Leg Training

By: John Meadows
Magazine 6 #4

John Meadows is an elite national competitor. He’s overcome genetic flaws through hard work and proper nutrition to become one of the best heavyweights in the U.S. The level of conditioning that he attains for a contest has become almost legendary.

John started with Beverly International in 1997 competing at 185 lb., by 1998 he was competing at 196 lbs. (See Summer 1998 No Nonsense Newsletter.) During the 1999 season John made another quantum leap with the Beverly program competing at 207 in the NPC USA and finishing 4th. One year later John once again was the best-conditioned heavyweight on stage at the USA in Las Vegas this time at 212 another 5-lb gain!

John  NPC USA 99
John Meadows has brought his competition weight up from 185 in 1997 to 212 at the 2000 NPC USA using Beverly International nutrition principles and supplements

John’s diet has evolved over the past four years to his current stratagem. But John warns, ’If you are looking for a miracle, read elsewhere. The real secret is CONSISTENTLY following the Beverly International diets that are high in protein, fairly low in carbs and moderate in fats. If you stay consistent with lower carbs you’ll be able to keep red meat, whipping cream and other fats (I like peanut butter, pecans or cashews) right up until the day of the show. John’s diet for a show consists primarily of whole eggs (6 per meal), steak, Muscle Provider (often with peanut butter) or Ultra Size, 8 oz steaks and a salad.


One of John’s secrets for gaining size in the off season is to sip on Muscle Provider (often mixed in milk he’s now mixing it in fat-free milk) hourly throughout the day and often John keeps the mixture on his nightstand and sips periodically throughout the night.

This year at the advice of Dr. Eric Serrano, John switched to Beverly International’s Ultra Size at 8 weeks out from the show. In the past John had just cut out his protein drinks completely. This year Ultra Size allowed John to hold more lean mass while getting harder and harder as the contest approached.

John also relied heavily on Muscle Mass BCAA’s and Beverly’s Energy Reserve as the contest approached. At two weeks out from this year’s USA John wrote, I think the Muscle Mass has done an awesome job. I’ve only lost 2 – 3 pounds in the last 3 weeks or so. I’m still a very solid 221 and have gotten significantly harder.

John’s regimen was to take 20 Muscle Mass and 1 Energy Reserve following each training session and 3 more Muscle Mass as well as 1 Energy Reserve with each meal. On off days, he took 5 Muscle Mass – 5 or 6 times daily at the end of each meal.

In this article John relates the leg training program he employed for the 2000 NPC USA. Remember John has been training for 15 years and uses poundages that many of us just dream about. It’s not the poundage that’s important but the technique and method. Anyone who has seen John squat with these tremendous poundages is amazed by how John retains perfect form and tempo regardless of the weight on the bar. We’ll let John tell it from here:

Ever since I was 13 years old, I wanted to have thighs like Tom Platz in his heyday. Over the last 15 years, I have beat, crushed, wahoo'd, tortured, and crippled myself week in and week out to achieve this.

How have I achieved this? Squats, squats, leg presses, and squats.

Let me take you through a squat workout, hopefully this will help you in your quest for "tree-trunk" thighs. I begin my squat workout with 4 warm-up sets. One, two, three, and then four plates on each side. I perform 10 repetitions.

The REAL KEYS in this exercise are your depth, your descent angle, foot placement, and your rep speed. Typically, when you squat below parallel, you involve the hamstrings and glutes more then you do in a partial squat. If you have an underdeveloped glute area, then go ahead and go to "Jacques Cousteau depth"...deep down in the sea. If you want to focus on hams and quads...go to the parallel position. But this does not mean a partial squat but make sure your femur (thighbone) is at least horizontal to the ground at your maximum depth.

How much quad sweep (outer thigh) you gain, not only depends on your depth, but even more importantly...your foot placement. I am a firm believer that in order to produce the maximum amount of tension in a squat, you must have a foot placement a little wider then shoulder width level. With a narrow stance, it becomes impossible to go very deep, and if you do, your back and shins move forward putting undue stress on your knees and uh-ohh, your butt. With a little wider stance, you can focus on the sweep of your thigh, while also developing your adductors and hams.

Descending properly is also important. In order to keep your back upright, and your shins vertical, you must sit back at the beginning of your reps. By sitting back, you push off your heels, thereby activating your outer quads. If you don't sit back, you inevitably place undue stress on your patellar tendon an unhealthy and potentially dangerous situation. Be sure to maintain this angle during your entire descent. Don't sit back, and then halfway through the movement just drop or "dive bomb" as we call it.

Last of all, and probably most important, is your rep speed. This is something that is rarely discussed. I have always used a pretty slow cadence in my routines, but I have increased this even more so, while working with Dr. Eric Serrano. Eric believes that growth occurs most rapidly, with a 4-second descent, and a 2-second ascent. If you do 8 reps, you place stress on your thighs for approximately 48 seconds, assuming you don't pause in between your reps.

Eric has perfected this while working with Charles Poliquin, and I would have to say that this change has made more impact in my leg development, than anything else I have ever tried.

OK, back to the workout. After the warm-ups I go to 500 pounds, then 600, then 650 for approximately 8-10 reps. No matter how much weight I am using, my form remains exactly constant. Please don’t focus on the weight but on your form and tempo. If 275 is the top weight you can do in perfect form then that’s the weight you should use for your top set, your other work sets might be 225, 255 and then 275.

Let's wrap this part of the workout up with a quick review...place your feet a little wider than shoulder width, sit back as you descend, go at least to the parallel position, and return upwards using a 4 second down negative, and 2 second up positive.

Next, I move on to leg presses...this is where I develop the inner/lower part of the thigh, the vastus medialis. Once again, each rep takes 6 seconds to complete. I go as deep as I can to really stretch the lower quad, but I don’t allow my lower back to come off the pad. If this happens, you’ve gone too low. And as with squats, don't pause at the top...keep a rhythm going. This will burn like heck, trust me. I usually go right to my top weight, and do 3 sets of 10.

My third exercise always varies...usually as a contest approaches I incorporate either leg extensions or lunges. As far as extensions go, most people go too light. Try them heavy. Lower slowly, and extend up with as much controlled force as you can. This helps to activate fast-twitch muscle fiber, and actually helps your strength. When you get to the top of the movement, squeeze with all your might for two seconds, before coming back down.

How about lunges? Well, Dr. Serrano also has me pick up my knees as high as I can, while walking with dumbbells. As a finisher, this movement is unbelievable. As you drive your knee up with each rep, your hard to reach rectus femoris will burn, and as you go down and stretch, you hams and quads will feel as if they are burning worse than the extensions or leg presses.

Ham training is pretty fundamental too. I love the seated leg curl as it allows for a squeeze at the top of the hamstring. I believe that lying leg curls work your lower hams harder then the upper hams. After 2-3 sets of 12-15 on this movement, I stretch them out with stiff-legged deadlifts. Do not keep your knees locked the whole time. Allow them to bend a little at the bottom, and you can use more weight, go lower, and avoid injury to the posterior knee area. 2-3 sets of 10-12 of these should suck up any energy you have left, and leave you crying for mercy. Try this workout, and see for yourself how effective it is!

© Beverly International