Fitness expert Jeff Nippard recently shared another instalment of his push-pull-leg training series. Nippard explained all the minute details of a lower body and abs workout based on minimalist training principles to help fitness enthusiasts reach their goals.
Jeff Nippard is the Canadian fitness expert that became popular for his scientific approach to bodybuilding and fitness practices. He started training at ten years of age as the passion for fitness was inherited from his parents, who were both bodybuilders.
He grew up to become an accomplished natural bodybuilder and powerlifter. In 2012, Jeff Nippard won the Junior Mr. Canada title in bodybuilding and also became the 2014 WNBF Natural Muscle Mayhem overall champion.
As a powerlifter, he has achieved impressive lifts like 502 lbs squat, 336 lbs bench press and 518 lbs deadlift. Most of Jeff Nippard’s bodybuilding knowledge comes from decades of training and a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. However, he is a lifelong student and continues to add more wrinkles to his game.
Nippard educates fitness enthusiasts about the science of bodybuilding through research-backed and entertaining YouTube videos. He has covered a plethora of topics in recent months as a part of his campaign to educate people.
Nippard explored the potential of minimalist training philosophy and formulated a training program based on it. On the diet side of things, he has educated people about the effective methods for boosting metabolism as well as sustainable weight management strategies.
He also touched upon the controversial topic of steroid use in bodybuilding and broke down the impact of PEDs on muscle growth and the health risks associated with them.
Jeff Nippard shares the ultimate lower body workout
Nippard recently covered the second leg day of his six-part push-pull-day workout series based on minimalist training principles. So let’s check out how we can build tree-trunk legs.
Warming up before a workout is essential for avoiding injuries and readying the muscles and joints for the intense work. But most importantly, it is essential to mentally prepare for the physical labor rather than jumping right into it.
Spending five to ten minutes on a treadmill or Stairmaster can be a good starting point to warm up the muscles and increase the blood flow. Dynamic stretches like leg swings can improve hip mobility to perform the heavy compound movements without the risk of injury.
The lower body workout has this compound movement as the central heavy compound lift. The conventional and sumo deadlift variation are both acceptable as per individual preference.
Nippard advises gradually building up to the working weight by a warm-up pyramid. For example, a typical warm-up pyramid before the working set can look like this:
- 8 reps of 30% working weight – Warm-up set 1
- 4 reps of 50% working weight – Warm-up set 2
- 2 reps of 75% working weight – Warm-up set 3
- 1 rep of 90% working weight – Warm-up set 4
It’s not compulsory that you adhere to a conventional barbell deadlift. You can always use a trap bar to keep the bar upright and emphasize the quads. Additionally, you can swap the deadlift altogether with barbell hip thrusts or Bulgarian split squats if the goal is to emphasize glutes and quads more.
The warm-up pyramid should then be followed by the only working set:
- 5 reps of 100% working weight – 1 working set
“The deadlift top set should be taken to an RPE of eight or nine, meaning you’re leaving no more than one or two reps in the tank. Since the volume is lower here, it’s important that we compensate by pushing the set closer to failure. Still, since we don’t want this strength work to interfere with the remaining leg volume to follow in this workout, we don’t want the set to be cripplingly difficult either,” Nippard explained.
Modifying this training method for strength gain
For hypertrophy benefits, the 5-rep set is the best bet. However, to increase the deadlift strength, Nippard suggested following the linear periodization method.
“It means the rep volume decreases as the weight on the bar increases,” he added.
A typical way to achieve strength gain through linear periodization is to drop one rep each week as the weight on the barbell simultaneously increases. A typical linear periodization routine for six-week period looks like this:
- 1st Week – 1 set of 5 reps at RPE of 8 to 9
- 2nd Week – 1 set of 4 reps at RPE of 8 to 9
- 3rd Week – 1 set of 3 reps at RPE of 8 to 9
- 4th Week – 1 set of 2 reps at RPE of 8 to 9
- 5th Week – 1 set of 1 rep (1 rep max)at RPE of 8 to 9
- 6th Week (De-load week) – 1 set of 4 reps using lighter weight at RPE of 5 to 6
Stiff Leg Deadlift
After the heavy top set of deadlifts, two back-off sets of stiff leg deadlifts should follow. According to Jeff Nippard, around 50 to 60 percent of the working weight used for the deadlift top set would probably be the best for most people. While the stiff leg deadlift might feel a little awkward to newbies, Nippard advised using lighter weights and avoid training close to failure till you get fully comfortable with the technique:
“You want to think of these as the normal conventional deadlift except with higher hips. So instead of dropping your hips down as you bend your knees during the normal deadlift setup, with the stiff leg deadlift, you want to keep your hips high, keep your knees more straight, and then initiate the pull by just hinging at your hips,” He said about the correct technique to perform stiff leg deadlifts.
