8 February 2019
SHARING MY GAINS: QUAD HYPERTROPHY
Many people assume that I’ve had big wheels from the minute I came out of my mother’s whom. Whilst no doubt I likely had the genetic ‘potential’ to build some big legs as my leverages, insertions and propensity for weight gain (in response to overeating) I haven’t always had big legs. Following on from the…
Many people assume that I’ve had big wheels from the minute I came out of my mother’s whom. Whilst no doubt I likely had the genetic ‘potential’ to build some big legs as my leverages, insertions and propensity for weight gain (in response to overeating) I haven’t always had big legs.
Following on from the popularity and interest I had with my article Sharing My Gains: Arm Program Design, I thought I would continue the series for each muscle group and in today’s article I am going to discuss my quad training since 2012 and dig through the archives of over 60 programs to share with you all what my training and nutrition consisted of.
Background & Context:
To highlight how much work has gone into my leg development, let’s first take a trip down memory lane all the way back to when I was 18-19. I desperately wanted to pave my way into the Victorian Football League (Sub Elite Australian Rules Football).
What this meant was that I did not train my legs, and was running 3-5km per day.
Weighing in at 65kg, I was as light as a feather with very little muscle mass. In conjunction to my daily running, I was training with Frankston Dolphins VFL team 3x per week including one game where I was usually positioned in the midfield. This meant that I was running, lots and as a result my legs were extremely small, but my aerobic and glycolytic capacity quite high.
In saying that I had been training since I was 15, (2006) and had built an enough muscle in my torso to look like I lifted ‘bro’.
After a knee injury put an end to my VFL aspirations, I turned to the iron as a means of fulfilling my competitive nature and set out to embark in my first contest preparation for a bodybuilding show.
The knee injury was impact related, so I could still train lower body. Here is what my training looked like for 2012:
I made some ok progress in the first year of training my quads directly due to the fact that I was a novice, but it was nothing to write home about.
After 2012 I had a 9 month off season whereby I increased the frequency of lower body training from 1x per week to 2x per week. The increased frequency and improved distribution of training volume was no doubt a huge reason for the rapid progress I made in a 9-month period. Couple this with an improved understanding of mechanics, technique and ‘mind muscle connection’ along with an energy surplus some significant tissue to my quads.
What I also attribute to the rapid progression made from 2012-2013 was the type and variation of training stimulus in each session. The first session was a heavy, low volume session and the second session was a lighter, higher rep session, often hitting beyond 20 reps for exercises such as lunges, leg press and leg extensions.
Fiber typing of the quads in my experience alongside many of my clients has shown to lend themselves well to a diverse range of load/repetitions and I personally am someone who seems to respond well to both mechanical loading and metabolic stimulus, likely as I am an even balance of fast/slow twitch fibers in the quads.
My quad training during this off season and into the contest prep looked like this:
After again rebounding out my second contest prep, as I mentioned in the previous Sharing My Gains article, I pursued powerlifting in order to shift my focus from aesthetics and body image to performance. The most notable change from 2013-2014 was the emphasis on progressive overload as opposed to training hard and accruing fatigue.
Very rarely to I hit complete muscular failure during my powerlifting stint, with only a few rare occasion where I would perform an AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) on the squat, with a 210kg for 8 prior to Open Nationals.
The initial stages of 2014 were extremely inconsistent and it wasn’t until 2015 that I began consistently training my legs again in preparation for my first powerlifting meet in 2016. A long time to prepare for a meet right?
It was, but I don’t like to do things in half measures and having learnt that excellence in sport requires time and patience, powerlifting was no exception.
The obvious issue with training for powerlifting is that specificity dictates that strength adaptations are of primary importance, hypertrophy a secondary training outcome. Therefore, whilst I may not have necessarily made a lot of hypertrophy progress in my quads during this period, there were a number of benefits from taking some time away from hypertrophy specific training.
- Improved understanding of sports science, as it relates to strength training and program design.
- Increased knowledge of fatigue management.
- Technique improvements on the big 3.
The aforementioned benefits were pivotal in my progress after my powerlifting stint for obvious reasons.
Here is an overview of my training during this time:
Not a lot changed or progressed in that 2-year period due to a number of factors outlined above, however, it was a year of non-regression which in many cases is just as beneficial as making progress and likely re-sensitised my quads to hypertrophy training.
After competing at Open Nationals in October of 2016, and placing second with a Squat of 250kg, Bench of 160kg and Deadlift of 262.5kg (at 80.5kg BW), I was ready to transition back into bodybuilding and pursue my competitive bodybuilding goals of getting back on stage in Season B of 2018.
Having developed a lot of strength, and an increased training age, it was important that program design reflected this. Whilst I was able to get away with greater frequencies and overload in the earlier years, my quads had become much larger and stronger which meant that I could now create far more local and systemic fatigue.
Having learnt a truck load on program design during the powerlifting stages, I opted for a training frequency of 1.5x per week, meaning that one session would be overloading, with the other less disruptive and barely providing any overload, but instead inducing the repeated bout effect to improve recovery and subsequent performance.
Here is what my training looked like this year:
The biggest takeaway in reviewing 5 years of my quad training is the intricate relationship between strength and hypertrophy. What allowed me to be an elite level powerlifter was the fact that I had spent years prioritizing muscle growth. Similarly, the transition to powerlifting was critical in my development as an athlete and taught me many valuable lessons related to training that furthered my progress.
TRAINING/PROGRAMMING MISTAKES FOR QUAD HYPERTROPHY:
- Limited range of motion.
- Poor technique, form and understanding of mechanics, especially for compound movements.
- Too much volume and overload in a single session.
- Sticking to one intensity/rep scheme for prolonged durations.
- Prioritising progression in load only.
- Too little or too much frequency depending on training level of advancement.
- Exercise selection that ignores all functions of the quads (hip flexion, knee extension)
OPTIMAL PROGRAM DESIGN FOR QUAD HYPERTROPHY:
- Splitting weekly volume into 1.5-3x per week.
- Full ROM based on individual anthropometrics and goals
- Progression of volume, load and proximity to failure.
- Varied intensity and rep schemes.
- Increasing training frequency when at low levels of advancement.
- Decreasing frequency of overload as level of advancement increases.
- Exercise selection that accounts for all functions of the quads (hip flexion, knee extension).
It was again extremely insightful to reflect on all of my years of training and gather some pretty cool data. See below for an overview of how the past 5 years of training volume and frequency:
Whilst I always recommend taking anecdote with a grain of salt, I hope this article and reflection on my training experience is useful in highlighting some important considerations as it relates to quad hypertrophy.