I am having trouble putting together a challenging and effective workout to gain hypertrophy in the legs of a male client of mine. He is 28 and is in very good health and shape but concerned with the small size of his legs. This is not the first male client I have come across with this problem. I can sense his frustration and really could use some answers. Thanks!
Your challenge is not uncommon! I have had clients say to me, "I have seen better legs in a bucket of chicken. What can you do for me?"
Solution: I start out by asking him to explain what he wants his legs to look like, followed by showing you a picture or a visual example.
Then follow up with a talk about genetics. The goal is to get him to realize his OWN potential and not compare himself with anyone else. From this point, you can assess the client's current status, both nutritionally and physically, explaining that it will take a combination of proper eating, proper stress and proper rest to reach one's genetic potential (which no one knows until all tools are applied, assessed, reassessed, manipulated and progressed).
Some of the physical assessments we use for specific hypertrophy goals are:
- Visual snap-shot of current body composition using a digital camera (later used to compare the individual to the individual)
- Body fat composition to test the amount of lean mass
- Movement capabilities to assess what movement deficits they may exhibit (only perform exercises that fit within the client's capability level)
- Joint range of motion to assess the joint's ability to move through a full range of motion (you can't build muscle if the muscle can't move with the joint)
All of these assessments (and often others) are re-assessed after four weeks to compare where the client is objectively. This is often a true test to see if your program is working as well as a great motivating tool for the client (if you designed the program correctly).
Now, as for hypertrophy acute variables, you must follow the proper time under tension to maximize the hypertrophic response. Note: This doesn't mean all forms of training (endurance, strength, power, etc) can't create a hypertrophic response. It just applies the best rep, speed, tempo, rest period to maximize the potential of hypertrophy, providing your client is resting and eating correctly. The acute variables are below:
REPS SETS TEMPO REST
15-8 3-6 3-1-0* 2-4 min
*For maximal gains, each set should last between 20 and 60 seconds
- Bilateral Squat
- Unilateral Squat
See PTN Exercise Library for an exhaustive list.
By applying your assessment and follow up plan to your client's goals of building his legs, you will be on your way to maximizing his potential. Never forget you can enhance a person's function at the same time you build muscle. Therefore, be sure not to follow the hypertropic acute variables for a length of time (over four to six weeks). Change stimulus by using the different programs in the PTN Pre-made Program Library. Switch between stabilization, strength and power, thus providing the body with an unaccustomed stimulus to which it's forced to adapt. This will only enhance your next visit through the hypertrophic stage of training.