A Top Trainer Shared His ‘Most Effective’ 100-Rep Leg Day Workout
In a recent video on the Athlean-X channel, strength coach Jeff Cavaliere C.S.C.S. breaks down the “most effective” workout he uses on leg day to light up the quads, glutes, and hamstrings, based on the principle that it’s the last handful of reps you perform in each exercise that have the most impact.
To start, select the weight where you would usually reach failure in the 8-rep range, and use that to perform an “ignition set.” Then, after a brief rest of just 15 seconds, the real work begins.
“It’s in this ignition set that you’ll likely be reminded of just how easy those first few repetitions are… but they serve a very important point in this workout,” Cavaliere explains. “They’re going to set the stage for those more stimulus-inducing, growth-inducing repetitions that will come after this point… That ignition set only served to pre-fatigue the muscles, to prime them for what happens next.”
Starting with the dumbbell Bulgarian split squat, Cavaliere demonstrates the ignition set and 15-second rest, then launches into 15 “effective reps. (The ignition set of 8 reps and 15 effective reps must each be completed on both legs.) The key here is to perform every rep to good form, and you can rest/pause as many times as you need in order to reach that goal—as long as you keep each break to just 15 seconds.
Switching to the posterior chain with the barbell RDL, Cavaliere ups the ignition set to 12 reps, and then 20 effective reps after the brief rest. Then he goes back to the anterior chain with alternating reverse lunges, using dumbbells so he can more easily set them down when he hits failure. Once again, the ignition goal here is 8, followed by 15 effective reps. (When performing this exercise, he advises stepping outwards as well as backwards to help you maintain your balance.)
The ignition set and effective reps go back up to 12 and 20 for the cable pull-through, where the cable and rope help you to naturally move your body into the right position during the hinge.
To hit up the quads in a way few other exercises manage, Cavaliere uses the Spanish squat, a banded exercise, and adds a pair of dumbbells for extra difficulty, performing an ignition set of 8 and 15 additional reps. “This is a way of doing resisted leg extension in a closed chain fashion,” he says. “These are going to burn you up like never before.”
Finally, he rounds out the workout with seated calf raises, again with dumbbells, performing 8 ignition reps and 15 effective reps.
Here’s the workout in full, coming to a total of 100 effective reps:
- Dumbbell Bulgarian split squats, 8 ignition reps and 15 effective reps on each leg
- Barbell Romanian Deadlifts, 12 ignition reps and 20 effective reps
- Dumbbell alternating reverse lunges, 8 ignition reps, 15 reps on each leg
- Cable pull-throughs, 12 ignition reps, 20 effective reps
- Dumbbell Spanish squats, 8 ignition reps, 15 reps
- Dumbbell seated calf raises, 8 ignition reps, 15 reps
Philip Ellis is a freelance writer and journalist from the United Kingdom covering pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV.