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Tom ‘The Quadfather’ Platz Leg Workout Review01/04/2021
There are two types of people in this world:
Those who train legs and those who don’t.
You’re either the type of person who gets an absolute hard-on being in the squat rack, crying blood and grimacing on the floor where it feels like Christ has taken a shit on your soul.
The type of person who is a walking meme, using every excuse under the sun to justify why it’s still arm day for the fifth day in a row.
Either way, there is no in between.
During the ‘Golden Era’ of bodybuilding, one bodybuilding legend redefined what leg day looked like, forging an admirable career, building a legacy and who made sure he was extraordinary among the ordinary.
That man was none other than Tom Platz, otherwise known as ‘The Golden Eagle’, ‘Quadzilla’ and ‘The Quadfather’.
Despite his highest placing being a mere third in the 1981 Mr. Olympia (ranking behind Franco Columbu and Chris Dickerson), it is still largely agreed today that Platz had the greatest leg development of all time.
While some might disagree, in my view, Tom Platz’s legs far surpassed the offbeat legs of Jay Cutler, Ronnie Coleman and Kai Greene among others which was validated in a poll by Muscular Development crowning Tom Platz with the greatest legs in bodybuilding.
We’ll be taking a look at the kind of exercises Platz performed to build-up his world-beating legs.
So, without further ado, lets review his legendary leg workout.
Tom Platz’s Leg Workout consists of four primary leg exercises:
- Barbell Squats
- Hack Squats
- Leg Extensions
- Leg Curls
He would also complement the above with some calf exercises to truly build up the legs.
While famous for his thunderous legs, Platz’s relentless work ethic was also something that garnered the respect of many of the greats in bodybuilding, particularly Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“I was always the kind of bodybuilder who really followed his instincts. In those days, my focus was on intensity and instinct. Arnold used to enjoy my intensity. He’d comment on the amount of energy I’d create. But I played off the other people, too.”
Platz was a man that got off on the feeling of being absolutely shit faced after every set.
If he didn’t end up in a sweaty mess, squirming on the floor in agony like an upended tortoise, he simply didn’t go hard enough.
This is how Platz described his experience of finishing a set of high volume squats:
“I did have a lot of grueling workouts on the squat rack to the point where my life would pass in front of my eyes.
I would lay on the floor in the old Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach and my heart would be racing so fast that I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t see. The lights hurt them and it felt like there was someone stabbing knives into my legs...
…I would have a towel over my head and would run the water fountain over my face, and after five or ten minutes I would get up and go ‘next set’.”
Platz would also routinely perform multiple sets of squats for 10 minutes cranking out over 100 reps of 225lbs (100kg) or more.
This isn’t the workout we’re going into today, but it does give you an idea of the sheer ferocity this man possessed.
If you wanted a bit more evidence of the absolute torture Platz used to inflict on his legs, check out the below video of him squatting 525lbs (238kg) for 23 reps at the FIBO trade show in Cologne, Germany in 1993.
Note his strict form and how he is unable to stand at the end as if he’s been run over by a truck:
So come with me, get your sick bucket ready.
This is going to be crippling.
Tom Platz Leg Workout
|Barbell Squats||8 – 12||5 – 20|
|Hack Squats||5||10 – 15|
|Leg Extensions||5 – 8||10 – 15|
|Leg Curls||6 – 10||10 – 15|
|Standing Calf Raises||3 – 4||10 – 15|
|Seated Calf Raises||3 – 4||10 – 15|
|Hack Machine Calf Raises||3 – 4||10 – 15|
Like all of Tom Platz’s workouts, this one unsurprisingly consists of never ending, soul-crushing volume.
It’s important to understand that high-volume training was the main stay of many competitive bodybuilders during the ‘Golden Era’ and Platz was known to live in the squat rack.
Whilst the intensity and volume of this routine might seem excessive compared to some of the more favoured moderate volume, split workouts of today, there is much to be gained from performing this protocol (excuse the pun).
You’ll be performing a punishing 33 – 47 sets or 2,145 – 5,170 reps in total where it’s likely you’ll never have performed that level of volume in your life.
Thus, this is very much an advanced workout.
A mix of barbell squats, hack squats, curls and extensions will ensure no muscle fiber will go unscathed where you’ll be working your legs from all angles.
Given the amount of sets and reps to be performed, you’ll undoubtedly be going through hell and back in the gym.
