Best Legs in Bodybuilding History?

Though I’m a CSCS and my specialty is training for sports-specific purposes, I still follow bodybuilding. I have for a long time. I was talking to a colleague the other day about how anabolic steroids and other compounds such as hGH, IGF-1, and insulin have really changed the sport. Although these compounds have been around for quite some time, it seems that bodybuilders these days take much higher doses of them, as evidenced by their freakish size. If you look back at many of the bodybuilders from a few decades ago, most of them had relatively skinny legs compared to today’s bodybuilders. For example, below is a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, and Lou Ferrigno. Notice their legs are not that big.

 

I told my friend that the one exception was Tom Platz. While Paul DeMayo had some big quads from back in the day, Tom’s were bigger. In fact, I told my friend that there isn’t a single individual in bodybuilding history who has suprassed Tom in leg development, despite the fact that drug protocols have altered the sport. My friend disagreed with me. He said that today’s bodybuilders do in fact have bigger leg development than that of Platz. I disagree. Below are pictures of Tom’s leg development.

 

 

In the past decade we have indeed seem some freaky leg development from Big Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, Branch Warren, and Kai Greene, but in my opinion none have surpassed Platz. Here are pics of:

Ronnie

 

 

Jay

 

 

Branch

 

 

Kai

 

 

While Tom certainly was genetically predispositioned to have impressive leg development, he also trained them like an animal. His weapon of choice? Heavy, high rep squats. I realize that that’s an oxymoron – how can you go heavy and still do high reps? Well, here’s Tom squatting 500 lbs for 23 reps!

I thought some of my readers might find this interesting.

35 thoughts on “Best Legs in Bodybuilding History?

    1. Bret

      I think most of us appreciate that look. Grimek was my favorite. But the sport has morphed into something different, and the people want freaks!!!

      Reply
  1. craig

    the only guy I ever saw in person that had legs that rivalled Platz’s in sheer impressivenss was Victor Richards.

    Reply
  2. Tyler English

    Nice post Bret.

    As a WNBF Pro NATURAL Bodybuilder I’m always asked about my freaky leg development and I tell everyone it’s my 20 rep squat workouts. They seem surprised, maybe they should read more about Platz!

    I usually to use as much load as possible. For me that’s only 185-255…not up to Platz’s par! Still amazes me when I see that video of him taking 500 for REPS!

    Very interesting to see Platz compared to the elite IFBB Pro’s of today.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Bret

      Yeah, I used to bust out 225 x 20 (breathing style so the sets took much longer) and it was one of the hardest things I ever did. In fact, following my couple year stint with higher rep training, I built up such an aversion to it that now I rarely ever go over 5 reps on anything. It’s not that I don’t think high reps are important; it’s just that I hate how hard they are!

      Reply
  3. Molly Galbraith

    Great article Bret! Yes, high rep squats are NOT for the faint of heart. I actually got 135 for 20 a couple of years ago…and there is a reason I have not done it since. ;-) I couldn’t move for 10-15 minutes afterwards. I agree with the aversion to high reps after that stunt! Thanks for sharing. And yes, I find the old-school BB physiques much more aesthetically pleasing as well!

    Reply
    1. Bret

      Those are some beautiful squats right there!!! I commend him; he could easily pile on 5 plates and use a ton of momentum/rebound and allow his form to slide, but he sticks with 365 and does them controlled and strict. It’s no wonder why he has huge legs – he doesn’t let his ego interfere with his muscular development.

      Reply
  4. ALEX

    HE HAS INCREDIBLE ANKLE AND HIP MOBILITY PLUS BILLIONS OF BILLIONS OF MUSCOLAR CELLS IN QUADS, HAMS AND CALVES. HIS MINDSET TO TRAINING WAS SIMPLY BRUTAL. THE VOLUME AND INTENSITY OF HIS TRAINING ARE UNPARALLELED TO THESE DAYS = A TRUE ALIEN BORN TO SQUAT! BUT BRET, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF HIS GLUTES? ALL THAT SQUATTING DEVELOPED HIS BUTT TO THE SAME LEVEL OR NOT? NOW, IN MY REMAINING WRITTEN WORDS I WANT TO PRAISE ANOTHER MAN. IN MY OPINION THE BODYBUILDER WHO HAD THE GREATEST POTENTIAL OF ALL AND THE BEST SIMMETRY BETWEEN UPPER AND LOWER BODY WAS AN EUROPEAN MAN CALLED DORIAN YATES… HE HAD A TRULY GIGANTIC BACK, GLUTES, HAMS AND FORERARMS… HIS CALVES WERE TRULY INHUMAN AND HIS MUSCLES DID NOT LOOK MADE OF FLESH BUT MADE OF GRANITE! I’VE SEEN HIM IN TOP SHAPE IN GERMANY AND I REMAINED BUFFLED…

    Reply
    1. Bret

      Dorian is very intelligent too. Before I left to NZ I was reading his column in Muscular Development Magazine every month. I was very impressed with his column.

      Reply
  5. Dave

    Note on the Platz video his shoulder width stance, high bar position and goes below parallel. Impressive!

    Reply
  6. Shon Grosse

    Why this video is awesome:

    1) Walks bar out and back without help.
    2) Has Kaz spotting him.
    3) Doesn’t even look tired.

    Platz’ calves are as impressive as his thigs, BTW.

    Reply
  7. kit laughlin

    I knew Tom quite well, back in 1980: I made a film starring him, Frank Zane, and Arnold (and the rest of the crew from that year’s Mr Olympia) and Tom’s legs definitely were amazing—in fact his symmetry suffered because of his massive legs; glutes, thighs, and calves.

