Size is a one of the main goals of bodybuilding, but myofibrillar hypertophy (an increase in the size of the contractile myofibrils – that which mechanically makes your muscles contract) can also benefit the powerlifter, weightlifter, or other strength athlete not necessarily relegated to a weight class. The reason is because demonstrable strength is both a function of the nervous system and the skeletal muscular system. Intermediate to advanced lifters can essentially tap the potential of their nervous system relative to a given volume of skeletal muscle mass thus slowing, or eliminating gains in strength. To further elucidate the concept, the nervous system is essentially the conductor and orchestrates the coordination of the musculature both intra and inter-muscularly. It can be trained to extract greater force production from the muscles for a given plane of movement, tempo, and load. As with any adaptation, the adaptation of the nervous system to strength training is not infinite. At some point, the only way to extract appreciably greater force production from our muscles is to increase the size of their contractile elements (the aforementioned contractile myofibrils).
Ok, so now you hopefully have an idea of why hypertrophy can be an important component of any strength sports regimen, now to the HOW. Below is a specialized leg routine based on a concept I first read about from the inimitable Ellington Darden of HIT fame. Yes, I know, HIT doesn’t work and blah, blah. Well, keep in mind that one of the best Mr. Olympia competitors ever, Dorian Yates, used a version of HIT to dominate professional men’s bodybuilding for years.
While HIT in its classic form has not proven to be optimal for any purpose, it has many effective components, and among them is the creation of giant sets (3 or more exercises back to back) which are absolutely brutal in nature, and when utilized properly can elicit unprecedented fits of muscular hypertrophy.
Use the following giant set once per week. Perform it twice after appropriate warm-ups and then complement it with some direct work for the hamstrings ( 3 sets of 8-12 reps of direct hamstring work).
Perform each movement to just shy of concentric failure (i.e. stop when you know you cannot get another rep). Have each exercise setup ahead of time and do NOT rest between them until the giant set is complete.
Leg press – 10 reps immediately followed by…
Leg extension – 12 reps immediately followed by…
Full back squat – 12 reps – then you lay down and try to revive yourself…
If you can walk properly after each giant set (remember, only do it twice per workout) you have not worked hard enough. Your legs should be pumped to the bursting point!
This training will hurt. It might even make you vomit, but if you can take it, give it your all, and complement it with plenty of rest and calories for fuel, your leg WILL grow like weeds!