Most workout regimens are built on splits that call for just one leg day per week. People trying to lean down or women who want to balance their physiques may add another leg-focused day to their routine, but any more than two leg days per week is pretty unusual. Ashley Hoffmann's program, though, is anything but usual.
To see enhanced results in her lower body, Hoffmann hits her strong, sculpted legs 2-3 times per week. The volume of her plan is indeed challenging, so she recommends only intermediate or advanced athletes try it. "I didn't start out training my legs this frequently," she says. "It's something I've built up to in order to see increased results in my lower body."
If you're a beginner, focus on building up your training experience, strength, and endurance for a year or so before beginning a protocol like Ashley's. But, if you've been working hard in the gym for a year or more and want to give your body a new challenge, this leg-developing workout plan will deliver unreal shape and strength.
Before you get into the workouts, read through the recovery and program details so you know exactly how to make this type of intense program work for you.
As the frequency of your training increases, so must your recovery. The easiest way to decrease your fatigue and prevent injuries is to warm up well. "Warming up before a workout will ensure that your muscles and joints are prepared for the work ahead," says Hoffmann.
For many people, muscle soreness is the biggest limiting factor in their leg-training frequency. Hoffmann alleviates soreness by taking time to cool down after a tough leg day. "I always take some time to foam roll and stretch post-workout," she says. Spending 10-15 minutes stretching and rolling out your muscles can minimize soreness so you can get right back in the game when you need to.
In addition to prioritizing recovery before and after a workout, it's essential to fuel yourself with the right nutrients—ample protein, complex carbs, and beneficial fats—every day. Good nutrition is imperative to healing your body and preparing it for the next workout. "Make sure you are fueling your body with enough nutrients," Hoffmann explains. While the exact number of nutrients you need depends on a wide variety of factors and your specific diet, at least try to get 20-30 grams of protein per meal to support muscle growth, recovery, and repair.
To augment her whole-foods nutrition plan, Hoffmann also uses specific recovery supplements. "I also drink the Neon Sport Kinetic BCAA formula with added glutamine to help fuel my recovery," she says.
Sleep is also a huge factor in recovery. "Sleep is when you heal," says Hoffmann. "Make sure you're getting enough." For most adults, eight hours per night is ideal. The secretion of muscle-building hormones is at its highest when you sleep, so catching those ZZZs is a necessary part of good recovery.
Personalize Your Training
"I've done a few different variations of this three-leg-day schedule to see what I like best and what my body responds well to," explains Hoffmann. "I've done one total-leg, low-rep strength day; one quad-focused, higher-rep day; and one high-rep, hamstring-and-glute-focused day. I've also reversed this protocol and done one heavy quad-focused day, one heavy hamstring-focused day, and one lower-body day with high reps."
Depending on what you want to get out of your training, you can design how you organize your leg days to hit specific goals. If strength is your top priority, having two low-rep, strength-focused days may be preferable. If, however, you'd like more muscle and definition, then you may want to have two higher-rep days.
You can also vary which equipment you use to change the way your muscles are stimulated, so you are less likely to hit a plateau. Hoffmann incorporates a mix of dumbbells, barbells, bands, and cables to work her muscles with a variety of stresses.
Execute With Precision
Because you'll be doing different set and rep ranges to hit particular goals, you'll have to pay special attention to how you're executing exercises. If you're doing heavy, low-rep squats, Hoffmann advises "taking a deep breath and bracing your core, which will help you stay in a more upright position and stabilize the body."
She also emphasizes the importance of controlling the negative, or lowering, portion of exercises when you're working on hypertrophy. "If you rush through a workout with poor form, you increase your chances of injury," she explains.
Hoffmann also suggests leaving some bend in your knees on moves like the leg press. "Don't lock your knees. There is so much pressure coming down on that joint that it could be easily injured."
Hoffmann also notes that during those higher-rep workouts, your mind should be totally focused on what muscle is doing the contraction. "Hold the squeeze at the top of each rep for 1-2 seconds during leg extensions and leg curls," she says as an example. That extra focus will generate more total stress on the muscle, increasing your results.