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Tom Platz solution for big legs

The muscular development of Tom Platz's legs were way ahead of his times! Yes, he is known to most bodybuilding and strength training fans for having the best leg development of all time. He competed as a bodybuilder in the 70's and retired in 1987, before making a "comeback" in 1995. Yet when you look at his legs and compare them to the other bodybuilders of his time, including the great Arnold, you cannot help but conclude that he was way ahead of the rest. Infact I would say that it was not till the 90's that there were bodybuilders who could compete with his level of leg development.

Clearly his legs were ahead of the competition

As a bodybuilder his greatest achievement was placing 3rd in the 1981 Mr.Olympia, but he was far more popular than many others who may have been more "successful" than him on stage. And for squat lovers, he is truly a god! I mean even today, guys would kill to get legs like him.

So what was the secret of his leg development? If you know anything about training legs, then you would have correctly guessed it, intense squatting. How intense? How about 405 pounds for 30+ reps, or 600 pounds for 15 reps? As extreme and hardcore as it may sound, there is no other way to have that kind of leg development without intense squatting. Yep, those 1000 pound leg presses wont get you there, nor will those silly sissy squats. In this post I will share with you his intense squat workout, how he prepared for it, and how you can adapt it for your own training. 

To begin with I would like to mention that I came across this workout in the July 2002 edition of the UK issue of MuscleMag. In this issue Tom wrote an article in which he described his workout and how he went about it. He used to squat once every 14 days, and no more than twice a month. One session was done with 405 for 30+ reps, and the other with 600 for 15 reps. After that he would train hamstrings and calves. Besides these two squat workouts he also trained legs on two other days in a month, where he did leg extensions and/or hack squats, plus trained the hamstrings and calves. 

For Tom, squats was much more than a simple exercise. He would mentally start visualizing and preparing for the squat workout 2 weeks in advance, so that meant after finishing one intense squat session, he would start thinking about the next one about an hour or so later when he would have his meal of tuna and steamed rice with raisins. For him the squat rack was like a spiritual place, much like a church. 

On squat day he would wake up and have his breakfast of no more than 500 calories at 5.00 am. It would consist of 2 pop tarts and coffee, which he would eat very leisurely for 45 minutes while watching the sun come up. He did not like being rushed and tried to keep down his enthusiasm before the squat workout to not waste any energy uselessly. Before leaving home, he did some bodyweight squats to get his motor pathway going and preview the intense workout that was to follow.

He would reach the gym at 6.45 and start his workout at a very leisurely pace, stretching on the floor in front of the squat rack. He and his training partner Tony Martino would approach the squat rack at exactly 7.30 a.m. The bar Tom preferred was an old and bent one, which he felt would not roll on his shoulders. They would begin with 135 pounds for 10 reps, then add a seconds plate each side to make it for 225 for 10 reps.

Tom loved to keep a little gap between the plates on the bar, since he believed that it helped his spine to support the weight. They would then increase the weight to 315, and then to 415,  for 10 reps on both sets. Thereafter depending on whether it was heavy day  (600 pounds) or high rep day (405 pounds), he would load the bar accordingly. On the 405 days his partner would count the reps in 5's. For Tom, counting 6 sets of 5 sounded a lot more approachable than counting 30 reps straight. After doing 30 reps, Tom still continued to do a few more reps as his partner shouted "you own this exercise". And after finishing the set, here is how he felt in his own words:

"On high rep days after doing 405 for 30+ reps, I vividly remember racking the bar and not breathing hard at all, but as soon as I took my belt off my heart rate soared upward and I found myself gasping for air. In a way, that sensation frightened me. Sometimes I would fall to the floor, place the magical towel over my eyes, and ask myself, what if my heart does not slow down. I saw stars. My legs felt as if someone was stabbing knives into them"

Tom Platz 500lb 227.5kg squat for 23 reps

After resting for 5-10 minutes, and everything pretty much back to norm he would do another set of 405 for 30+ reps! He loved the challenge and the thrill of going back and ensuring that he was totally spent. It was not acceptable for him to leave the gym with the feeling that he did not give it his all. Sometimes as a test his partner Tony would load up the bar with a final 225 pounds to see if Tom could move it. He would 10 reps, but never go beyond 10 for that particular set. On heavy days while doing 600 for 15 reps, he did not feel the same kind of heart rate and breathing difficulties. He would experience a fatigue that was a deep muscular sensation, but it was not as painful as the high rep day. 

