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When people talk about leg development, one of the first names that pops up is Tom Platz. He is famously known as "Quadzilla" because of his astonishingly developed leg muscles and insane leg workout routine.
Despite never really being at the top of his sport, Tom saw some notable success and became widely popular for his intense leg training. For those who are dedicated enough and maybe a little crazy, I'll use this article to break down Tom Platz's leg workout, exploring its benefits, exercises, and frequently asked questions.
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If you want to have the best lower body, you have to train like the monster Tom Platz is. This comprehensive workout will work every muscle in the legs to grow them.
It is worth mentioning that even if you did this workout every leg day, you may not still see the same results that Tom Platz saw. There are other things to consider, like genetics, lifestyle, nutrition, and other contributing factors.
With your expectations more realistic, let's break down the workout.
When it comes to compound movements, back squats are among the best for building overall strength and improving muscle engagement. They allow for heavier loads, build quads and glutes, and strengthen stabilizer muscles.
The great thing about back squats is that you can change the emphasis on which muscles are being focused by changing your stance and foot placement.
Tom Platz is a massive advocate for a shoulder-width stance, with knees above the toes.¹ This allows for an increased range of motion and really activates the quads.
Hack squats make moving more weight at a higher volume easier and use foot positions you wouldn't usually use with free weights. Tom would put his heels together like a duck, which puts more of the emphasis on the Vastus Lateralis, aka teardrop muscle.
Unlike compound movements that work multiple muscle groups, a leg extension machine helps you isolate the quads, leading to larger, chiseled muscles. Tom Platz starts his leg extensions by going lighter but using more higher reps until failure.³
As you add more weight, focus on kicking high and fully contracting the quad muscles, keeping the tension the whole time.
Hamstring curls, especially the laying down version, are incredibly effective at isolating the hamstrings, especially the sartorius. Shockingly, Tom doesn't really focus a lot on hamstring training.
Initially, he started with a lighter weight, going slowly and getting a full contraction. Eventually, he worked into forced reps for the last couple of sets, which means that you train them until failure and then get your workout partner to help lift the weight.
Like quad extensions, foot placement plays an important role in hamstring development.
Bend your knees to curl the weight towards your glutes, contracting your hamstrings.
Hold the contraction briefly, then slowly lower the weight to the starting position.
Standing calf raises work your gastrocnemius and soleus, which are the upper and lower calf muscles. To get the most out of this exercise, go heavy and get a good stretch in the calves between sets.
Tom says he had the most success training his calves twice weekly at the end of the workout. Slowly and progressively, he would increase the weight, with his goal just to hold the weight in the middle position.⁴
Hold the contraction briefly at the top, then lower your heels below the platform's level.
Depending on foot placement, the seated calf raises target more of the soleus's development. Just like the standing calf raises, Tom had the best success building the weight slowly and progressively, with the goal of holding the weight in the middle position.
Focusing on a strong contraction at the top of each rep will still lead to significant gains for most people.
Sit on a calf raise machine with your feet flat on the platform and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
Hold the contraction briefly, then slowly lower the weight to the starting position.
Thomas Steven Platz, often referred to as "The Quadfather or Golden Eagle," during his heyday left a mark on the bodybuilding world during the 1980s. As an IFBB professional, he took the stage in seven Mr. Olympia competitions, achieving a respectable third-place finish in 1981.
He also claimed the prestigious title of Mr. Universe in 1980. Despite his popularity among fans and notable successes, Platz never quite reached the top of the sport.
Most people attribute his failure to do so to the fact that while he had an incredible physique, his lower body was much bigger than his upper body. His legacy lies in his legendary dedication and near insanity to training his legs, earning him a reputation as one of the most iconic figures in bodybuilding history.
Unlike many of his competitors, Tom Platz is still involved in bodybuilding and is a highly sought-after coach. So, despite being in his late 60s, Tom continues to train regularly, and his legs would still put most people to shame.
Platz's workout targets all the major muscle groups in the legs, ensuring balanced and proportionate growth. By starting with back squats, a compound lift, you target multiple muscle groups, like quads, glutes, hamstring, and calves, while having higher energy levels and more focus.
As you tire, you switch to isolation movements at high volumes to target specific muscle groups and reduce the risk of injury.
Platz's routine builds functional strength and muscle size by incorporating compound movements like squats and hack squats and having a varying rep range. The wide rep range targets the muscle groups and fibers differently, making your muscles more well-rounded while leading to significant strength gains.
Isolation exercises such as leg extensions and leg curls help carve out detailed muscle definition, which can significantly improve the aesthetics of the legs.
As you have learned throughout this article, Tom Platz's leg size was legendary in bodybuilding. During his prime, his thighs reportedly measured around 32 inches in circumference.
Tom Platz had an incredible physique, but his massive legs were the defining feature of his physique, earning him the nickname "Quadzilla" and making him the guy people talk about as one of the greatest leg trainers in bodybuilding history.
Platz trained his legs twice a week, a workout regimen that some may consider extreme, even among professional bodybuilders. This dedication to leg training was unparalleled, and he often pushed himself to the limit in the pursuit of perfection in his lower body development.
For most people, I would recommend starting with one leg workout per week, and as your recovery improves, start implementing another leg day every week.
Unfortunately, no. Tom Platz competed in several Mr. Olympia competitions throughout the 1980s, with his highest placement being third in 1981. Proportions are considered an important part of bodybuilding, and while his physique was incredible, many considered his proportions to be off.
Making it difficult for Tom ever to have a chance of placing higher than third. Despite not securing the top spot, Platz's influence and legacy endure, inspiring generations of bodybuilders to strive for greatness in leg training.
A leg workout like this can be daunting and probably too much to handle if you're a beginner. You can modify the Tom Platz leg workout to suit your needs by adjusting weights and reps, varying which leg exercises you use, changing training frequency, incorporating supersets or circuits, adding plyometric or stability exercises, and utilizing tempo variations.
Beyond his physical achievements, Tom Platz's legacy doesn't stop at what he did on stage. He is an incredible influence as a motivator, teacher, and icon of what leg development can look like when you push yourself to the limit. Whether you're a seasoned competitor or a novice gym-goer, incorporating elements of Tom Platz's leg workouts into your training regimen can lead to greater gains and a deeper appreciation for bodybuilding.
If you want to increase your muscle mass and overall physique, check out this article about the man, myth, and legend Arnold Schwarzenegger.
(All image credit to Tom Platz and original owners)
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