This is a unique
exercise that will give your quads a burn like
nothing else. If you have trouble with quardicep
development, THIS is an exercise you need to try.
When it comes
to working the quads, there's nothing better
than the squat. But if your goal is ONLY working
the quads and not much else in the lower body,
you might turn to leg extensions.
But here's the
problem - leg extensions can be trouble for
your knees, especially if you already have
bad knees or if you use a ballistic movement
on the exercise (or too much range of motion!).
Clearly, the leg extension can really work
the quads hard but sometimes the potential
knee issues aren't a good tradeoff.
So what do
we do to work ONLY the quads then? The Braced
locks the lower legs into place during the
squat movement. What this does is send the
VAST majority of the tension of the exercise
directly into the quads. It's almost like
doing an inverse leg extension where intstead
of the thighs being locked down and the lower
legs moving, the lower legs are locked down
and the thighs are moving.
If you're familiar
with Tom Venuto's bodybuilding blog, he posted
a version of this exercise using a specific
piece of equipment that braced your lower
here to check that out.
while using the exact same concept of locking
down the lower legs, is done using only a
bar and a power rack (and a barbell pad, if
you've got one), which makes it a lot more
It's a great
exercise and REALLY tough on the quads - if
you like a good quad burn, this one will leave
you on the floor.
How To Do The Braced Leg Squat:
The first thing
you need to do is set up the bar in the rack.
Set the safety rails of the rack near the
bottom, probably about 18 inches off the floor.
You'll have to experiment with heights to
get the right spot for you.
I like to use
a barbell pad on the bar for cushioning. A
towel wrapped around the bar will work, if
you don't have a pad available. Set that right
in the center of the bar. Set the bar on the
rails and brace it right up against the uprights
of the rack. I'll explain the exercise without
weight first but you can do it holding onto
dumbells as well.
that you have on shoes that grip well onto
the floor for this exercise. Your feet aren't
going to be braced on anything - only friction
and muscle power is going to be holding them
Step into the
rack and set your feet right in front of the
bar. Your upper calves (just below the knees)
should be braced up against the barbell. Your
heels should be pretty much right underneath
the bar. Basically, your shins should NOT
be vertical but at a bit of a forward leaning
angle. This slight angle will help to lock
your lower legs into the movement because
instead of your feet being able to slide forward,
the slight angle means they have to dig into
the floor before they can slide forward -
even that slight angle helps a lot.
Hold your arms
either straight out in front of you or crossed
across your chest - whichever you prefer.
Now sit down!
Keep your torso vertical and drop back like
you were doing a squat. Because your lower
legs are locked into position, your knees
will be the pivot point. It may sound like
it could hurt the knees but in my experience
there is a LOT LESS stress on the knees with
this one than with leg extensions.
Go down until
the tops of your thighs are parallel with
the ground then, squeezing your quads hard,
come back up all the way to the top. I like
to come to full vertical and relax the quads
for a moment to let some of the lactic acid
dissipate. You can keep tension on by not
coming all the way up but, believe me, there
will be no shortage of lactic acid or tension
even if you DO come all the way up.
At this point,
you may find you need to readjust your foot
position to get the best feel on the exercise
- it's hard to get it exactly right on the
first rep. So fix your foot position if you
need to then sit back down and repeat!
To add resistance
to this exercise, hold onto a pair of dumbells.
You can hold
them beside your body with your arms hanging
down or in the top of the curl position. Each
position puts a bit different tension on the
quads. Try both to see which you prefer.
I've also found
using dumbells makes for a great drop set
- you literally drop the weight when you can't
do any more reps with the dumbells! At the
bottom of the squat, just set the dumbells
down on the floor and keep going using only
When you start
getting towards the last few reps that you
can possibly do, you can also spot yourself
by pushing yourself up on your thighs. It
gives you a bit of help and allows you to
with this exercise that the lactic acid really
starts cranking up. To flush it out, come
to the top standing position and shake your
quads a little - let some circulation help
remove some of it. Then keep going!
And if you want
another challenge, try dropping the safety
rails down one more notch so that the bar
hits a little lower on the calves. This allows
you to sit even LOWER down into the squat
because the bar or pad don't get in the way
of your hamstrings as you sit down. Squat
as far down as you can possibly go with this
one - it's a great finisher.
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