James Hollingshead Shares His 3 Key Movements for Leg Day

Hamstrings always come first.

At the 2022 Mr. Olympia contest, on Dec. 16-18, 2022, in Las Vegas, NV, James Hollingshead of the UK finished outside the top 15, scoring 159 points (80 points at pre-judging and 79 points at the finals). Overall, he placed 16th, as all the other Men’s Open competitors on the scorecard outside of the top 15 were given the max points (one more than Hollingshead).

On Jan. 5, 2023, Hollingshead took to his YouTube channel to express his happiness with his result. Despite that, he aims to improve his physique after a physically demanding year. In the video, Hollingshead performed a leg day and shared the three key movements that helped him develop his sweepy quads and carved hamstrings. Check it out below:

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1. Hamstring Curls

Hamstring curls are the first staple in Hollingshead’s leg training. The Olympia bodybuilder suggested that the hamstrings are the most neglected muscle group in the legs for most gym-goers.

He finds most people will hit leg extensions, leg presses, and the like, and by the time they perform Romanian deadlifts or any other hamstring-focused movement, they are already fatigued and “half-ass” the work. For this reason, he positions his hamstring work at the start of his workout rather than at the end.

I always advice picking a hamstring movement first.

Hollingshead finds his knees are better warmed-up when worked from behind rather than in front — meaning a leg curl is a better warm-up for him than a leg extension. The Kratos-cosplayer suggested that any leg curl would suffice if someone prefers standing or seated leg curls to lying leg curls.

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2. Leg Extensions

Hollingshead used a leg extension machine that allowed him to place weight plates at different positions — a weight sleeve at the bottom, middle, and top of the machine. Positioning the weight on different weight sleeves emphasizes different portions of the quad throughout the range of motion.

For example, as Hollingshead progresses into his heavier working sets, he prefers moving the weight plates to the top weight sleeve on the machine, which will bias the fully contracted position. While sitting in the seat of the leg extension machine, Hollingshead leans back slightly to help activate his quad so that they are already under tension at the bottom of the movement.

I slightly tilt back and elevate my hips to get that tension in the quad.

Hollingshead believes that sitting slightly back and allowing a “decline” in the quad rather than sitting too far forward over the quad is a technique that helped him develop his “sweepy quads.” He suggests others try it to see what works for them individually. He does not have any training research to support that the backward tilt is beneficial, only anecdotal evidence from his experience.

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3. Compound Movement

Hollingshead utilizes compound movements to help build mass in his legs. The choice in this particular workout of flat-heel safety bar squats.

A safety squat bar (SSB) helps maintain a more comfortable position when holding a loaded barbell on the back. It removes the necessity for the requisite shoulder mobility demanded by a standard barbell. This is common among elite Men’s Open bodybuilders who are so muscularly dense that getting into a proper squat position with a standard barbell can be too uncomfortable.

Once Hollingshead loaded 200 kilograms on the SSB, he also put on knee sleeves and a weight belt. If Hollingshead is to return for a third career appearance at the Olympia in 2023, he’ll need to win a pro show in the 2023 season.

Featured image: @hollingshead89 on Instagram