Circuit Lower Body

Circuit Lower Body

Training Notes:

A1: Make sure to adhere to tempo and get full hip extension on each rep. Rest 30-60 sec before A2.

A2: Keep your hips extended while you curl your legs. Think about maintaining contracted glutes and a neutral low back. You should be able to get your hamstrings fully shortened here. Rest 30-60 sec before A3.

A3: Keep load moderate. All tension should stay in your glutes. Rest 30-60 sec before A4.

A4: Aim to get as deep into the ROM as possible and open your hips up. This isn't a movement that is meant to be heavy but you should be able to keep the intensity high through slow tempo and deliberate movement. Take a few reps to get the hang of the execution and find the right feet placement. Full rest before returning to A1.

B1: Aim for max contraction and pump. Make sure to get full knee extension on each rep. No rest before B2.

B2: Get a full ROM here but make sure to avoid "butt wink" as much as possible with the fatigue setting in. Try not to rush through the set and instead think about generating as much tension in your quads and glutes as possible. No rest before B3.

B3: No stopping for duration of time. Use light-moderate load if you're able to. Keep the strides moderate in length and the tempo fluid. We're aiming to push the lactate threshold here so you'll have to really fight through the burn. Rest 90-120 sec before returning to B1.


Goals of this session

This is not meant to be a primary overloading leg workout. As we will touch on later, we will use this session as a supplement or strategically during phase rotations. We want to get as much productive work in as possible in a confined time window (i.e. density) with a bias more towards GPP (general physical preparedness) and cardiovascular adaptations.

Warm-up recommendations

-5-10 minutes of steady state cardio such as incline walking, elliptical, step-mill or biking.

-Soft tissue manipulation in the form of 3-5 min of light foam rolling the mid-back, quads, adductors, and calves. More specific work can be done using a small lacrosse ball (or something similar) and working through bound up tissue in the glutes and arch of the feet.

-Specific mobility with band lateral walks, alternating birddogs and quadruped knee extensions.


Common exercise modifications

Barbell Hip Thrusts- Machine Hip Thrusts, Smith Hip Thrusts, Feet Elevated DB Hip Thrusts, Banded Kneeling Squats

Swiss Ball GHRs- Lying Hamstring Curls, GHRs (with apparatus), TRX GHRs, Rower GHRs, Assisted Nordic Curls

DB RDLs- Barbell RDLs, Trap Bar RDLs, 45º Hyperextensions, Machine Goodmornings

Landmine Cossack Squats- Goblet Cossack Squats, Lateral Lunges, Curtsy Step Ups, Assisted Cossack Squats

Leg Extensions- DB Leg Extensions, Bodyweight Sissy Squats, Banded Sissy Squat Extensions, Band TKEs

Goblet Squats- Heel Elevated Goblet Squats, Straddle Squats, DB Squats, Rack Position DB Squats, Belt Squats

DB Walking Lunges- FFE Reverse Lunges, Alternating Step Ups, Forward Lunges In Place, Split Squats


Common program modifications

Advanced trainees- Push A1 to 1RIR, A2 to technical failure, A3 and A4 to 2RIR, B1 to technical failure and B2 to 2RIR. A set can be added to B sequence if recovery is solid. 

Intermediate trainees- Keep the program as is

Beginner trainees- Break the session up into pairs of A1 with A2, A3 with A4, B1 with B2 and B3 by itself. A4 should be done either with bw or a KB instead of landmine. B1 should be kept at 3RIR. B3 should be sets of 10-20 each leg and intensity should be measured by heart/respiration rate rather than proximity to failure. 

Male trainees- A1 can be changed to a leg press variant if glutes are not a focus. Volume may need to be decreased depending on strength level and recovery capacity (stronger trainees may need less working sets).

Female trainees- Potentially add a set to each sequence if recovery tolerates it. Shorter rest between working sets and less feeders/warmup sets will generally be needed. Volume may need to be increased depending on strength level and recovery capacity (better conditioned trainees may need more working sets).


