How to Workout Your Legs Without Getting Extremely Sore

It’s that day of the week again. Leg day. You go in, you do your 3-5 sets of squats, you do your 3-5 sets of leg press, you do your 3-5 sets of leg extensions and then you do your 3-5 sets of hamstring curls. You finish up, you go home. For the next week you can barely walk. Your legs are so sore that you look like you have crapped your pants every time you walk. So you just stop doing legs. It isn’t worth the soreness that follows.

Unless you have aspirations of being a bodybuilder, you do not need to build up huge musculature of your legs. You do not need to do a “leg day”. You do not need to be sore for several days afterwards. You should work your legs, you should make them strong, but unless you are a bodybuilder (i.e. using bodybuilding drugs) you do not need to work your legs like a bodybuilder does.

Training like an Olympic lifter trains is a better option for a natural. Olympic lifters squat frequently for low repetitions, usually between 1-3.

So how do your train legs without becoming too sore?

Train your legs more often with lower reps.

This is a routine I grabbed from Chaos and Pain (one of the top 3 lifting blogs on the net, NSFW). I’ve been doing this for most of the year and it’s kickass.

Chaos and Pain creator Jamie Lewis

This is a squat based routine. You will not need to do any other leg exercise other than squats (unless you need to work your calves). You can do front squats, back squats, Olympic squats, or low-bar squats. The choice is yours.

You will squat at least 3 days per week. You can choose any 3 days and you may work your legs up to 7 days per week. I actually squat almost every time I am in the gym, up to 6 days per week. Because of my frequent, low rep routine my legs are almost never sore. It used to be that I would do a leg day once a week and then I would waddle around for several days afterward until the soreness went away.

To do this routine you will need to know your one rep squat maximum. That is, the heaviest weight you can squat once while maintaining proper form. Squatting for a single repetition is called a “single”. You will want to find your one rep max before you start this routine.

To find your one rep max you will warm up with a light weight. I warm up with the empty bar for 10 reps, then 135 lbs for 5 reps. After that you can add 30-50 lbs per set while doing only one rep. Your goal is not to tire yourself out with endless reps, but to warm up your legs and activate your strength. You will keep adding weight and adding weight until you get up to your one rep max. Once the weight starts getting heavier you can add lighter weight, instead of adding 30 lbs you can add 20 lbs or 10 lbs, until you get to your maximum weight.

The Routine:

  • 10-15 singles at 90% of your one rep max with 60 seconds or less rest in between sets. When you are able to do 15 singles at 90% of your one rep max with less than a minute in between sets it is time to add 5 or 10 lbs to your working weight.

To find 90% of your one rep max take your cell phone calculator and multiply your one rep max weight by .90 and you have your working weight.

Before you get to the singles you will want to warm up. To warm up for this routine you can warm up the same way you would warm up to find your one rep max.

You must pay attention to the time. Bring a watch, check your phone, watch the clock on the wall but you must keep the rest time under or exactly at one minute.

This routine is not for beginners. Beginners need to do many repetitions to build the muscles of the legs and to develop the lungs. If you have been lifting for a little while, a couple years or so, this routine could be perfect for you.

Low reps can and do build muscles. Take a look at Olympic lifters for confirmation. Those guys rarely go over 3 reps and have insane musculature of their legs.

Squats are not such a taxing exercise that they cannot be performed frequently. Pat Mendes, who squats 800 lbs without a lifting belt or lifting suit, squats 7 days per week.

It should go without saying that the squats should be performed as a full, ass to grass, squat. Watch the video linked above to see how to perform a full Olympic squat under a heavy weight for a single.

You can do other exercises or work other body parts after hitting your squats. The human body can and should be worked as a whole rather than as parts (unless you are training for bodybuilding purposes).

You will likely be sore the first time or two doing this routine, but when you make it a habit you rarely get sore.

This is not a complete weight lifting routine. It is simply a leg routine to continue work and strengthen your legs. You will still need to do upper body exercises. As always, I recommend the big dog lifts: Deadlift, overhead press, bent rows, pull-ups, dips, pushups, barbell curls, close grip bench press etc..

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  1. Andy says

    So what would you say were the other top two lifting blogs in your opinion? I’ve been reading C&P for about two years now and it’s awesome, but I’m always looking out for others.

    • Victor Pride says


      The other two are BOLD & DETERMINED and If you know anymore good ones go ahead and post them here.

  2. Andy says


    Haha, well this site goes without saying of course. Other sites I like are, lift run bang, instrength, and the strength and conditioning section of Sherdog. Although the last two are messageboards, there’s a lot of guys on there that know their shit.The Spartan Warrior is pretty good too.

  3. JP says

    I want to gain mass on my calves, they’re as thin as a pair of fucking matches. I’ve been training them 6 days a week on the standing calf raise machine, but I’m not sure wether to go for high reps/low weight or the opposite.

    Right now I’m doing the following:

    Monday: 5 sets @ 5 reps, 3-5 singles
    Tuesday: 5 sets @ 15 reps
    Wednesday: 5 sets @ 5 reps, 3-5 singles
    Thursday: 10 singles
    Friday: 5 sets @ 15 reps
    Saturday: 5 sets @ 5 reps, 3-5 singles

    Do you have experience training specifically the calves? (and making them grow, obviously)

    • 6 100 says

      Calves don’t usually respond to lower rep ranges like that. Crank it up to 15-30 reps per set, and cut back on the days.
      3 times a week is more than fine

      Also add seated calf raises to the arsenal of moves. Sit down, hold some heavy dumbbells on your lower quad, above the knee. Do calf raises like that.

  4. says

    This is a great strategy, really gets the body used to handling heavy weights. I’ve used it successfully for my other lifts including the press and deadlift. Most importantly, this is the article that lead me to B&D, can’t put a price tag on that!

    Thanks for the Blog Victor!

  5. says

    Hi victor,
    Are you sure that low reps means ”no sore legs” ? low reps is usually combined with heavy weights so even in lower reps legs must feel sore. My legs were more sore when i did less than 5 reps with heavy weights than when i was doing 10 with a leighter one.

    Could you explain why this routine isn’t for a beginner? Low reps can also build muscle as you said. I can only assume you mean that a beginner doesn’t have the experience and technique to properly do all the squat variation.

    In addition,this routine seems very time consuming. I estimate it about 15-20 minutes. So i suppose you do only one variation in each workout session?

    • PM says

      its not for begginer because if you are a beginner and try to do a heavy squat for 1-3 reps your form will be shit and you risk injury… or just wont be able to do it because you’re too weak.

      besides if you are doing less than 5 reps with a really heavy weight for you, that you are barely able to make them, off course you will be more sore than if you do 10 rep with a light weight that you can control and probably take to 15 to failure….

      OR, if you always do higher reps then suddenly get to lower reps, off course you will be sore at first, you are not use to it, but after 2-3 workout you are not sore anymore.

      and yes one variation of leg exercise is all you need, you dont need to do all the leg isolation exercises, squats are more than enough.

      I just wanted to answer your question by my own experience