The Best Exercise for Huge Legs

Tom Platz

It seems that nobody likes to train legs nowadays. People in commercial gyms can do several things:

– socialize

– bench

– work their biceps

– work their abz

– work their biceps from different angle

– work their abz some more with the faith to see them someday and etc.

It’s a HUGE mistake to neglect legs in your training. Legs are 60% of your body. Training legs is a fast track to getting big (remember 20-rep routines?). Anyway, who wants those toothpicks? Why not to have the entire package? Legs must be trained as hard as the rest of your body. It’s a no-brainer.

Look at the picture above. This is Tom Platz. He was possessor of the most impressive legs in bodybuilding (and by ‘bodybuilding’ I mean those times when it was a sport of masculinity, beauty and grace).

How did he manage to obtain such legs? He had one secret exercise in his arsenal.

The Squat

The single best exercise for developing leg size. No other exercise will bring you same awesome results. The Squat was a staple in Tom Platz’s workout routines throughout his career. He claimed many times that it was the single best exercise not only for legs, but for the whole body. Check out this video of him squatting 500 lbs for 23 reps:

He is true master of squat. Notice how deep he goes. Ass-to-grass. No half-reps, no cheating, no stupidity. Just squat. He shows ideal form for building size. Tom learned to squat from Olympic weightlifters back in the day. This form is very strict. It’s not suitable for powerlifting because you can’t use as much weight. However, for building size it’s perfect.

If you want legs, then squat. If you want size, then squat. Not happy – squat some more.

Here’s an example of Tom Platz Leg Workout

  1. Squats * for 8-10 sets of 5-20 reps
  2. Hack squats for 5 sets of 10-15 reps
  3. Leg extensions for 5-8 sets of 10-15 reps
  4. Lying leg curls for 6-10 sets of 10-15 reps

* Squats performed deep and strict and pyramided to more than 600 pounds.

Monster volume by any standards. However, he didn’t build it overnight. That volume was built steadily. I’m sure it took long time. It would be a mistake for beginner to jump in such routine but it could be a long (I mean LONG) term goal. Tom Platz’s legs never grew until he was exposed to the Squat at 16 or 17. After that, he had become known as great squatter and possessor of the most impressive legs in bodybuilding. He was the one who popularized the squat in California back in the day. The second most useful exercise in Tom Platz’s leg development was Hack Squats. It “helped him with separation and shape of legs”, whatever this means.

John Grimek and the SquatJohn Grimek and Squat

Another big proponent of the squat was marvelous John Grimek. Here are his own words on one day of squatting when he was over 70 years old:

“I began with 225 lb. and did about 28 consecutive reps. Then I added 90 lb more and did another 18 to 20 reps and continued in that fashion, adding weight, while cutting the reps and always working up to where I would do only one to three reps with 645 lb usually, but occasionally working up to 695 lb and by then I already completed 75 to 80 reps. But as mentioned, I never struggled, for some reason I felt that was straining, avoiding that because I felt it did nothing for except cause pain. The visitor looked at me when I was finished doing 20 reps with the second set of 315 lb and asked, ‘I thought you weren’t in the mood to train hard?’ I said I wasn’t, but what the heck, squats are easy. He looked at me and said, ‘I squat too, but on my best days I could never do that.’ “

As we can see, Grimek was strong squatter even in his 70s, and I think his overall muscular development (and leg development specifically) was a result of so many squatting.

