Athletic lower-body hypertrophy sessions must be distinguishable from bodybuilding.

While physiological principles of hypertrophy aren’t any different for athletes – Jay Cutler sure isn’t running down the touch-line scoring 80m tries.

Athletes require more than mass. They need motor unit coordination, synchronisation, and more.

Use this 6-step process to craft your own hypertrophy template for athletic performance, while still sticking to fundamental physiological principles:

Step 1: Get Warm

Get off the foam roller unless absolutely necessary. Instead, use this time productively.

If you train in a group, play a propreceptive game like crazy catch.

If you train on your own, work on some general dynamic mobility followed by low-level plyometrics and running drills.

It should take 5-10minutes.

My favourite examples: A-skips, b-skips, pogos (in different directions), lateral shuffles, ankling, straight-leg bounds, low level box jumps, straight-leg bounds etc.

Step 2: Sprint

Speed kills.

Speed is the defining quality of almost all running based sports.

When the entire objective of your sport is evasion through running… it’d probably be a good idea to train speed.

Begin with a few warm-up sprints (60-80% speed), then perform:

  • 5-40m per sprint (max effort)
  • 2 to 8 sets
  • Full recovery between sprints (~60s per 10m)

Step 3: Jump

Jump training increases explosive ability: the ability to run through walls and explode off the mark.

Any athletic lower-body session worth it’s salt will include jump training:

  • 1 to 3 reps (max effort)
  • 2 to 5 sets
  • Full recovery periods (if you feel your power dropping, rest longer or move on to the strength work)
  • My favourite exercise options: trap-bar jump, box jump, lateral bounds, drop jumps, BB squat jumps etc.

Step 4: Lift Heavy

Lifting heavy has survived the test of time in my coaching practice, while other training methods come and go, the importance of heavy lifting always casts a solid foundation.

Strong athletes are robust. They can train more, resist injury and have greater potential for speed, power and agility gains.

However, heavy lifting can wreak havoc on your body and interfere with training if done inappropriately. Therefore I manage the volume like so:

  • Work up to a maximal but technically perfect set of 3-5 reps.
  • Drop the load by 10% and perform 2 to 5 more sets, based upon how you feel that day.
  • My favourite exercise options: Trap-bar deadlifts, box squats, back squats, band squats and safety-bar Hatfield split squats.

Step 5: Cluster Sets

Lifting heavy is the cornerstone of athletic hypertrophy, but you may need a bit more volume to slap some meat on.

Use clusters to up the volume:

  • Pick an assistance exercise which is the opposing muscle group to the one you picked for your main lift i.e. if you picked trap-bar deadlifts, you may pick Bulgarian split squats.
  • Estimate your 6RM with that exercise.
  • Perform 5 reps, rest 10seconds, perform 2 more, rest 10seconds, then perform 1 more rep. You’re performing 8 reps, with your 6RM in a quick period.
  • Repeat for 2-3 sets.
  • My favourite exercise examples: RDL’s, Bulgarian split squats (DB/BB) and reverse lunges (DB/BB).

Step 6: Pump

Finally, finish off with some pump.

Nothing feels better than leaving the gym with a pump.

I overlooked this for years until I heard Joe Kenn (NFL S&C Coach) say “the most transferable skill from the weightroom to the field is confidence”.

Plus it hits the metabolic damage side of the principles of hypertrophy.

  • 10-20 reps
  • 2 to 5 sets
  • 1 to 3 exercises (can be done in a circuit)
  • My favourite examples: I like to finish with posterior chain, calf, hip flexor and trunk work, but it depends on your weaknesses. Reverse hypertextensions, GHR, back extensions, leg raises, roll-outs and SL calf-raises are my staples.

Pulling it Together

Now pull it together based upon your individual needs, this is a session I did recently in just 70minutes total (and I’m lazy AF).

A) General mobility and running drills:

  • Calf-pumps x 5/s
  • Lunge and twist x 5/s
  • Walking single-leg RDL x 5/s
  • Lateral lunge and overhead reach x 5/s
  • Ankling x 10m
  • Forward pogos x 10
  • Lateral pogos x 10
  • Backward pogos x 10
  • A-Skips x 2 x 15m
  • B-Skips x 1 x 15m
  • Straight-leg bounds x 1 x 30m

B) Speed:

  • Jog in sprints: jog 5m and then sprint for 30m x 4 sets with ~2-3minutes rest

C) Jump:

  • Vertical jumps (max height) x 2 x 2, 1 x 1
  • Flying over the fence with these ones, but fatigued quickly on the third set, so stopped at one rep.

D) Lift Heavy:

  • Worked up to 200kg x 5 @RPE 8 on semi sumo deadlift
  • Dropped weight by 10%, then performed 180kg x 2 x 5. Stopped at 2 sets because my form started to break down.

E) Cluster Set:

  • Estimated by Bulgarian DB Split Squat 6RM @ 40kg/hand.
  • Performed 2 cluster sets: 5 reps, rest 10sec, 2 reps, rest 10sec, 1 rep.
  • Grip was the limiting factor for this day, due to deadlifts before and the lack of grip training recently.

F) Pump:

  • Trained at home this day, so have limited equipment access.
  • Performed seated banded leg curls paired with hanging knee raises for 3 x 20 each

Go turn those chick-legs into raw athletic potential.

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