Common injury modifications:

Low Back- The RDLs and Cossack squats could put some stress on vulnerable lower backs especially with their positioning within the exercise sequence. Shifting RDLs from DB to a machine variant could help initially to add more stability, but if that doesn't eliminate the discomfort, switch to a hyperextension or pullthrough variation. For the Cossacks, I would recommend starting with additional hip mobility work to try allow for more natural ROM in the deeper parts of the stretch. If there are mobility handicaps, the low back will have to work much harder to stabilize. Additionally, switching to an assisted version or Curtsy step up will remove a lot of the potential stress that the landmine cossack will put on the low back.

Knees- There are going to be a few places we could run into some trouble but the start point should always be to extend the warmup to make sure blood is in the joint and quads, hams, glutes and calves are all functioning well before jumping into loading. Though Cossack squats are shockingly knee-friendly, the prerequisites of the landmine variant will shift some of that tension back into the knees if there are any weaknesses up the chain. I'd recommend sticking with a slow tempo assisted Cossack here to focus on mobility while working around knee pain. The whole B sequence is going to be "knee intensive" due to there being more of an inherent quad bias. Adding a slower tempo to the Leg Extensions (or switching to a band TKE for even less stress), limiting the ROM in goblet squats by only going to a box set above the pain point, and subbing walking lunges for split squats are all very easy ways to work around knee issues while still receiving most of the original benefits. 

Hips- And again, we have the Cossack Squats as the culprit. The stress on the hips is going to be pretty tangible and significant here. Depending on mechanism of pain, it may be prudent to shift out of the frontal plane (side-to-side) and back into traditional lunges at least until the hips can be strengthened to support something like this. A quick fix would be to try adding light machine adductions or Copenhagen Planks just to get the adductors loosened up first. This won't be the universal cure but you would be shocked at how many hip problems can be alleviated simply through deliberate adductor work.


Additional notes:

By no means is this session going to be what takes us from giraffe legs to Platzian thighs. There just is not nearly enough total tension at high enough intensities to grow slabs of beef especially in trainees that already have a few years under the bar. No, we're not going to be using training like this as a direct attempt at hypertrophy but instead as a way to potentiate those adaptations. 

We can use potentiation within program design as a way of physiological Lego building. Just as Legos are able to take lots of composable pieces and combine them together to build something that would be otherwise impossible, our training can be stacked together in specific ways to create an outcome greater than the sum of its parts. However, to do this we must take a long-term approach and think beyond the present moment. This is where most people will fail. 

It is much more mentally-engaging (and actually easier in many ways) to continuously train as hard as possible, always shooting for PRs and aiming to impress your gym crush (who doesn't give a fuck btw). What is really challenging for most is strategically tapping the brakes, but this is often exactly the route of least resistance for continued progress.


"But Bryce, I was told that deloads are pointless if you're properly managing fatigue!"

Sure, but has anyone ever properly managed fatigue? Do you even know what that feels like? Are you training progressively, and if so, do you really think that every physiological system can keep pace? If you're a coach, now try to answer those questions for your clients even under the naive assumption they're not feeding you bullshit most of the time.


"But Bryce, I was told that the key to growth is just to keep doing the same things over-and-over!"

Sure, but doesn't it seem like there would be a better way? I mean, good for everyone out there who can spend 6 months in revolving triple progressions, but this ain't me and I doubt it's you. We can leverage things like biofeedback, adaptation curves and the aforementioned potentiation effect to cycle through specific phases of varying exercise selection, volume, intensity, and even intent (spoiler: progressive overload isn't the only way to grow muscles). Program design that calls for doing the same things over-and-over is just laziness gaslighting you under the guise of scientific reasoning. 


"But Bryce, I was told that sets don't count unless they're taken to failure!"

Sure, but...wait no. This is actually complete bullshit. 


For our session here, we are attempting to leverage a completely unrelated training effect (GPP and cardiovascular fitness) in order to build a better work capacity for volume-based hypertrophic work. Granted, this is abstract to the trainee who has only known a "GO-GO-GO" style of programming. It's hard to think about how a training session or mesocycle we're doing now might not be aligned with our long-term goals while still getting us closer to them in a faster time. But this is the type of thinking that is required for high-level programming and understanding of how our extremely complex systems work!

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