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How to Isolate the Quads and Hams in a Garage Gym

By October 3, 2014January 2nd, 2017Hamstrings, Strength Training

What’s that bro? Speak up. You like the pump? That’s okay, don’t be afraid to admit it. I like the pump too. In fact, I even published a journal article on the topic with my good friend Brad Schoenfeld HERE. I like feeling a glute pump, a quad pump, a ham pump, a pec pump, a delt pump, a back pump, and an arm pump. I’ve written in the past about how to achieve a glute pump HERE. If you want a quad pump, all you need to do is bust out a few sets of medium to high rep leg extensions with short rest periods. Same goes for leg curl variations and the hammies. But what if you don’t train in a commercial gym – what if you train out of your garage or out of a facility that doesn’t have leg extension and leg curl machines?

If you train in a garage gym, then chances are you resort mostly to squat and deadlift variations for leg development. While many lifters, especially those who train at commercial gyms, would be much better off if they went this route and solely focused on progressive overload with squat and deadlift variations, at least for a certain period of time, there are times when adding in leg isolation movements is a good idea. Feeling the burn and acquiring a pump is good for muscular hypertrophy, especially when performed in tandem with heavy compound lifting, and all bodybuilders do it.

The problem is, performing leg extension and leg curl movements is not always easy in the garage gym setting. Many in this circumstance resort to sissy squats and Nordic ham curls, which is perfectly fine, but there are indeed ways to perform isolated knee flexion and extension exercises in the garage gym. Granted, specialized equipment is often needed, but the point of this article is to showcase some ideas and spark creativity. With some ingenuity, chances are that you can figure something out in your garage gym just like we did.

I sometimes throw a couple of sets of a couple of these exercises in at the end of a heavy leg workout to add additional time under tension and metabolic stress.

Here are pics of the individual movements:

Band Leg Extensions off the GHD

GHD Leg Ext

Gliding Leg Curls

Gliding Leg Curl

Band Lying Leg Curls

Band Lying Leg Curl

Single Leg Band Lying Leg Curls

Band Ham Curls

Supine Band Leg Extensions

Band Leg Ext

Leg Extensions off the Reverse Hyper

Rev Hyp Leg Ext

Band Seated Leg Curl

Band Seated Ham Curl


  • Reid says:

    The terminal knee extension (more of a rehab move, however) is good too.

  • Ron says:

    I’ve been “Neanderthaling it” for years now and I’ve also done what I think is called a hack lift. Basically it’s a deadlift but the bar is behind your feet and not in front.

    Similar but not related to the legs….Put the bar on the very top position of a squat rack and you can probably do chin/pull ups but you’ll have to tuck your legs up a little. If you have two bars put the catch under it and you can do upside down crunches by hanging your legs over the lower bar and hooking them under the top one. Also, if you want some serious oblique strength and you use standard weights, instead of olymic weights, then put the catch of the squat rack on the very bottom position (like you would for rack pulls) and put a fifty pound plate on each side. Now pick up the bar and move it so one of the plates is INSIDE with you, then overload the other end with about 150-175 pounds and you can do some nice side bends and standing oblique planks by grabbing the bar on the very outside where the plates go on. The other 50 pound plate is to counter balance the weight you’re actually lifting.

    I don’t think you could pay me enough to use a gym. I love the convenience and the privacy of working out at home.

  • Derrick Blanton says:

    Bret, at 2:10 of the video, the gliding leg curls, here’s a MacGyver tweak to ramp up the challenge (literally). This will turn a good move into a “monster”, to use a Scott Abel term.

    Replace the flat bench under your heels with that yellow inverted rowing apparatus and switch sides, feet will now go up on the bar. If you can hang TRX straps from the rafters, this actually works better. You have now positioned the body such that the torso hangs lower than the legs.

    Attach your Hampton thick bar pad or orange SQ sponge to the bar, and hook feet over it. This will act as a roller, and protect your Achilles tendons and heels.

    This inclined (declined?) leg curl variation involves a far greater % of bodyweight. You are leg curling “up the hill”, almost like doing a leg curl pull up.

    Add plates to chest to keep ramping, yes they will come down into your neck area. (And why not add some isometric neck work into the mix? :)) Unilateral with plates on chest, etc. Makes for a nice glute bridge effect as well, especially when you are hanging almost upside down straining to close the heel to the bum. These are tough!

    Isolation exercises are a great tool to have in the toolbox, if you understand when, where, and why. Thanks for writing this. Large sample, double blind studies confirm that you’re the best, BC!

  • Lisa says:

    there are some great ideas here…thanks,, always appreciate 🙂

  • Steven Sequoia says:

    Any thoughts on how I can rig it up so I can do leg curls in the squat rack? So I can superset leg and bicep curls in the squat rack…that would be awesome! Everyone waiting to squat would be so jealous! Maybe I could even set up a 30 minute whole body circuit using just the squat rack…but it would really be like 45-60 minutes getting it all set up…so many great ideas!
    But I digress. Another great post as always Bret! Thanks and keep ’email coming!

  • Kenny Croxdale says:

    Power Wheel “Razor Curl”

    This is a great hamstring exercise. instead of preforming it on a Glute/Ham Bench. it is performed with a Power Wheel or Ab Wheel.

    The key to the movement is to anchor the legs. Anchoring the leg can be done by having a partner hold down on your ankles.

    Another method that I use, it wrap car straps around a power rack, which anchors the legs.

    Hamstring Movement

    The key is once the wheel is rolled out, PULL BACK with the hamstrings.

    This method will fry you hamstrings.

    To increase resistance attach band to the Power Wheel handles in the front.

    Kenny Croxdale, CSCS

  • sandy says:

    Leg curls on a stability ball is perhaps the easiest set up of all. It starts to burn pretty quickly

  • scott says:

    nordic hamstring curls people. grab a friend, grab your ankles and away you go.
    use bands to reduce the load initially if required

  • Where did you purchase these bands from and what type are they?
    Its difficult to tell whether the bands are long enough for these exercises when looking online to buy

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