Platz is the first to admit that some of his workouts were over the top and his level of training isn’t for everyone. They don’t allow themselves to get raw and intense in order to expose their weaknesses.
“Not everybody is psychologically equipped to be a pro athlete. I wanted to change the way people thought about the gym experience and training.”
Of course, most people are capable of performing this routine, but often times they will look at the volume involved and admit defeat before they’ve even given it a shot.
Platz himself said:
“When you are uncomfortable is when you’ll grow!”
And an even wiser man once said,
“Never go to the gym and attempt high-volume squats without a spotter”.
Of course, I made that one up, but it is a good idea nonetheless.
If you’re reading this and are still not put off from this routine, check out the below video of Tom Platz putting IFBB pro bodybuilder, Jason Lowe through his paces.
It certainly isn’t as easy as it reads:
Ensure you warm up before attempting this workout.
Platz liked to perform 1 or 2 sets of barbell squats with light weights (or the bar itself) which allowed him to zone-in and get into the rhythm and flow of the movement before beginning his working set.
This was so that he was in the right frame of mind and that his legs were thoroughly warmed up.
He also liked to do some light stretching/mobility work to ensure his legs were limber and loose.
It’s no seceret:
Tom Platz treated squats as a form of religious practice.
He likened the squat rack to a holy place (an altar almost) where life and death took place during every workout.
Curling in the squat rack is the biggest cardinal sin anyone can commit at the gym, so if you spot someone doing this before you can begin to step up to the rack, ensure you squat on their corpse for disrespecting the sanctuary of legs.
Now that we’ve got out that out of the way, it’s important to note that barbell squats of the high-bar variety was the preferred choice for Platz, and one which will be required of you.
Whilst there are different techniques to performing the perfect squat, Platz’s ideal way to execute the movement was using an Olympic-style version that involved your knees going past your toes and your butt almost touching the floor (ass to the grass).
He felt such a movement permitted a smoother ascent from the bottom which promoted a natural upright position, but that allowed for adequate mobility in the hips and ankles whilst still giving the intensity needed to grow monstrous legs.
Platz also liked to focus on a spot in front of him when performing squats to ensure his body was always in an upright position that allowed the bar to go straight up and down as efficiently as possible:
“It helps to look at an imaginary spot on the wall or ceiling to stay in the right position. It made the exercise more difficult, but more effective.“
When performing barbell squats, ensure you’re comfortably supporting the bar on your upper back, keeping your core engaged throughout and focusing on a point in front of you to allow the bar to move up and down with the majority of the load being lifted from your quadriceps.
It also goes without saying that full squat depth is necessary.
If you’re not willing to go deep, or at least below parallel, you’re only cheating yourself.
One aspect of Tom Platz’s legs that gave him the edge over his competitors during his prime was the incredible development of his vastus medialus (VMO) otherwise known as the ‘teardrop’ muscle found on the front of the quadricep just above the knee.
Not only this, his vastus lateralis, which is a muscle of the quadricep found on the outside of the thigh was also well-developed that gave his legs the extra width (and thickness) that no other competitor brought to the table at the time.
Platz attributes the development of both of these heads of the quadricep to regularly performing hack squats and the different positions he would put his feet in.
He would routinely perform conventional hack squats, where your feet are parallel to one another and are shoulder-width apart as well as isolated versions to target different heads.
“It’s almost like a squat. It’s not like a sissy squat and the movement is not up in the air it’s very basic you push from your toes transfer weight through your heels and flex.”
A favourite of Platz’s was putting his feet in a ‘duck’ position where his heels would be together on the platform and toes pointing out.
As he descended on the hack squat, he would go up on his toes, pushing his knees forward and down until they were nearly as low as his toes and explode back up.
He felt this gave him a tremendous pump on the vastus lateralis and was a staple exercise he incorporated on his journey throughout the Mr. Olympia competitions.
Check out the below video of Tom Platz demonstrating how to perform the perfect hack squat and commentary on his famous duck stance version from 1 minute and 38 seconds:
As Platz mentioned in the video, performing hack squats as well as his favourite duck stance variety, can be very damaging on the knees.
Ensure you are comfortable with the technique first before applying any weight.
Once you’ve got the movement nailed down, look to apply some weights that will allow you to perform the exercise with no pain in the knees for the desired sets and reps.
In true Platz fashion, leg extensions were not performed in the conventional way.
He would usually go a lot lighter on this exercise in order to perform each rep as perfectly as possible. Also, going lighter meant that he could crank out a lot more reps ensuring he could go to failure safely.
