This Little-Known Technique Shocks Your Legs Into Building Muscle

Man performs leg extension on weights machine
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We recently spoke to Emily Servante, global trainer education manager at Ultimate Performance, to get some advice on how often you should perform leg workouts for the best results, and what the best way to structure your leg workouts is.

One thing that stood out to us from Servante’s advice is that you should try mixing up your rep counts.

“The great thing about leg day is that it really lends itself to experimenting and running wild with different programming variables,” says Servante. “From giant sets to high-intensity techniques, there are countless ways we can shock the legs into hypertrophy.

“My number one ‘secret’ tip for people to incorporate into their next leg workout is to use a mix of high (15-50) and low (five to eight) reps. Start the workout with relatively heavy squats for example, and finish on 20-plus-rep leg extensions or even 100-rep leg presses. Don’t leave any stone unturned, or get pigeonholed into any one way of training.”

To help you give this style of training a try, Servante provided this workout. Try it on your next leg day.

Mixed-Rep Leg Workout

Work through the following exercises, sticking to the tempo prescribed for best results (our guide to tempo training with weights explains all if you need a primer). The workout starts with a superset, continues with a tri-set, then finishes with two exercises performed as straight sets. 

1A Lying leg curl

Woman performs lying leg curl on weights machine

(Image credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Sets 4 Reps 8 Tempo 30X1 Rest 90sec

Lie on the leg curl machine, with the lever sitting just below your calf muscles when your legs are straight. Curl the lever up as far as possible without lifting your thighs off the pad, then lower it.

1B Front squat

Woman performs front squat with barbell

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sets 4 Reps 6 Tempo 31X1 Rest 90sec

Unrack the barbell, holding it in front of the top of your chest with your palms up. Lower into a squat until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor, then drive back up to standing explosively.

2A Walking lunge

Woman performs lunge holding dumbbells

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sets 4 Distance 20m Tempo 2010 Rest 10sec

“Walking lunges are a really underrated, and underused, leg exercise,” says Servante. “They trash everything: quads, hams and glutes. Just keep an eye on form – don’t let your torso fall forwards.”

You can use any kind of free weight for this move, either two dumbbells or kettlebells held by your sides or a barbell across the back of your shoulders. Step forwards into a lunge and lower until both knees are bent at 90°, then step forwards on the other leg and lower. Complete 20m, turn around while resting and go again.

2B Pendulum squat

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3010 Rest 10sec

This squat variation uses a particular machine, so if your gym doesn’t have one you can do a back squat instead. Stand on the machine with your shoulders against the pads and your hands on the bar in front of you. Lower into a deep squat, then drive back up.

2C Leg extension

Woman performs leg extension on weights machine

(Image credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 2012 Rest 2min

Set up on the leg extension machine so the pad on the lever sits on your shins just above your feet. Extend your legs to lift the weight, then lower them.

3 Dumbbell Romanian deadlift

Man in gym performs Romanian deadlift with dumbbells

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 3010 Rest 90sec

Stand holding dumbbells in front of your thighs. Hinge at your hips to send the weights down your legs until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, then drive your hips forwards to come back up to standing.

4 45° leg press

Man performs leg press on weights machine

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sets 1 Reps 50 Tempo 2010 

Finish the workout with this monster set on the 45° leg press machine. There are two types of leg press machines, so follow the instructions on the machine in front of you.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.