In this comprehensive guide I will teach you all about Ronnie Coleman’s leg routine and how he built some of the biggest, strongest legs in the history of bodybuilding.
If you never heard of Ronnie Coleman then you must be living under a rock! Ronnie won the Mr. Olympia contest eight years in a row from 1998 – 2005 and is widely considered to be the greatest bodybuilder of all time.
Unlike many of his competitors Ronnie Coleman was just as strong as he looked. He was famous for squatting and deadlifting 800+ pounds for reps and repping out the 200 pound dumbbells on chest day.
Just take a look at this video of Ronnie front squatting 500 pounds for reps:
What an unbelievable squat! I’m not sure if that is Ronnie Coleman in the video or a silverback gorilla!
Ronnie’s legs were absolutely massive and perfectly balanced with the rest of his body. Ronnie trained his legs twice per week with two similar but slightly different workouts. Each leg workout featured 5 muscle-building exercises like squats, hack squats, leg curls and stiff-legged deadlifts. Ronnie started both of his workouts with some heavy squats and then moved onto more machine and isolation exercises.
Here is Ronnie’s first weekly leg workout. Check it out:
Ronnie Coleman’s Leg Workout #1
- A1: Back squat , 3-5 sets of 5-15 reps
- B1: 45 degree leg press, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
- C1: Leg extension, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
- D1: Kneeling leg curl , 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
- E1: Stiff-legged deadlift, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
Here is Ronnie Coleman’s training video for this workout:
Ronnie starts off his first weekly leg workout with some heavy back squats. Normally Ronnie trains with around 600-700 pounds on the back squat for multiple sets of 5-15 reps. In the above video he throws on a squat suit and busts out 2 solid reps with 800 pounds.
I guess he just wanted to show off for the camera!
After his heavy squats he moves onto some easier quadricep exercises like leg presses and leg extensions. Ronnie trains heavy on these exercises but he isn’t too worried about the exact amount of weight on the bar. He just wants to get in some quality sets where he really feels his quads working.
Ronnie Coleman’s hamstring routine is even simpler. He uses only two exercises: kneeling leg curls and stiff-legged deadlifts. Once again Ronnie trains heavy on these exercises but he doesn’t pay much attention to how much weight he is lifting. It’s more important that he really feels the target muscle working.
Ronnie Coleman’s second weekly leg workout is very similar to his first one. The main difference is he uses slightly different exercises. Check it out:
Ronnie Coleman’s Leg Workout #2
- A1: Front squat, 3-5 sets of 4-12 reps
- B1: Machine hack squat, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
- C1: Walking lunges (BB on back), 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
- D1: Lying leg curl, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
- E1: Seated leg curl, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
Here is Ronnie Coleman’s training video for this workout:
Ronnie’s quadriceps routine focuses on three classic bodybuilding exercises: the front squat, hack squat and walking barbell lunges. All three of these exercises are fantastic for developing big, strong quads. It’s refreshing to see a bodybuilder throw around some serious weight on the front squat.
We know from the scientific research and real-world experience that front squats work the quadriceps much harder than back squats. They are also much easier on your hips, knees and lower back.
Ronnie’s second weekly hamstring routine is very simple: he busts out a few quality sets on lying leg curls and seated leg curls. Ronnie believes that the front squats, hack squats and lunges already gave his hamstrings plenty of work so he just needs to “finish them off” with a couple of easier exercises.
In case you were wondering here is the exact training split that Ronnie Coleman used throughout his bodybuilding career:
- Monday: Back / Shoulders / Biceps
- Tuesday: Quads / Hamstrings / Calves
- Wednesday: Chest / Triceps
- Thursday: Back / Shoulders / Biceps
- Friday: Quads / Hamstrings / Calves
- Saturday: Chest / Triceps
- Sunday: Rest Day
As you can see Ronnie trained every muscle group twice per week using a modified 6-day push / pull / legs split. Ronnie Coleman’s leg workouts may look simple and straightforward.
It’s true that he kept his workouts nice and simple. However, Ronnie also used some advanced training strategies to build his world-class legs. Here are a few of his favorite training strategies:
Ronnie Coleman Leg Training Tips
- Ronnie trains his legs with progressive overload
- Ronnie trains his quads with partial reps
- Ronnie trains his legs with high rep ranges
Let’s take a closer look at each of these training tips.
Leg Day Tip #1: Ronnie Trains With Progressive Overload!
Ronnie Coleman had a very famous saying: “Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder but nobody wants to lift no heavy ass weights!”
Ronnie knew that if he wanted to be a bodybuilding champion then he had to get stronger over time. Every year he tried his best to train with heavier and heavier weights. He didn’t always beat his personal best on every exercise.
On some exercises like lunges and leg extensions he kept the weights lighter and just trained for the pump. However, when it came to mass-building exercises like squats, hack squats and leg presses Ronnie trained as heavy as he could.
If you want to build legs like Ronnie Coleman then you have to train with heavier weights over time. Your set of squats with 185 pounds for 10 reps just isn’t going to cut it!
Leg Day Tip #2: Ronnie Trains With High Rep Ranges!
Ronnie Coleman trained with higher rep ranges for most body parts. However, he kept his reps especially high for his leg workouts. Ronnie performed up to 20 reps per set for many of his leg exercises like lunges and leg extensions!
This is great advice if your main goal is to build muscle. Most bodybuilders find that their legs really start to grow when they start using higher rep ranges for most of their exercises.
Leg Day Tip #3: Ronnie Trains His Quads With Partial Reps!
Ronnie Coleman performs partial reps on most of his quadricep exercises like squats, hack squats and leg presses. He never locks his legs out on these exercises. Instead he comes up about 70% of the way and then drops right back down.
Why on Earth would Ronnie train his quads that way? Doesn’t he know that you have to use a full range of motion to build muscle?
The truth is partial reps out of the stretched position are an advanced muscle-building technique used by many of the world’s best bodybuilders. Ronnie figured out that the bottom position of most quad exercises is what really makes his quads grow.
By skipping the lockout portion of these exercises he maximizes the amount of time he spends in the most productive part of the movement. These partial reps also keep his quads under constant tension which is great for building muscle.
If you are an intermediate or advanced bodybuilder then you may want to try Ronnie Coleman style partial reps on your quad exercises. Ronnie also uses partial reps on his chest and tricep exercises for similar reasons.
Ronnie Coleman used two simple but extremely effective leg workouts to build some of the best quads and hamstrings in bodybuilding history.
Ronnie is proof that the basic, old-school bodybuilding exercises really are the best for building muscle. Exercises like squats, hack squats, leg curls and stiff legged deadlifts are never going to go out of style.
If you have above-average recovery ability and are looking for a good long-term leg routine then you have to give the Ronnie Coleman leg program a shot.
Here’s one last Ronnie Coleman quote to pump you up:
“It’s called bodybuilding, and the only way you can build muscle is with repetition. Heavy weight, as heavy as possible, and for as many reps as possible.”
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!
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