When the 2021 Olympia weekend began, many fans felt that defending champion Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay would easily defend his title. The package he presented in 2020 was too much for then-reigning champion Brandon Curry to overcome. Curry’s legs weren’t tiny by any stretch of the imagination when the two bodybuilders stood side by side, but they were an apparent weakness compared to the 16th ever Mr. Olympia.
Fast forward to the 2021 Olympia, and Curry surprised everyone at the Orange County Convention Center. Once again, it was Curry and Big Ramy standing center stage. The scene was familiar, but with one significant difference: Curry’s legs looked stacked. His physique, on the whole, was larger and more symmetrical at 247 pounds, but his new-and-improved thighs garnered the most praise.
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Elssbiay won the 2021 Olympia, but pretty much no one would have been up in arms over a Curry victory. With 13 more pounds on his frame than the year prior and sweeping quads that popped next to the 300-pound Big Ramy, Curry made a strong statement — that even at the highest level, his ceiling is sky-high.
Now, Curry is getting ready for another contest — the 2022 Arnold Classic. BarBend reached out to Curry, who shared more insight into how he, with the help of his coach Abdullah Alotaibi and program architect Ahmad Alnaqi, leveled up his legs before the 2021 Olympia. Here’s what an Olympia-caliber leg workout looks like.
Curry’s Leg Training Hacks
Curry flies to Kuwait three months before any contest he enters to focus solely on eating, training, and sleeping. However, during the offseason, Curry trains at his home gym, Carbon Culture, in Murfreesboro, TN. His path to victory was paved on his home turf.
“Before heading to Kuwait, my leg training was activation focused,” Curry tells BarBend. “I used tools like the Neux muscle stimulator to improve muscle recruitment. This carried over into my traditional training with better connection with the muscle.”
Another not-so-novel technique Curry utilized during his pre-Olympia leg training was playing around with his foot placement. Widening and narrowing his legs on the leg press sled allows Curry to focus on more specific portions of his quads.
For any general gym rat, trying to target your vastus lateralis or vastus medialis should be the last thing on your mind. However, every muscle fiber matters for a seasoned bodybuilder like Curry, whose frame is already maxed out with muscle.
“By the time I got to Kuwait, I was able to carry what I learned over to higher volume training,” says Curry, who focused on moving more weight for fewer reps during his pre-Olympia offseason.
Olympia Leg Training
Once Curry arrives in Kuwait, he, Alotaibi, and Alnaqi create a training plan that they implement based on where he’s at in his preparation.
Regarding Curry’s specific leg workout, Alnaqi and Alotaibi kept certain movements in the program from start to finish, but how Curry performed those exercises frequently.
“As far as the main leg workout since I arrived here, it was pretty consistent, ” Curry says. “Of course, [my coaches] would change the reps and weight up every session. 25-20 one day, 10-12 one day, 15 one day. No matter what range, we would progressively overload within the rep range.”
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They also decided that the best way to grow the legs was to work them — a lot.
“We trained legs twice per week, like every three or four days depending on when rest day fell during the week,” he explains. The duo wanted Curry’s legs to display more fullness and appear more round when facing the judges. So, the quadriceps would be first up on his training schedule.
“Quads would be in the first session at 1 p.m.,” Curry says. “Calves, glutes, and hamstrings were in the second session at around 8 p.m.”
Session One — Quads
Thanks to Curry taking the time to figure out what worked best for his quads during the offseason, Curry’s team knew what exercises to plugin for his first leg session of the day. Even though the rep scheme changed often, these five movements were the foundation of his plan throughout most of his prep.
45-Degree Leg Press
The leg press machine that Curry used wasn’t on a traditional sled track. It’s on a hinge that arches as Curry lowers and presses the footpad up. He kept his cadence consistent from start to finish to maximize the tension on his quads. He wouldn’t explode up nor lower the weight excessively slowly.
Curry has kicked off his leg workout with leg extensions in the past, but Alnaqi moved them to the number two spot. Curry pauses briefly at the top to ensure a maximum contraction and points his toes outward to activate his quads further.
Safety Squat Bar Squat with Heels Elevated
The safety squat bar squat is a popular squat variation among powerlifters and strongmen who want to spare their shoulders undue stress. During his sets of squats, Curry elevates his heels by placing them on small weight plates or a thin step. He also doesn’t go down to parallel to help him focus more on the front of the thigh than the glutes or hamstrings.
Superset: Sissy Squat Pad and Hack Squat
The next major movement was a hack squat. With Curry using a machine that allows him to stay on the same path, he went as deep into the hole as possible before coming back up. He would also superset this with sissy squats, which place the quads into a deep stretch, performed on a pad.
The final movement of the morning could be considered a full thigh blaster — walking lunges target the glutes and hamstrings as well as the quads. You can perform lunges with various free weights, including dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells.
Session Two — Calves, Glutes, & Hamstrings
After a few meals and well-deserved rest, Curry returns to Oxygen Gym for the second workout of the day — calves, glutes, and hamstrings.
Aside from targeting the calves, Curry uses these sessions as a barometer of how he’s feeling before moving on to more demanding exercises.
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The weight on the machines is also irrelevant to Curry. He’s more concerned about achieving quality muscle contractions. How many sets and reps Curry performed changed constantly, as did how he grouped the exercises.
“Sometimes giant sets were involved. Sometimes it was only straight sets,” Curry said.
- Seated Calf Raise
- Standing Calf Raise
- Calf Presses on a Leg Press
Curry’s glutes were considered a weakness when he faced away from the judges in 2020. He needed to add thickness and detail, and he relied heavily on the glute press machine to get the job done. He used the hip abduction extension to add size to the outside of his thighs.
- Standing Glute Press Machine
- Abduction Hip Extension Machine
Curry pounded his hamstrings with the most volume since he and his coach agreed that area needed the most attention. Doing glutes first pre-exhausted that muscle group so the hamstrings could do the majority of the work.
Lying Leg Curl
Slow and consistent movement during sets on the lying leg curl was crucial for this exercise for Curry. With the hamstrings doing the work independently, each rep was more challenging than the last. However, this was necessary for Alotaibi and Alnaqi to achieve the look he felt Curry was capable of. He didn’t curl the pad up all of the way to keep tension on the hamstrings at all times.
Glute Ham Raise Machine
Even though the glutes had their turn earlier in the evening, this machine was also one that Curry felt helped his hamstrings because he could focus on one side at a time. He would use a little more speed here, but he never compromised his form for it.
Seated Leg Curl
By this point in the workout, Curry’s mission was to break down the muscle fibers as much as possible. The seated leg curl was beneficial because the hips are bent, and it allowed him to curl the weight with his hamstrings — which maximized the activation of those muscles.
Single-Leg Curl Machine
To finish up the session and day, Curry targets each leg one at a time, allowing him to isolate each side without allowing the other leg to assist. The single leg curl machine helps him promote balance and symmetry of the lower body. It also didn’t require much energy, which he will likely be running out of at this point.
Extra Recovery Methods
Curry’s herculean efforts in the gym were paramount to his success, but he also had to make the most out of his time away from the weights.
“Combine this all with O2 massage therapy with cupping and dry needling with electrical stimulation, and you got responsive muscles,” the 15th Mr. Olympia shared. “I can’t forget about active recovery with hot and cold tub therapy as well.”
If Curry’s legs are as good, or perhaps better than they were at the 2021 Olympia when he competes at the 2022 Arnold Classic on Mar. 3-6, 2022, in Columbus, OH, then he will be a favorite to win his second title at that prestigious contest.
Featured Image: @brandon_curry on Instagram