GET A LEG UP
The 12-week plan for leaner, stronger legs.
BY JENESSA CONNOR, CPT
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DALLAS OLSEN
HAIR & MAKEUP JEN STEYN
DEMONSTRATED BY CELEBRITY TRAINER AMBER WALKER
Is leg day starting to feel more like Groundhog Day?
It’s easy to fall into a rut and do the same workout week after week, but the problem is that your body adapts quickly to a repeated stimulus. Eventually, you’ll find yourself atop the dreaded plateau, or worse — get sidelined with an injury because of overtraining.
Using periodisation helps you formulate a well-rounded, progressive plan, allowing you to reach your goals within a certain time frame while also allowing for adequate rest and recovery. There are different ways to approach periodisation, but in a recent study published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, women who used undulating periodisation — a model that changes the training variables within a relatively short time frame — saw a greater increase in lower-body strength than women who used other methods of periodisation.
This 12-week lean-and-mean plan starts with a month of stabilisation, ramps things up with a strength phase, then
launches into four weeks of undulated lower-body training designed to get you the best legs of your life. Each phase uses familiar lifts and exercises that are specifically arranged to keep your muscles stimulated. At the end of the three months, you can cycle through the program again. Just be sure to increase your weight or make the movements more challenging. If you want hot legs, you’ve gotta keep the workouts spicy.
STABILITY PHASE: WEEKS 1-4
This phase is the foundation of your training, working to correct muscle imbalances and prepare the joints and connective tissues for more rigorous work. You’ll keep the resistance light and the reps high, but don’t let the lack of heavy weights fool you — these moves will challenge your balance and fire up your quads, hamstrings, glutes and core, and each exercise quickly becomes a barnburner as you progress through the sets.
- For each move, do three sets of 18 reps using light weight.
- Allow 90 seconds of rest between sets for adequate recovery.
- For the step-ups and touchdowns, use a platform that is 30cm or higher for best results.
STABILITY-BALL HAMSTRING CURL
Lie face-up with your arms at your sides and your calves and heels on top of a stability ball, legs straight. Lift your hips off the floor to align with your heels and shoulders, brace your core and squeeze your glutes. Keeping your hips lifted, bend your knees and roll the ball toward your glutes until the soles of your feet are on top of the ball and your knees are at 90 degrees. Roll the ball back to the start position slowly, then go into the next rep without returning to the floor.
Make it harder: Float one leg above the ball while curling with the other.
Position a plyo box or bench directly behind you and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lift one foot off the floor and extend your leg in front of you, then kick your hips back and bend your standing knee slowly, maintaining control of the movement until your glutes lightly touch the bench. Keep your chest up and, without using momentum, stand back up. Continue, alternating sides, for reps.
Make it harder: Use a shorter bench or a small stack of bumper plates and work your way closer to the floor.
STRENGTH PHASE: WEEKS 5-8
In this phase, you’ll continue to work on stabilisation while adding resistance to build strength. Your moves are paired together into supersets — two moves done back-to-back with no rest in between — systematically engaging opposing muscle groups and allowing you to crank through high volume with minimal rest. Because the intensity
is high and you’re working with a weight that brings you close to failure, you’re only doing four moves (two supersets) per workout.
- For each move, do three sets of 12 reps using a moderate to heavy weight. The last couple of reps of each set should be challenging but not impossible.
- Do your moves back to- back with no rest in between.
- Rest one minute or less between supersets.
*Hold the dumbbells at shoulder height.
#Hold the dumbbells at your sides.
+Hold at the bottom for two counts.
^Hold a plate, dumbbell or medicine ball at chest height.
WEIGHTED WALL SIT
Hold a weight (dumbbell, medicine ball or plate) at your chest with both arms, and stand with your feet about hip-width apart and your back flat against a wall. Step your feet out in front of you, then sink down along the wall until your legs make a 90-degree angle. Hold here, breathing deeply, for one minute.
Make it harder: Extend one leg in front of you; do 30 seconds each side.
BARBELL PAUSE SQUAT
Hold a barbell across your traps and upper back with your hands outside your shoulders, elbows down,
core braced. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, legs angled outward, chest lifted. Kick your hips
back and bend your knees to squat down, going as low as you can while keeping good form. At the bottom, pause
for a slow count of two. Then drive through your heels and quickly extend your legs and hips to return to standing.
Make it harder: Add a half squat to