Here’s what Dr. Ken Leistner told about John Grimek’s squatting:

“John Grimek, who was so much “functionally stronger” than the overwhelming majority of those in the Iron Game today and who in person, into his fifties, was so strong and wonderfully built, truly bothered me. I wanted to clarify some statements I had made in print re: John and clear the air for those on this board. I just got off the phone with Jan Dellinger. Jan has held numerous positions at and for York Barbell and has been with them since 1976. Few in this world are more open and honest, just as Grimek was. Here is what I was told: Lee James, an excellent O lifter and member of one of our Olympic teams, felt his c&j lagged relative to the other lifts. He also knew that if his squat went up, so did his c&j. Thus, he asked Grimek how much John could squat, full to the floor deep knee bends, in his prime. John said he never tried to work up more than the weight that “gave (him) a good workout” and he would first (note this please) do a set of 25 full reps, add 90 pounds and do another 20 reps or so, then another warmup set of 15 reps or so, etc. He would do approximately 48-62 reps prior to his “top set(s)” and he told Lee he did 565×5. In his 70s, Jan witnessed, two times per week, almost every week for many years, John do “below parallel squats” 185×20-30, to begin the session, and then work up to 405×10 and he did this into his 80s. This was also witnessed at least one or two times by Bill Pearl and anyone who watched John in the York gym. He did these always, in his street shoes, and at most a single ply typical O lifting type belt if he used a belt at all. He would then go into the stairstep rack that every reader of Strength & Health has seen a thousand times, and work up to 850, and walk out to the last step with it and do partial squats (“at least 8″ deep”) to the age of 71 or 72. “He was never shakey and this is much more difficult than just standing in a rack and doing it” noted Jan. He said that John was always in complete control of the weight. He would do 5-7 reps with the latter being the usual. If he was off, it would be 5 reps “and he never busted a gut doing any of this.” In his later 70s he only went up to 750 in that manner but still would lead off with the 405×10. After not squatting for two years or so he attended Leo Stern’s show in Calif and when George Turner went to squat, John asked to work in. He had just used a bike at home but worked to “full squats, very deep according to George” to 385×8-10 and he was close to 80 at the time. On the Universal machine, Jan said John would put the seat as far up as it would go and then do the entire stack for 15-20 reps with one leg only, then the other. He did this for a few years when he didn’t feel like squatting. At age 82 he had his first hip replacement and then fell over a cement parking block/stop three weeks after recovery and had the other hip done and that was that. This is straight from Jan who watched John from the age of 65 on up and who was a coworker so if you don’t believe it, take it up with him but so many new guys just don’t have any idea how strong the old timers really were. As Jan said, “John never pushed to see how strong he really was or how strong he could be”.

I think it’s enough information to understand the importance of squatting. Huge Squat = Huge Legs!

But What about Other Variations of the Squat?Kettlebell Front Squat

Squat with a barbell on your back isn’t the only option. There are Barbell Front Squats, Barbell Hack Squats, Kettlebell Double Front Squats, Sandbag Zercher Squats, Pistols, Weighted Pistols, Step-Ups, Lunges, Plyometric Squats and many more. You can always find something new for your leg work. Options are almost endless.


If your goal is leg size, then Barbell Squat is your best bet. You can develop tremendous strength, endurance and agility with any squat variation, but your legs won’t be huge by any means. Of course, they won’t remain toothpicks anymore. But they won’t be HUGE (like Tom Platz’s). They will be normal. In shape and muscular.

How to Incorporate Squats in Your Routine?

Easy. Follow the full-body strategy I outlined in this post and make up your own routine. Or I can give you a sample workout. It can look something like this:

A1) Dips 5×5

A2) Kettlebell One-Arm High-Pull 5×5

A3) Barbell Squat 5×5

Perform all sets in circuit fashion. Add weight every set for 4 sets until you perform your 6RM on the last set. Next workout add weight every set for 3 sets until you perform your 6RM on the last two sets. Next workout add weight every set for 2 sets until you perform your 6RM on the last three sets. Next workout add weight and start over.

The Fastest Way to Huge Legs

The fastest gains in leg size that I experienced were from 20-rep squat routine. I’ve gained an inch to each leg in a first week. My appetite was unstoppable after workouts. And it paid off. Try this protocol if you desire the fastest gains in leg size. Of course, if you can handle it’s brutality.

That’s it. Squat and reap the benefits. And listen to oldtimers, they know the deal.

Play rough!

Alex Zinchenko

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