The squat workouts gave Tom a great deal of satisfaction, and made him feel that he was fulfilling his life's purpose. When someone once asked him how he could squat so intensely, he replied "I would never allow myself to leave the squat rack a loser"! That was the kind of love and dedication that helped Tom develop such legendary legs. So to once again summarize his squat workout here is how it went:

Frequency- 2 sessions a month
Once a month 405 pounds for 30+ reps
Once a month 600 for 15 reps

135 for 10 reps
225 for 10 reps
315 for 10 reps
405 for 10 reps
405 for 30+  reps or 600 for 15 reps

Tom Platz style leg training for regular guys

So are you pumped up enough to train like Tom Platz, and would love to have huge muscular legs? If yes then let me share with you how you can adapt Tom's brutal leg workout to your own training. Now as you may have clearly understood by now that this is an ADVANCED leg training workout, and it is not meant for beginners. So that means if you are just beginning to squat then this routine is not for you. In fact I personally feel that unless you can squat atleast 300 pounds for 15 reps, you should not try this routine. The last thing you should do is to squat 30+ times with 110 pounds and convert this into a fat loss workout instead of the muscle building workout that it is meant to be. So if you cannot squat 300 pounds for 15 reps, then take your time to build up the strength and endurance for it before you try the Platz leg workout. 

Okay, so moving onto the routine, I personally feel that most of us will be better off doing the intense squat workouts once every 3 weeks instead of once every 2 weeks as Tom did. Also I would suggest that you should do squats in a less intense manner in between the intense sessions. The thing is that Tom was a very advanced bodybuilder who could get away with training squats only once in every two weeks with such high intensity, but for the rest of us, training squats only twice a month will probably not be enough to keep our legs growing. I would however suggest that it will be best if you avoid squats the week after the Tom Platz style session. To make it a little clearer here is how the entire cycle will look like:

Week 1- squats-1-2 sessions
Week 2- squats-1-2 sessions
Week 3- squats- Tom Platz style high reps (30+)  session
Week 4- no squats
Week 5- squats-1-2 sessions
Week 6- squats-1-2 sessions
Week 7- squats- Tom Platz style heavy weight (15 reps) session
Week 8- no squats

You will again be restarting the cycle from the 9th week. This type of cycling in my opinion will work well for most trainees, without causing overtraining, and will also allow for getting stronger on the squats with the sessions in between the Tom Platz style sessions. 

Here is how you should perform the sets and reps for the Tom Platz inspired squat workout assuming that you can squat 300 pounds for 15 reps:

135 for 10 reps
185 for 10 reps
205 for 10 reps
205 for 30+  reps (2 sets) or 300 for 15 reps

If you can squat more weight, then adjust the weight you lift in the same proportion. So that means lift 2/3rd of what you can lift for 15 reps when you do your high rep workout, but always start with no more than 135 for the first set.

A few tips to keep in mind:

  • Avoid training atleast 1-2 days before the squat session
  • Do this workout only in the presence of a trusted spotter. Its too intense for you to do this alone with safety
  • Focus on counting 5's at a time instead of trying to focus on 30 reps at a stretch. 5 reps at a time seem a lot more doable when compared to 30+ reps at one shot
  • Take deep breaths in between reps as you start to fatigue. To try and knock out 30 or 15 reps without any rest will be almost impossible for most to do. Thus as fatigue starts to catch up take a few seconds between reps to pause, breathe deeply and begin when you are ready to
  • Finish off with some light intensity training by doing some leg curls, and calf raises

So give the Tom Platz solution for getting bigger legs a try, and see those legs grow huge. Remember, this workout demands a lot of guts besides strength and endurance, so only the toughest will survive it.

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