The Almost Forgotten (And Most Evil) Leg Exercise


Wednesday, October 19th, 2005. Body Quest Gym. Blauvelt, New York. Leg Day with Richie Smyth (The “Evil Trainer”). Being so close to a competition, I was not planning on doing anything too crazy for legs today, and Richie already warned me weeks ago about my tendency for overtraining close to a show, but that didn’t stop him from pulling out an oldie but goodie from his leg training bag of tricks…I used to do this one all the time, but I haven’t done this sucker in years (the gym I train at most of the time doesn’t have the machine for it)… This is one of the most evil leg exercises and almost no one does it anymore… Even I almost forgot about it!


A1 45 degree continuous tension leg presses
2 light warm up sets

1 set X 3 plates (270 lbs) X 15 reps
1 set X 4 plates (360 lbs) X 14 reps
1 set X 5 plates (450 lbs) X 12 reps, drop to 360 lbs X 8 more reps, drop to 270 X 8 more reps, drop to 180 lbs X 10 more reps
B1 Leg Extension
Set 1: 160 lbs X 15 reps
Set 2: 160 lbs, 180 lbs, 200 lbs X 8, 6, 6 reps (ascending set)
Set 3: 180 lbs X 10 reps, drop to 140 lbs X 10 more reps (drop set)
C1 Roman Chair Squats
Set 1: body weight X 15 reps
Set 2: 25 lbs X 12 reps
Set 3: 25 lbs X 11 reps, then drop weight, bodyweight X 8 more reps


A1 Seated Leg Curl
Set 1: 140 lbs X 15 reps
Set 2: 160 lbs X 6 reps, 170 lbs X 6 reps, 180 lbs X 4 reps (ascending set0)
Set 3: 180 lbs X 6 reps, 140 lbs X 6 reps, 120 lbs X 6 reps (drop set)
B1 Lying Leg Curl
2 Sets X 140 lbs X 10-12 reps

Calves (pm)

A1 Calf press on cybex horizontal calf press machine
3 sets X 340, 360, 380 lbs X 15-20 reps
A2 standing calf
3 sets X 350 lbs X 15-20 reps
A3 seated calf
3 sets X 115 lbs X 20 reps
no rest between tri-setted exercises A1, A2, A3, 60 seconds rest between tri sets

Workout commentary

This session started on the leg press. I used much lighter weights than normal, but Richie had me do these with strict constant tension reps, so even 4 plates was not easy: These were continuous tension, non locking reps, driving through with the weight on the heel (NOT off the ball of the foot).

Sets of 12-15 reps done with slow tempo and no lockout (constant tension) are difficult even with as little as 50-70% of your normal poundage for the same rep range. The burn kicks in around rep 9 or 10, and getting reps 11 through 15 is simply a matter of grinning and bearing the pain. The slower the tempo and the more reps you do without locking out or stopping, the harder these are to do (and the less weight you need).

Leg extensions were next. Three sets, each set done with a different technique (straight set, ascending set, drop set). Not very heavy, but very intense contractions focusing on that squeeze at the top.

The grand finale for quads was Roman Chair squats! Now this is an oldie but a goodie… so old, I had “almost” forgotten about it. But of course, Richie is never content to give me the same workout twice so he’s always scheming up some evil new exercise variation or in this case, pulling out some old “torture device.” (I didn’t nickname him “The insane trainer”, “the master of pain,” and “the evil trainer” for nuthin!

When I saw him walking over to the corner of the gym and dragging out this evil contraption – The Roman Char Squat – I just I smiled and laughed…. I knew what was coming.

The key on the roman chair squat is the constant tension. By keeping a slight bend in the knees, your quads stay contracted through the entire set and they cannot rest. If you stand all the way up at the top, your quads relax.

Another technique secret is the hip thrust. As you rise out of the bottom of the exercise, you focus on thrusting the hips forward at the same time you stand up, while your upper body is leaning slightly backwards. As you come out of the very bottom from the full squat (below parallel) position, you are recruiting the teardrop shaped inner quadriceps muscle (the vastus medialis). As you drive up and thrust the hips forward, you hit the rest of the quadriceps group including the rectus femoris and you can literally feel this high up on the quad. That’s what makes this such a killer FULL frontal thigh exercise.

My legs were PUMPED after this – there were veins criss crossing my legs from top to bottom after a few sets (wish I would have gotten pictures)

Although we didn’t take pictures of this leg workout, Doug Schneider at has a good article about the Roman Chair squat, complete with pictures and I suggest you check it out (Doug was a devout student of Vince Gironda incidentally)

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Comments on The Almost Forgotten (And Most Evil) Leg Exercise Leave a Comment

October 27, 2005

Jessica Britt @ 1:45 pm #

Great workout! I wish you took pictures, too. I’m going to check out that website. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’! YOU ARE MY ABSOLUTELY MY BIGGEST ROLE MODEL, PERIOD. Jenny Lynn is my fitness role model. I plan on doin Figure competitions one day soon. Thanks, so much for continuing to set an amazing example and for continuing to incredibly motivate and inspire us all. Keep it up! 🙂

November 2, 2005

Valerie Johnson @ 10:21 am #

I checked out the site you listed and looked at the picture of this leg workout and you’re right Tom, it does look like an ancient torture device. It might be Roman, but there’s nothing “chairy” about it. I don’t know about you, but I use my chair to relax in :o) Still, if I can find a machine, I’ll definitely give it a try.

November 3, 2005

Deborah Duncan @ 8:48 am #

Too funny, Tom. I checked out the site to learn something new & found what they call “sissy squats” at my gym. My trainer has me do these regularly; it’s difficult to refrain from screaming my way through. Good for you!!

September 29, 2006

Rod McCullough @ 2:48 am #

I have found a way to do the Roman Chair exercise at home! Most folk have a set of ski’s out in the garage gathering dust until the season starts. If you put your ski boots on and lock in to your ski’s you can do the exercise at home and you will know about it for days after. Because the ski’s extend behind you you are balanced and can lean back and dip vertically without any forward lean. It also gets your legs ready for some serious black runs and reminds you to get the ski’s serviced!

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