For many people, having strong legs isn't their goal; rather, they are looking to have a maximum amount of leg power. The difference between having a high amount of leg power and a high amount of strength is that if you've got very powerful legs, you will be able to press a great deal of weight over a short period of time.
Essentially, you can generate a high amount of force and generate that force quickly. This comes in very helpful if you're involved in a higher amount of sports that require you to be strong and quick at the same time.
In order to develop this physical characteristic, it's important that you adjust your training accordingly since there are certain aspects you must touch upon to get a high degree of leg power.
1. Heavy Squats or Leg Press: To best achieve a high level of power, you want to be both quick and strong. Many of the exercises below aren't going to stress maximum strength to a large degree, so it's important to perform at least one exercise where you will lift as heavy as possible.
Since squats put you in your strongest position (or the leg press for those who struggle with squat positioning), perform this exercise for a rep range of 5-8 reps lifting as heavy as you possibly can. Do 3-5 sets of these and you'll be well on your way to develop a very solid strength foundation.
2. Jump Squats: Following a good rest after doing the squats (at least 3-5 minutes to fully recover), next you want to move into jump squats. These will not be performed with much weight if any at all (you can wear a weighted vest if desired), but will focus on maximum quickness and explosiveness.
When doing these, you want to jump up off the ground as high as possible while reaching the arms above your head to help increased the entire movement pattern.
3. Calf Raises With A Quick Eccentric Component: One factor that many people forget about is the role that calves will play in generating power. Since this is the last link of the chain when you perform any type of run or jump, it's vital that this muscle is also trained for power.
To do this, you want to perform your standard sitting or standing calf raise with a heavy weight, but focus on really making the concentric portion of the exercise (where the muscle shortens - in this case when you rise up) as fast as possible. Then pause for a moment when you're at the top and slowly lower to a count of two or three seconds.
Repeat this process for 12-15 reps for a total of three to four sets. If you really want to make things challenging for yourself, consider doing it with one leg calf raises as well.
4. Tempo Hamstring Curls: While both the quads and hamstrings will be worked when you perform a squat, to zero in and focus on purely the hamstrings, adding some tempo hamstring curls to the program will also be a good idea.
For these, focusing on maintaining a constant speed throughout the entire movement so there is a constant tension on the muscle tissue. A tempo of 3-0-3 will work well, but you can extend this to 4-0-4 if you really want to slow things down.
Perform two sets in this manner and then supplement that with another two sets where you shorten the tempo to a 1-0-1 or 2-0-2 (you may need to adjust the weight for these ones). This will give a good mix and train the muscles to effectively fire at different rates.
5. Interval Sprints: Finally, the last way to really boost your leg power is to perform interval sprints. Ideally you would want to do these at a completely separate time than you do your leg weight workout however since weight training will slow the muscle tissues down making it very difficult to work to maximum effectiveness with sprints.
Perform your sprints either later in the day or on an entirely different day altogether depending on your overall workout set-up. Aim to sprint for 10-20 seconds at 100% effort and then rest for 30-60 seconds accordingly. You aren't aiming to sprint long but rather focusing on being as quick as possible off the absolute start.
So if you're looking to boost your leg power, make sure you're including these exercises. Avoid doing too much leg work though as training for explosiveness is quite stressful on the body and you could quickly find yourself overtraining if you aren't careful. Two sessions a week will be plenty and it would be ideal if these are separated by two days in between workouts.
- Squats/Leg Press: 5 sets of 5-8 reps
- Jump Squats: 3 sets of 10-15 reps
- Calf Raises: 4 sets of 12-15 reps
- Leg Curls (Fast): 30 seconds
- Leg Curls(Slow): 45 seconds
- Interval Sprints