This compound leg movement must follow the stiff leg deadlifts. While leg press is a compound movement that works all the major lower body muscles, it stands out as an extremely effective quad builder.
“Since the deadlifts will be much more hamstring and glute dominant, we’re focusing on smashing the quads here with some high-volume leg press,” Jeff Nippard stated.
Nippard’s focus is to get quality depth at the bottom of the rep. He tries to get as deep as possible without rounding the lower back too much.
“I also find that even though locking the knees out at the top isn’t actually dangerous… I do find that I can feel my quads a lot better if I maintain a slight knee bend at the top. So I’m using more of a constant tension approach by not locking the weight out at the top and not pausing in between reps.”
Nippard suggested limiting the rest periods strictly to a maximum of two minutes as the workout will likely start to feel dragged out otherwise.
This hamstrings and glute focused movement comes next in the leg workout. Nippard uses a GHR machine for this exercise. It uses a counterbalance to reduce the resistance, which can help control the movement better. But the machine would probably be unavailable in every gym.
You can also use a makeshift arrangement on a lat pulldown machine to lock the ankles out and use a vertical bar for reducing the resistance. Alternatively, the exercise can be done on the floor with assistance from a partner for pinning the ankles down.
“On these, I try to stay in the so-called active range because there’s zero tension on the hamstrings at the top. So I just cut out that top quarter of the movement. This isn’t a huge deal. But I find it helps me keep the focus on my hamstrings better,” Nippard stated.
Three sets of 8 to 10 reps should be enough to stimulate the glutes and hamstrings.
Slow Eccentric Leg Extensions
Four sets of leg press done with proper technique should be enough to develop the quadriceps. However, the rectus femoris head of the quadriceps is not fully activated during the leg press.
“Rectus Femoris is the only head of the quads that crosses both the knee joint and the hip joint. So it never really reaches its full contractile potential with compound movements. This is actually even worse on the squat because the hips get to full extension at the top. So for this reason I include leg extensions at least once per week for allowing that rectus femoris head to reach peak contraction,” Nippard elaborated further on the need to incorporate leg extensions in the training routine.
The Canadian advises to follow a three-second eccentric on the leg extensions. This will keep the muscles under tension for a longer duration and help bring about hypertrophy more effectively. Additionally, performing slow eccentric forces to use lighter weights which puts significantly less stress on the knees.
Seated Calf Raises
Seated calf raises target the soleus muscle that lies beneath the gastrocnemius muscle in the calf region. But with the help of studies, Nippard argues that the soleus muscle is substantially less responsive to high rep as well as low rep forms of training.
“You could argue that whatever volume you’re doing trying to target the soleus on the seated calf raise, you’d be better off doing that volume with the straight leg to get the (gastrocnemius) more involved. This makes sense to me. I think If you want to replace your seated calf work with standing calf work, I think that’s fairly reasonable,” Nippard explained.
However, a study measuring the long-term impact of standing and seated calf raises on the growth of soleus and gastrocnemius muscles is not yet available to conclusively determine the findings so far. As a result, including both variations makes sense for complete calf development. Nippard suggests performing 4 sets of 15 to 20 reps on the seated calf raise machine for maximum benefits.
Roman Chair Leg Raises
This ab movement must conclude the lower body training session. The focus here has to be on curling the lower back to really squeeze the abs when you raise the legs. Beginners can bend the knee slightly while raising the legs and straighten them out after the strength increases.
Those at the advanced stages of development might find the movement too easy to carry out. Slowing down during the eccentric phase can help adding resistance to develop the core.
Overall, the workout must consist of following exercises:
Warm-up and Dynamic Stretching
- 5 minutes on the Treadmill or Stairmaster
- Front-to-back Leg Swings – 12 to 15 swings per leg
- Side-to-side Leg Swings – 12 to 15 swings per leg
Lower Body Workout
- Deadlift [Conventional or Sumo] – 1 set of 5 reps
- Stiff Leg Deadlift – 2 sets of 8 reps
- Leg Press – 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps
- Glute-Ham Raises – 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps
- Slow Eccentric Leg Extensions – 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps
- Seated Calf Raises – 4 sets of 15 to 20 reps
- Roman Chair Leg Raises – 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps
A strong and heathy lower body is essential to provide a strong foundation to the upper body. So try out this workout and apply these principles in your training routine to see if it helps you!
You can watch the full video below, courtesy of Jeff Nippard’s personal YouTube channel: