On April 11, 2023, Jeff Nippard shared a workout video on his YouTube channel wherein he trained legs with his first coach, Dr. Layne Norton. Norton led Nippard to a Canadian gold medal in natural bodybuilding.
Norton taught Nippard much of what he knows about training and nutrition, including not having to eat clean to get shredded, so long as macros are attained — cutting water before a bodybuilding competition can be dangerous and ineffective.
[Related: Dorian Yates Reveals One Trick He Used to Psych Out Opponents Before Bodybuilding Shows (and It Involved ‘Doctor Who’)]
Jeff Nippard’s Leg Workout
Here’s a breakdown of the leg workout Jeff Nippard and Dr. Layne Norton completed:
- Sumo Deadlift — 1 x 2
- Pendulum Squat — 1 x 8-10
- Glute-Ham Raise — 3 x 8-10
- Leg Extension — 3 x 10-12
- Leg Press Toe Press — 3 x 12-15
The duo warmed up with bird dogs and performed five to 10 reps per side. They then did a hip and back opener for five reps per side before jumping into the workout.
Nippard and Dr. Norton did three to five warm-up sets via pyramid training — increasing the weight of each set — for their first set of sumo deadlifts. They started with 45 percent of the weight they could do for four to five reps during a working set.
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In the second set, they increased the weight to 65 percent of the weight they could use for three to four reps. Then, for their final warm-up set, they increased the load to 85 percent of their working set for one to two reps.
Jeff Nippard and Dr. Layne Norton’s Leg Training Tips
Nippard and Dr. Norton gave the following tips while completing their leg exercises:
According to Nippard, one heavy set is enough to gain strength and muscle.
I’m only doing one set a week. That’s enough to maintain or gain strength for most lifters.
Norton concurred, adding that people confuse what works with what’s optimal. For example, one set per week isn’t optimal for strength gains. However, it’s enough to illicit results while keeping the volume low — consistency is more important than volume.
Since Nippard is 5-foot-4 and a half inches, his limbs have a smaller range of motion than his former coach, who stands 5-foot-10 and a half. Shorter lifters start in more of a squat with a more upright back position than longer-limb lifters.
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They had a rep speed tracker to track how fast they pulled the weight. The quicker they pulled the weight, the lower their rate of perceived exertion (RPE).
Norton pulled 660 pounds for two reps at an RPE of seven. Nippard failed at 455 pounds, but it was a mental lapse since he hit that weight for six reps before his injury. Nippard ended by deadlifting 430 pounds for a double.
Nippard said powerlifting strength has carryover to other movements and alluded to Norton’s incredible power — he can pendulum squat 668 pounds, weighing only 205 pounds.
“This is my favorite machine in the gym because it gives great lower back support.” Nippard continued, “It offers a smoother movement path than a hack squat. The counterbalance is behind you, making it easier to get out of the hole and harder at lockout.”
Nippard likes it as a hypertrophy exercise since pushing the weight to the point of failure is safer than other exercises, such as the Smith machine squat, which doesn’t offer the lifter the same range of motion. Nippard shot for an RPE of nine, leaving one rep in the tank.
The glute-ham raise is excellent for activating the hamstrings. The machine has chest padding to grasp and counterbalance weight, adding assistance rather than resistance the more weight that’s loaded.
PRIME Leg Extension Machine
This machine allows the lifter to bias different ranges of motion depending on where the plates are loaded. For example, suppose more weight is loaded on the top peg. In that case, it biases the stretch at the bottom (where the lift begins).
The middle peg loads the range of motion more evenly, and the contractive position at the top of the movement is biased when weight’s loaded on the bottom peg.
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An athlete is strongest on leg extensions at the bottom of the movement — the fully stretched position.
“Get a leg extension with the pad going under the seat as far as possible. Be at an angle because the further back the padding goes, the more it stretches your quads. Pretty conclusive literature demonstrates that the stretch position is critical for hypertrophy.”
Nippard finished off his third set with partial reps in the stretch position to add intensity before moving to the final leg exercise.
Leg Press Toe Press
Nippard ensures his heels touch the bottom plate on the machine below the platform where his feet rest to achieve full range of motion and prevent bouncing. He pauses at the bottom to give his calves increased time under tension.
Nippard performed each rep slowly, controlling to a full stretch. He squeezed each rep at the top for full calve contraction. He suggests rotating the balls of the feet up and down to contract the calve muscles rather than applying all the pressure on the toes.
The natural bodybuilder hits his calves twice weekly for three to four sets per workout. Norton got his calves to grow from 12 to 16 inches from consistent training for decades and periodically incorporating calve workouts four days a week with 30 sets.
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Featured image: @jeffnippard on Instagram