It’s worth noting that each rep is to be taken through a full range of motion pre-failure. He liked to exaggerate the movement even further by pretending he was kicking the pad on the machine through the gym roof.
Often times, he would perform 60 reps in a single set.
Later, Platz would then move the weight up to a heavier load, just enough for him to get a good contraction – even if it meant the reps would become a bit more sloppy.
When fatigue and failure began to set in, he would call for a partner to push against the pad in order to churn out a few partial reps to ensure no muscle fiber escaped the punishment being inflicted on his legs.
There’s no denying:
Platz would take failure to another level and made sure he left everything on the gym floor each time, even if it meant breaking the shit out of each machine in the weight room before he called it a day.
Check out the below video of Tom Platz performing leg extensions from 4 minutes and 12 seconds:
When performing leg extensions, ensure you leave it all out there, getting full range of motion and incorporating partial reps for maximal hypertrophy.
Similar to leg extensions, Platz preferred doing leg curls with lighter weights, usually 22kg (50lbs).
This would allow him to slow down the movement and get a full extension and contraction on the hamstrings (which he called leg biceps).
Platz performed very few sets of leg curls but would ensure each rep was controlled, particularly during the negative (lowering) phase of the lift for greater muscle recruitment.
When fatigue and failure would begin to creep in, Platz would call upon his training partner to help him squeeze out a few more reps.
This would involve his partner helping him push up his ankles to complete the contraction at the top as well as have his partner hold the pad down at the bottom to crank out a few more partial reps.
Platz believed you should be fatiguing the muscle during every portion of the lift: top, middle and bottom. That way, every single muscle fiber throughout the movement is broken down, allowing it to grow back bigger and stronger.
A word of warning:
If you’re looking to try this with a training partner and wanting to apply the same intensity as Tom Platz, try not to get banned from your gym for sexually harassing the leg curl machine.
You’ll no doubt get a few weird/funny/scared/concerned looks.
Check out Tom Platz demonstrating how he typically performs leg curls from 5 minutes and 41 seconds.
Viewer discretion: machines were harmed in the making of this video.
When it comes to leg day, it’s not a real leg day if you’re also not training calves.
Very few people even consider training (or want to train) calves for various reasons unknown to man.
However, Tom Platz knew the importance of training calves and how it would help build a solid foundation for his huge quadriceps and hamstrings to sit on.
Not only this,
Having well-developed calves will ensure your body’s overall proportion/symmetry will remain in order, particularly as you train quadriceps and hamstrings hard.
Standing, seated and hack machine calf raises are the order of the day, with all three exercises designed to hit your calves from different angles.
Depending on whether Platz was in the off-season or preparing for a contest, he would vary the poundage when training calves. For instance, during off-season Platz would perform the above calf exercises with heavier weights for lower reps.
When he was preparing for a contest, he would decrease the weight and increase the number of reps (sometimes up to 200 reps split into 5 or 6 sets) in order to drop more body fat and increase the striations in the calves.
Platz notes that he only trained his calves twice per week. The reason for this was not only was he of smaller stature, and therefore required less frequency of work, but also the level of intensity he placed on his calves meant that he needed more time to recover:
“I had most success training calves twice a week… with really hard intense training twice a week proved most effective.”
Towards the end of his calf workout, Plat liked to slowly add some weight onto either the standing or seated calf machine and hold the weight at the middle of the movement for a period of time.
He’d also call his training partner to press or put his entire bodyweight against the machine and hold it for a few seconds until his muscles, tendons and ligaments could no longer hold the load.
Tom Platz believed that the static hold worked wonders on his calves and really helped to blow them up even further:
“The static rep, the partial static rep, maybe once a week, maybe twice a week at the most, proved to be unbelievable, magic for my calves. I never wanted to get implants. Between getting implants or doing heavy static partial work, the heavy training, hard work, old school training methodology worked best.”
Check out the below video of Platz describing how he built up his calves:
When training calves, ensure you’re using a shocking principle to really help them grow.
The calves are generally quite a stubborn muscle group so will often require various tricks from time-to-time in order to keep progressing and avoiding a plateau.
Breathing whilst exercising is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of training (alongside getting enough rest and adequately feeding your body).
When performing barbell and hack squats, make sure you take a big deep breath in before you descend and hold it in your abdomen as you descend keeping everything tight. As you begin to explode back up, exhale as deep as you can to complete the rep.
