A Leg Up on the Competition: How Brian Chamberlain Built the Best Legs at the North America
Let’s face it. A crazy set of wheels will help a bodybuilder roll through the competition. Building a great set of legs is hard work, really hard work. But that’s not enough. We’ve all seen guys pound away at their legs, year after year, and end up looking like they could star in a Chicken McNugget commercial for Micky D’s. No, hard work alone isn’t enough. But, combine a strong work ethic on leg day with a smart approach and a heap of good genetics and you end up with thick, separated quads and hamstrings that make judges take notice. In fact, you could end up with the legs of 2004 IFBB North American Bodybuilding Champion and new pro Brian Chamberlain.
When Brian dominated the North American, the bodypart that clearly separated him from the rest of the pack was his legs. Brian has full separated quads with a great outer sweep. Unlike a lot of competitors who may have quads OR hamstrings, when Brian turned to the side or faced the rear, his hamstrings are freaky. Full and round with matching quality muscle that creates a symmetrical balance to his quads. One look at Brian’s wheels and it is obvious that he has found the formula to developing a great set of legs. What might surprise you is that Brian is not an advocate of very heavy weight for low reps on leg movements, like so many leg monsters.
“I’m a huge believer in higher reps and I don’t do a lot of sets. I know that most guys who do low sets also go heavy for low reps. I only do about 6-9 sets per bodypart, but my reps in the 10-20 range. After years of trial and error, that’s what works for me.”
Are you ready to get down and dirty with Brian on leg day? I hope so because that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Let’s go!
Best Legs Workout
Brian is big believer in heavy, basic movements, but he isn’t stupid.
“I have very strong legs, but I start my leg day with extensions. I want to make sure that my knees and joints are thoroughly warmed up before I go to a heavy compound movement. I own a gym and I tell my members how important it is to get a lot of blood into the knees before going really heavy to avoid injury. Believe me, I follow my own advice.”
However, don’t be fooled into thinking that Brian just uses the leg extension as an easy warm-up. Brian will do four sets of leg extensions, performing one set of 20 reps, followed by two sets of 15 and a final set of 10 reps.
“I do my reps on the extensions at a very controlled, medium pace and take a very slight pause at the top of each rep before returning to the starting position. The contraction at the top of every rep has really helped me improve on the detail and separation through my quads.”
45 Degree Leg Press
Now that he is fully warmed up and the pump is building in his quads, Brian moves on to the Angled Leg Press. He will do three sets of 20, 15 and 10 reps. The key here is that Brian does full, deep reps, not the half reps so many guys do that leave them ready for that McDonald’s audition I mentioned earlier.
“I will bring the weight down to the point where my knees touch my chest and then return to the starting position. I will center my feet on the platform for balanced stress throughout my quads.”
Front Barbell Squats
Brian is ready to polish off his quad work with front squats. He positions his feet a little wider than shoulder width and will squat to parallel before blasting out of the bottom position.
“I really have to focus on what I’m doing when I do front squats. The movement is even harder than regular squats because you are holding the bar across your delts, not on your back. As a result, you have the added stress of making sure that you keep your elbows up throughout the movement so that the bar doesn’t roll forward during the movement. If that starts to happen you tend to have a hard time balancing and can start to lean forward putting negative stress on your lower back. But, this exercise is so good for the quads that it is worth getting the form down pat. The results are well worth it.”
Brian will do three sets of 20, 15 and 10 reps to complete his quad work for the day.
Brian has always been gifted when it comes to hamstring development.
“My hamstrings have always grown fast. In fact, when I do regular deadlifts (not stiff legged deads) on back day, my hamstrings get crazy sore the next day from the secondary stimulation from the movement.”
When he directly trains his hams, Brian does two movements, lying leg curls and stiff leg deadlifts.
Lying Leg Curl
Brian will start his hamstring work with Lying Leg Curls.
“The key on this movement is that I make sure that my reps are controlled from top to bottom. I don’t let momentum take over, making sure to squeeze every rep from top to bottom. I don’t let the leg completely straighten at the bottom of the movement either. You want to start the rep back up just before your legs straighten so you can keep the stress on the belly of the hamstring.”
Brian will do three sets of 20, 15 and 10 reps before moving on to his next hamstring movement.
Stiff Legged Deadlifts
Brian finishes his hamstring work with three sets of 20, 15 and 10 reps of Stiff-Legged Deadlifts with a barbell. Brian feels a strong stretch on this movement. It complements the leg curls that he just finished and is a great way to finish the workout. Form is critical on stiff legs in order to get the maximum benefit from the exercise. Once he grabs the bar, he will slowly bend at the waist until he feels a full stretch in the hamstring while keeping his back straight.
“This usually occurs just below the knee. If you go lower than that you have to round your back and the stress goes off the hamstring and into your lower back. That increases the potential for injury and lessens the potential for maximum development.”
The Future for Brian
One thing you realize when you talk with Brian is that he has a clear view of his place in the sport as well as where he wants to go.
“I could not be more excited than to have won the North American. Turning pro has been my dream since I started competing when I was a teenager. But, I know that there is a lot of work to be done for me to compete successfully as a pro. I plan on competing sometime in 2005, but I have certain areas that I want to improve on before getting on a pro stage.”
Well, you can bet on one thing. Legs are not one of the body parts that Brian has to improve on.
Brian trains 5 days per week on the following schedule:
- Monday: Chest, Light Triceps, Calves
- Tuesday: Quads, Hams
- Wednesday: OFF
- Thursday: Delts, Abs
- Friday: Back
- Saturday: Arms, Calves, Abs
- Sunday: OFF