Bring the weight up in a controlled and deliberate manner all the way until your legs are completely extended. Contract hard for a brief count at the top, and then lower the weight back slowly to the start position. Never the let weight stack touch down between reps.
Heavy-Duty Legs with Mr. America/ Mr. Universe Mike Mentzer, Using the Pre-Exhaust System.
PURPOSE OF THE APPROACH:
To develop mass, power and thickness in the thighs using the pre-ex-haust concept, which was originally developed by MMI’s own Robert Kennedy, popularized in the 1970s by Mike Mentzer, and later by sixtime Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates.
HOW IT WORKS: Perform all three exercises as one large tri-set with absolutely no rest between exercises. Start with leg extensions. This exercise focuses the stress almost entirely on the quad muscles of the front thigh. It’s important to isolate the quads with this singlejoint move to fatigue them so that when you go immediately into the squat, and then leg press, the secondary muscle groups (hamstrings, glutes) will have a temporary strength advantage and the thigh muscles can go to the point of failure without the weaker secondary muscles giving out first.
Mike believed in using the heaviest weight he could handle during the exercise. Although he believed in performing only one tri-set at maximum weight, he was also smart enough to make sure he warmed up his body and working muscles thoroughly. He began with light extensions and squats, typically 2-3 sets, to make sure he was loose and flexible and to prevent the possibility of serious injury. Though he did only one working set (three parts), he’d take every set to the point of positive failure, where he could no longer raise the weight for a full rep every workout!
- Use a weight that allows about eight reps with good form. Contract your quads to raise the padded lever in a smooth but strong motion, holding the peak-contracted position for a count; lower under control.
- After your set of extensions go directly to the squat rack; use a weight that allows you to do 5-8 reps with good form (have the weight already set). Control the descent, making sure you don’t bounce at the bottom. In a strong motion press back up to full-leg extension; continue to failure. Keep your back flat and midsection tight during execution; Mike would stare at a spot on the ceiling across the room to help keep his back from rounding or hunching. He preferred squatting to parallel, as he believed going lower put the connective tissues in a vulnerable position.
- Finish the tri-set with the vertical leg press, effective for stimulating growth because you can go heavy without worrying about balancing the weights. (If your gym doesn’t have this machine opt for the traditional leg press instead.) Choose a weight with which you can do 4-6 reps but go to failure. If you don’t have a spotter, push through your knees and self-spot with your hands for an extra rep or two. Mike would also add negative reps, lowering the weight very slowly, resisting as much as possible, then using the aid of his arms to push the weight back up to the start position. That’s it! This tri-set is extremely demanding and Mike believed that adding any more would be overtraining. (Warm-up sets don’t count.) Don’t train legs more than twice a week and don’t do more sets than indicated here. Using the right weights is critical to reaching muscle failure by the target reps. It’s also wise to train with a partner for safety.