This level of breathing is required for all exercises and not just squats.
Breathing properly and taking big deep breaths in will ensure you’re sending enough oxygen to the working muscle(s) so that you’re able to complete each rep safely and effectively.
Platz preferred to count how many reps he had completed in sets of five.
This can have a positive psychological effect as it’s far easier (and rewarding) to know that you have hit a milestone in your working set. Also, it gives you a clearer idea as to how many reps you have left to hit which can motivate you even further.
If you’re counting every single rep during this workout, it can be tormenting to know you have another 17 reps to go on the big compound lifts such as barbell squats and hack squats.
Platz’s would attack every working set until he had nothing left in the tank and reached complete failure.
Going to failure meant that he was giving it everything he had so that he could go home knowing that he gave his training session his absolute best.
Ensure you are also applying this same level of intensity to your workout.
Get in the zone by focusing on the task at hand and avoid getting distracted with what’s going on around you. Every set and every rep demands your full concentration and utmost dedication so be sure to apply 100% effort to the exercise you are performing.
No one is responsible for your muscular development other than yourself, so if you want legs that are a real head turner, you need to go all in.
Tom Platz’s Leg Workout is a real balls to the wall routine that will push your legs past their breaking point.
As the saying goes: ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ and if you are not seeing any progress, its likely because you’re doing the same, boring routine and your legs have adjusted to the training stimulus.
This workout is guaranteed to give your leg muscles a kick up the arse in order to force growth.
High rep squatting was also the preferred weapon of choice for many old-school bodybuilders who advocated performing squats to build remarkably strong legs, including John Grimek and Reg Park.
Of course, Tom Platz took it to another level, and to this day, still has one of the best developed legs of all time.
With that said,
This training plan is a mental game as much as it’s a physical one.
Often times you will feel like your mind is beginning to talk you out of performing another rep when you know you still have a few more reps left in the tank.
It’s important to rid yourself of any negative self-talk when your deep in the trenches of this workout as that is where you will likely stop pushing yourself.
If you stop when you’re fatigued and haven’t pushed yourself past the point of fatigue, then the would-be gains will not come in as effectively.
This workout is all about pushing yourself past the point of no return and ensuring you’re not going easy on yourself. It is when you reach this place that the gains will come in thick and fast because it will be new, unfamiliar territory.
Going back to what the man said himself:
“When you are uncomfortable is when you’ll grow!”
This applies not only to bodybuilding, but all aspects of life too which helped Platz forge an unshakeable character and develop a winning mindset in the gym.
I have used the above routine on many occasions to push past inertia and never cease to be in a world of pain the following day, where walking up and down the stairs and sitting on the toilet seat become some of life’s biggest struggles.
The level of intensity and insanity this leg workout requires will redefine how you think about leg day and will ensure your muscles are shocked into growth.
By far, the most development I saw for my legs was performing the barbell squats in the sets and reps prescribed by Platz. The burn is unfathomable and on many occasions, was unable to stand fully erect after completing a few sets.
Not only this,
The lying leg curl also helped me really bring up my hamstrings (which is usually a lagging area for me), and I’ve been able to gradually increase the poundage for progressive development.
There is no denying:
Tom Platz was born on leg day and his routine is a fantastic plan to follow to spice things up every once in a while.
Tom Platz’s Leg Workout is a ball-busting training plan that will send your legs into the pit of hell.
This routine is not for the feint of heart, but it is effective and will result in some unprecedented gains.
Not only this, but the mental toughness Tom Platz’s leg routine will instill in you goes way beyond the gym itself. This is all about pushing yourself far beyond you could’ve ever possibly imagined and then some.
To get the job done, you need to DO the job.
This isn’t something you can achieve from talking or listening, but by simply getting sweaty in the squat rack, challenging yourself to get better each and every day.
If you put in the work (real work), the rest will follow and as Tom Platz says:
“When you promise yourself something, make a commitment, you can’t give up. Because, when you’re in the gym, you have to fulfill the promise you made to yourself. The people who can self motivate – in any field – are usually the ones who win. Regardless of talent.“
Over To You
What do you think of Tom Platz’s Leg Workout?
Are you planning on trying it? Tried it already?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Joseph is the Founder and Editor in Chief of CheckMeowt. When he is not sat at the computer guzzling down the nearest thing with protein in it, he can be found pulling up the world in the gym. Occasionally, he is best described as socially unreliable and easily distracte.