A: Perform 3-4 warm-up sets before the top set here. Try to build some volume while finding a solid baseline for load. Move on after reaching the working weight.
B1: Use the load that you left off on from A. Now move to 2 Up/1 Down to overload the eccentric portion of the rep. Note the tempo here! Perform the concentric bilaterally, pause in contraction, then switch to unilateral for the slow eccentric. Alternate legs each rep. Take each set as far as you can until you either can no longer fully lockout with both legs or you can no longer control the eccentric with the given tempo. Rest ~30 sec before B2.
B2: Use load that would be about your 15 rep max here. Hold DB in each hand and use straps so your grip doesn't give out! Keep the reps fluid and controlled with comfortable strides. Your quads will most likely be the limiting factor after pre-exhausting them but try to push through the fatigue and burn to accumulate volume! Full rest before returning to B1.
C: Note the tempo here! Adjust your feet so they are slightly forward of your hips and a bit more narrow than shoulder width with toes externally rotated to 10 and 2 o'clock. Aim to maximize knee flexion here by squatting as deep as possible while driving your knees forward over your toes. Keep the eccentric slow and build tension in your quads through the descent. Pause for 2 count in the stretch but do not relax! Maintain tension in quads and glutes as well as braced abs. Leave a few reps in the tank here but build volume! Full rest between sets!
D: Note the tempo here as well! Elevate your heels by ~1 inch to allow for deeper ROM on the squat. Attach a band in front of each knee then loop them behind your knee crease. They should be pulling forward while you're having to resist knee flexion. Hold load in front of your chest. This movement is going to be very quad-dominant from two force vectors (horizontal with the bands and vertical with gravity). Make sure to extend knees fully when standing upright and contract quads forcefully against bands. Take the last set to 1RIR.
E1: Perform this on pin loaded machine if possible. Set the seat/stops so your knees are at 90º knee flexion at the lowest point in the ROM. Place your feet slightly lower on the platform to bias your quads. At the bottom of each rep, allow the load to fully settle for a count before moving into the concentric. Try to perform the concentric powerfully and do not lockout knees at the top. The goal here is to push the intensity and get a huge quad pump! Leave a couple of reps in the tank but fight through the burn! No rest before E2.
E2: Now that the quads have a ton of blood in them, stretch them out with these sissy squats. Use your upper body for balance/assistance. Keep your hips fully extended throughout. Drive your knees forward over your toes and roll up onto the balls of your feet through the eccentric. Aim to maximally lengthen your quads here and make sure to keep the eccentric VERY slow to protect your knees. And set when you begin to use more upper body than lower body through the concentric (i.e. pulling too much). Full rest before returning to E1.
Quality exercise selection is one of the most important tools we can use in our training to elicit desired outcomes.
When talking about hypertrophy specifically, the variation that we have access to is essentially never-ending, and we’re able to use all kinds of modalities, tempos and angles to ensure that the exercises we choose will be the best for driving that muscle growth.
However, at what point do we become so blinded in the search of “perfect” that we down-regulate overload and total mechanical tension to a secondary concern?
Progressive overload and “activation” should be in symbiosis, and the overarching program design should be the driving force behind which tools (exercises) are best suited for the task at hand.
Things we should avoid when comparing efficacy of movement selection:
“I feel a better contraction with X versus Y so that is a better variation for me.”
“EMG data says that X has a higher degree of activation than Y so it is a better variation.”
“X has a more ideal resistance profile than Y so it is a better movement.”
There is nuance to every argument and claim that can be made, and subjugating certain variations to a lower tier based on any of the above is lacking valuable context.
Instead we should be asking:
“Is the increase in mind-muscle connection based on where in the ROM the tension is applied? Is it at the cost of potential loading and intensity?”
“With the EMG data, was the study being performed with the exact same parameters that you intend to use the variation for? Were the subjects performing the movement to best bias the muscle we are analyzing or was it a more broad review? Were the electrodes even placed on the muscles correctly when the test was being performed?”
“Can the more optimal resistance profile hold its ground when being compared to movements that can compensate/overcome their deficiencies with sheer loading capacity?”
There are a lot of really loud voices in the fitness industry and we all like to believe that our methods/biases are correct; but be wary of those who speak without acknowledgement to context.
Load on the bar matters.
Trying to disconnect any of these variables from “optimal” exercise selection is always going to lead to a very sub-optimal result.
Though one exercise may elicit higher mind-muscle connection, local motor unit activation, and/or line tension up more favorably with a target muscle, sometimes objectivity, intuition, and old-fashioned common sense act as a better decision-making framework for exercise selection.