I am an ectomorph, looking to increase muscle and mass.

My previous leg workout was,

  • Smith Squats

    Dumbbell lunges

    Leg extension

    Leg curls

    and Calf raises

New workout is,

  • Leg Press

    Leg Extension

    Leg curls

    calf raises

    hip adduction and abduction

I feel this workout doesn't really fire my legs as it used to in the old one.

Q1- Which exercise should I add to this new regime?

Q2- I tried doing barbell squats with a plain barbell and had hard time balancing it, plus my knees went past the toes all the time, is that ok?

Q3- In my previous workout the trainer told me to leave glutes (with the machine), while this new trainer says do abduction and adduction, are they beneficial for me?


I tried doing squats about 3 years ago for the first time and experienced the same problem as you - couldn't balance, knee position, etc. I posted a couple questions with exceptional answers on the topic:

I avoided them for another year and did a routine very similar to your first one with minimal results - especially my squat, which almost didn't budge at all on the smith machine (made it to about 25kg).

Eventually I gave into the advice given to me in the above questions, and corrected some flexibility issues that were really holding me back. After that, I realized that I actually lacked almost all strength and mobility in my hips and glutes - I physically couldn't move my legs away from my body (out to the left and right). I did what your trainer is saying now and worked on the abductors / adductors around my hips and glutes and almost immediately was able to perform a squat (within 2 weeks). It has been about 4 months since then and I have seen considerable improvement in both the size and strength of my legs, starting on 30kg and now able to squat 75kg (both including bar).

As for my current routine, I work my legs in the same day as shoulders (which I'll leave out here):

  • Barbell Squat
    • 1x8 warmup set
    • 3x5 working sets
    • 1x3 where I go as heavy as I can
  • Leg Press Machine
    • 3x8 working sets
    • 1x set to failure on as heavy as I can for 3-5 reps
    • 3x20 calf extension
  • Lunges w/ barbell
    • Not 100% sure on reps - I walk the length of the gym and back per set.
  • Superset leg extension with leg curl
    • 4x8 drop sets (start as heavy as I can, drop when needed to meet the 8 repetitions).
  • When I move onto shoulders, I'll do 10-20 body weight squats between most sets.

Like I said, the barbell squat is what has really made me start seeing the strength and size gains. It is responsible for the development of a lot of muscles in my legs that I don't even think existed beforehand.

Side note: Bringing my deadlift to a more serious level seems to have helped a lot as well.

  • Is it common that legs shiver while doing the hip adductors? Also I have heard if you put too much weight it can affect the spine. Mar 12 '14 at 16:57
  • @PrakashWadhwani I'm not 100% sure what you mean by shiver but some exercises cause a lot of shakiness while I perform them, most notable being the tricep pulldown. As for your spine - any weight done improperly will affect your spine, but heavy weight can be done safely with attention to your form. I remember causing myself a lot of back pain when I started out with a 30kg deadlift because I wasn't paying attention to form.
    – Marty
    Mar 12 '14 at 21:52
  • Ok thanks for your valuable answer! Will start doing the hip exercises and continue with smith squats for now. I also saw I cloud do single leg squats on smith just for a change. Lets hope I can do the barbell squat after completing this months regime. Mar 13 '14 at 6:20
  • 1
    @PrakashWadhwani I would honestly not go near the Smith Machine squat whatsoever. It will 1) not do you any good anyway and 2) hold you back from doing proper ones.
    – Marty
    Mar 13 '14 at 6:25
  • But then I feel with only leg press and leg extensions my legs aren't getting fired up. What alternative do you suggest? Not even single leg squats, as shown here (youtube.com/watch?v=JlTojfaAXBo)? Mar 13 '14 at 6:37

Unless you're already pretty big, I'd ditch all these leg exercises. Just pick one hard squat (back, front) and do that heavy. Add leg press and some sort of calf work if you really feel the need. But if you aren't squatting at least your own bodyweight on the bar for reps then squats are going to be more efficient at growing mass than combining a bunch of isolation work.

With back squats do three sets of 10, as heavy as possible, adding five pounds every week or two. With front squats do the same with sets of 5. Leave the Smith machine alone.

  • Great advise, but "as heavy as possible" combined with "Leave the Smith machine alone", I would add with the advice that if he is currently working out without a training partner, to find one first. Squatting as heavy as possible without a spotter can be rather dangerous.
    – Pibara
    Mar 13 '14 at 13:08
  • 1
    @user1703394 I've never found any use for a spotter while squatting. A squat rack (or bumper plates) is far, far preferable. Save the spotters for benching. Mar 13 '14 at 13:11
  • I am not big, the thing is I want to do barbell squats but when I tried that using a plain barbell I couldn't balance myself pretty well, and my knees kept going past my toes, putting some weight on that will make it worse. Mar 13 '14 at 16:51
  • 1
    @PrakashWadhwani That suggests severe mobility problems in the ankles, hips, and back that you should fix. Mar 13 '14 at 17:41

No leg schedule is complete without at least some kind of squat at least every second legs day. You could try front squat or maybe hack squat. If you didnt do so already, make leg day exclusively leg day. No other muscle groups and most definetely no cardio on leg day. At least untill you strengthen up significantly.

  • Yes the leg days are exclusive, I am doing smith squats for now which I can manage perfectly, will try and alternate them with single leg smith squats. But why no cardio on leg days? I do a 10-15 minute warmup cardio everyday! It includes running and cycling. I can't imaginee starting to exercise or lift weights without a proper warmup. Mar 13 '14 at 6:34
  • Some heavy lifters say you should not combine cardio and heavy lifting at all on the same day, but basically if it doesn't involve the same muscles it should basically be ok. Given that cardio normaly involves the leg muscles, and on top of that, legs being the largest muscle group of the body, leg day being already the toughest workout of them all, packing cardio into leg day is not that good an idea. I guess a 10 minute 'warmup' is not all that bad, but don't do any of the intensive cardio that you may pack into your other days.
    – Pibara
    Mar 13 '14 at 7:04

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