes a combination of methods for lower body mass gains as we’ve discussed with the different rep ranges for particular muscles. 

In other words, you can’t say ‘High reps work for this, so now I’m gonna apply that to every other muscle too and get jacked!’ ​You have to take a more intellectual approach to build muscle. ​​

Part of the title of this post is ‘high rep leg day.’ And that’s going to the focal point of your workouts below (and yes, it will be quite brutal!). 

However, this doesn’t mean you’re going to be doing high reps for every exercise, or every set. High reps will apply to the majority of exercises because most of them will be targeting your quads

Are you ready for your new brutal leg workouts? 

Brutal Leg Workouts

leg extensions

Remember, in the beginning, I said you’re going to get 2 leg workouts. I’m keeping that promise. 

After you go through these workouts below, I’ll also give you some training splits that show you exactly how to apply 2 leg workouts in the same week. 

Workout Tips

Here are some helpful tips to get the most out of your leg workouts:

  • Make sure you have a decent meal in you about an hour before your leg workouts.
  • Warm-up for 5-10 minutes on a recumbent bike or treadmill (walking is fine); you just want to get the blood flowing.
  • Take BCAAs during your workouts, ESPECIALLY during your leg workouts.
  • Be 100% in the zone and mentally prepared.
  • Spend at least 10 minutes stretching your quads and hamstrings after each leg workout.

My Recommended BCAA Supplement

scivation xtend review jason stallworth

The only way you’re going to make gains is by giving your muscles what they need to recover.

The best solution is taking BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) during your workout. 

Scivation Xtend has been my go-to BCAA supplement for several years now. It also gives me that extra muscle energy during my workouts. 

**I strongly recommend getting 90 s​​​​​ervings on Amazon – you’ll save big time as opposed to getting the 30 serving container. 

Brutal Leg Workout 1

Squat Day

In your first leg workout, your core lift will be squats. And for this one exercise, you’ll go moderately heavy, staying within that typical bodybuilding rep range of 8-12.

*Before your squats, you’ll pump out some of the reps on leg extensions to warm up! The same will apply to your second leg workout too. 

You’ll then notice you’re pumping out an insane amount of reps from there, for quads. For hamstrings, you’ll still hang around that bodybuilding rep range. 

Remember that your hams are a bit different for quads. Feel free to experiment using different rep ranges for hamstrings though. But I’ve personally found that 10-12 reps for hamstrings work really well for size and shape. 

Exercises Sets x Reps
Leg Extensions 3 x 15
Squats 4 x 12, 10, 8, 8
Leg Press 4 x 25
Lying Leg Curls 4 x 10-12
Single Leg Curls 5 x 20
Standing Calve Raises 6 x 15

Brutal Leg Workout 2

deadlifts back day lower body day

For this second leg workout of the week, you’ll want to wait at least 3 days from your first leg workout. Again, I’ll give you a full training schedule using this method later.

You’re going to do some different variations of some of the exercises you did in the first leg workout. This is to target different areas of your quads, and legs in general. 

The other main difference is you won’t be doing any heavy squats in this workout. Though you will pump out some reps for front squats. This will make your quads burn because it’s going to after leg press! Yes, brutal! 

Exercises Sets x Reps
Leg Extensions 3 x 15
Leg Press (close-stance) 5 x 20
Front Squats 4 x 15
Stiff-Leg Deadlifts 4 x 10-12
Single Leg Curls 5 x 20
Standing Calve Raises 6 x 15

Make Faster Gains

There are no shortcuts to building muscle. But there are some things you can do that will ensure you’re getting the most out of your workouts, performance and recovery. 

I’ve been cycling TestoFuel for years now and it’s one of the few test boosters you’ll see actual results from. Read more about my thoughts on TestoFuel and where to get it here.

Training Splits for 2 Leg Days

For many years now, I’ve been a ‘huge’ fan of training legs twice a week. In fact, I have an entire post dedicated to why 2 legs workouts each week are so much more effective than just 1.

Here’s a couple of training splits that can work awesome for you:

Training Split 1: 5 Workout Day

  • Monday: Back
  • Tuesday: Leg workout 1
  • Wednesday: Chest
  • Thursday: Shoulders and arms
  • Friday: Leg workout 2
  • Saturday/Sunday: Rest

Training Spit 2: 4 Workout Days

You can read that here: Training Legs Twice a Week: How to Build Bigger Legs

Create Your Own Brutal Leg Workout

With the information in this post and the 2 leg workouts I gave you, you can also create your own brutal leg workout.

I encourage you to try the workouts I gave you above. But after that, start branching out and making changes to the workouts so that it best fits your needs.

For example, you may want to replace one of the exercises I listed with dumbbell lunges or hack squats. Feel free to do so. Just use the workouts I gave you as a guide.

Just make sure you do those high-rep exercises, especially with leg press and extensions. Do NOT be one of the many who pile weights on leg press only to maintain ‘stick-legs!’

Pumping out those high reps will make your legs grow as opposed to half-reps with too much weight on the leg press. 

Lastly, I strongly suggest that you start training legs twice a week if you’re not already. I can’t tell you what a ‘huge’ difference that has made in my own leg development.

**If you’re ready to start an intense 12-week program, check out my premium programs below:

Hardcore Muscle Building Program
Lean Muscle Building Program

Train with Passion,

Jason

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