    From memory, when I knew him, his thighs were a genuine 28″, and he is not tall (~5’9″?). Frank’s legs looked positively slender by comparison, and Franks collarbones were very long for his height—no symmetry problems there. As well, I recall that Frank was the lightest he had been for an Olympia; apparently he had injured himself some weeks before the contest, and that had an effect for sure.

    Tom was far and away the most supple of the bodybuilders in that contest, too. If you watch the film he easily places his palms on the floor with absolutely straight legs, effortlessly, at the end of his posing routine, and working with him in the gym for the two weeks before the contest, I was impressed by his overall flexibility. His legs especially looked relaxed—but when he tightened his quads, everyone looked, for sure! Cuts you could sink your fingers into!

    As the video above shows, Tom squatted like an Olympic lifter: almost vertical trunk, glutes to the floor, and a slight bounce out of the bottom position—and his timing uses the whip in the bar, as all Olympic lifters do (I know this is considered a complete no-no these days: “dangerous”!). Olympic-style back squats need ankle and hip flexibility, and relatively short legs and a long trunk—I am speaking “relatively” here, not weirdly. On that note, one of the Oly coaches here has similar proportions, and when he back squats, his trunk is literally vertical, and in the bottom position his thighs are almost parallel to the floor. The only stretching he ever does os for his ankles.

    The last thing I would like to say is that Tom was one of the genuinely nicest human beings I have had the pleasure of meeting, too.

    Reply
    1. Bret

      I tried to contact Tom for an interview for my blog but I never got a response. I’d love to pick his brain about leg hypertrophy training. His flexibility definitely discredits the notion that being muscle-bound automatically makes you inflexible. Thanks Kit!

      Reply
  8. Matt

    I always thought of Tom Platz to have the best wheels. In my opinion Francisco “Paco” Bautista is someone who is rarely talked about regarding huge freaky legs but is rarely mentioned.

    Reply
  9. kit laughlin

    This is what I posted on that clip (after the poster who claimed he was using crappy form):

    That’s because you don’t know what he’s doing: he is stretching one calf at a time, and then using his partner to overload the bottom position, and doing short-range contractions in that part of the range of movement. Result? Massive fascial stretching, and more growth. The biochemistry is complex. but look up “Parillo fascial stretching”: invaluable for maximum growth.

    If this is the goal, then his form is perfectly suited to that goal. I have personally seen him do perfect full ROM movements for the calves, so it’s not as though he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

    Fascia is the new darling of research, but guys like Parillo (and Tom) knew what they were doing long before the research catches up and explains *why* they were doing it!

    Reply
  10. kit laughlin

    Morte: he is holding the full weight of the stack in the top, contracted, position with one leg (see how he unweights the other one?); he waits until the muscle cramps (stronger muscular contraction than you can do voluntarily); holds this for a few seconds, then stretches out fully in the bottom position, to relieve the cramp.

    If you can take the pain, inducing a cramp in any muscle (providing you know how to stretch it out when you need to!) will give the strongest effects in term of growth. A cramp is where the majority of fibres in the muscle are contracting together, and this is the goal of one RM training: to be able to recruit more fibres in a single rep *voluntarily*. Learning how to control the cramping response is one way to *feel* how to do this, in my experience.

    As well, the DOMS that is produced is unparalleled. Many old-school BBs have relied on DOMS to indicate/calibrate the effectiveness of a new exercise, or routine.

    Reply
  11. ALEX

    I remember Michael Francois for having some truly amazing glutes, quads and especially calves… he had also full enormous guns.
    take a look here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nITU2FhoEME
    I repect simmetry, but you can find simmetry without size in any gym…the true bodybuilding jaw dropping fenomenal potential, is able to retain beautiful lines in spite of adding lots of rock hard muscle mass. This is rare, because only very, very, very few elected people has lots of muscle cells in EVERY MUSCLE and most importantly the bone structure to achieve that look (very wide clavicles, narrow hips, long legs and arms etc etc). Simmetry without size is common but size with simmetry is rare, and a true CHAMPION, in every sport, is ALWAYS rare.

    Reply
  12. tony

    didnt see anyone mention Paul Demayo. for size, he might be right up there with Platz. dont think he carried the same definition tho.

    Reply
  13. charlie

    what I’ve learned is that reps in the 6 to 12 range with a moderate amount of weight say up to 80% of 1 rep max, for hypertrophy. I take it the muscle fibers that are trained are the type2b. I am sure that seeing Platz do those 23 reps with 500lbs( remarkable!) had a context to it, maybe a contest of sorts… I don’t know. Wonder if he trained like a power lifter how much he could have done. If I remember right Fred Hatfield was able to squat more weight than Tom but not able to do more reps with 500lbs( I could have that wrong) I guess i find it counter to scientific evidence that doing high reps past 15 is going to build muscle fibers that bodybuilders want, past the 15 mark we are starting to move into endurance. I doubt Platz did training like the clip showed but rather it was a contest.

    Reply
  14. gilbert

    platz didnt leg press . amazing . he had good leverages for the squat too . it helps a buit . someone with l o ong legs and short torso would find it more difficult .

    Reply
  15. lance Darlow

    I had the immence honour and privilege to have met and spent time (2hours each way from the airport) with Tom Platz. He was a very professional guy who took time, not only in the seminar he gave, but took time and interest in the people around him. The time I spent one on one with Tom gave me tremendous respect for him and the sport of Bodybuilding. He signed various pictures I have of him and I will always admire the man.

    Reply
  16. mike flex James

    Tom platz had legs but he was very short. MUSTAFA MOHAMMAD legs crushed him. His legs were the biggest

    Reply

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