The Tom Platz leg workout is legendary in bodybuilding circles. 

For the uninitiated, Tom Platz is a retired bodybuilder. In his heyday, he had some of the biggest legs in bodybuilding, earning him the moniker “The Quadfather.”

To grow his 30-inch gams, he performed brutal, high-rep leg workouts containing multiple sets of squats, hack squats, leg extensions, leg curls, and calf raises. 

What made Tom Platz’s leg day even more impressive was that he insisted on training through a full range of motion on every exercise and doing every rep with picture-perfect form. 

In this article, you’ll learn the ins and outs of Tom Platz’s leg workout, why it’s not for everyone, how to modify it depending on your circumstances, and more.

 

Tom Platz Leg Workout

Here is the Tom Platz leg day workout:

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A Word of Warning About the Tom Platz Leg Day Workout

Many green weightlifters think Tom Platz’s leg workout is their ticket to huge legs. However, it’s unlikely to produce the result they anticipate for a few simple reasons.

First, Tom Platz’s leg day contains an exceptionally high number of sets—up to 43 per session. For most natural weightlifters, this extreme “volume” is more likely to hinder recovery and growth than be productive.

Second, Platz has elite genetics that enabled his phenomenal leg development. No matter how you train, it’s unlikely that you’ll see similar results unless you’re also a genetic outlier. 

And third, Platz openly used steroids. Taking drugs allowed him to recover from and thrive on ultra-high volumes. Without such chemical enhancement, most will wear themselves to a frazzle trying to replicate his routine. 

Nevertheless, Tom Platz’s leg workout can have some utility for the average gym-goer.

Attempting it sporadically can add fun and variety to your training. Additionally, you can adapt it by reducing the sets and reps to more manageable levels (more on the specifics soon)—just don’t expect your legs to blow up like the Quadfather’s.

Understanding the Set and Rep Scheme in the Tom Platz Leg Workout

While the sheer volume of Tom Platz’s leg workout is unconventional, the structure of his set and rep scheme is arguably even more unorthodox.

Unlike most programs that prescribe a fixed number of sets and relatively narrow rep ranges, Platz allowed himself significant leeway on both the number of sets and reps performed each session. 

This enabled Platz to autoregulate (adjust his workload based on recovery and readiness) to a degree most structured programs don’t.

For example, on days when he felt fresh and strong, Platz might perform 12 sets of squats in the 15-to-20 rep range (one of Platz’s most famed feats of strength was completing 23 reps of squats with 525 pounds). However, when he felt tired, he might throttle back the volume and intensity to compensate.

Platz believed this delivered superior muscle growth, stimulating more muscle fibers versus rigid programming. 

Critically, Platz also took most “hard” sets to failure (the point at which he couldn’t complete another rep with good form). But because he adjusted his reps as necessary, he avoided missing rep targets because of fatigue. He simply lowered the per-set reps over the course of a workout to match his declining performance.

The freedom of Platz’s approach foreshadowed principles like autoregulation and flexible periodization, which are now gaining popularity. And while it won’t work for everyone, it’s a viable way to train if you understand your abilities and tightly regulate your workload. 

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How to Modify Tom Platz Leg Workout

Unless you’re genetically elite and chemically enhanced, performing Tom Platz’s leg workout weekly probably isn’t prudent.

A more sensible approach is to modify his programming to include just enough volume to spur growth but not so much that recovery becomes an issue. 

With that in mind, here are three revised routines inspired by Tom Platz’s leg day, adapted for beginners, experienced weightlifters, and those who train without machines. 

How to Modify the Tom Platz Legs Workout for Beginners

If you’ve been training for less than a year, follow this beginner version of the Tom Platz’s legs workout to make fast and sustainable progress:

  • Back Squat: 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps
  • Hack Squat: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps
  • Leg Curl: 3 of 10-to-15 reps
  • Seated Calf Raise: 3 sets of 10-to-15 reps

How to Modify the Tom Platz Legs Workout for Experienced Weightlifters

This version of Tom Platz’s leg workout contains the perfect mix of volume and intensity to help experienced weightlifters continue progressing long after their “newbie gains” are gone:

  • Back Squat: 4 sets of 4-to-6 reps
  • Hack Squat: 4 sets of 6-to-8 reps
  • Leg Extension: 4 of 10-to-15 reps
  • Leg Curl: 4 sets of 10-to-15 reps
  • Seated Calf Raise: 4 sets of 10-to-15 reps

How to Modify the Tom Platz Legs Workout if You Don’t Have Machines

Besides the back squat, every leg exercise in the original Tom Platz leg day involves a machine. 

Fortunately, those who train at home or with minimal equipment don’t need a hack squat (or leg press), leg curl, or leg extension machine to train thier lower body like Platz. 

Here’s a workout inspired by Tom Platz’s leg day requiring just a barbell, dumbbells, and your body weight:

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Who Is Tom Platz?

Tom Platz is a retired bodybuilder known as “The Quadfather” for his exceptional leg development.

Aside from his hulking legs and well-proportioned upper body, Platz was famed for his training style.

Early in his bodybuilding career, Platz trained with Olympic lifters, including Norb Schemansky and Freddie Lowe, who taught him the virtues of squatting with a full range of motion and perfect form. This approach was unlike that of other athletes of the era and became the hallmark of his leg training, significantly influencing the squat workouts that fuelled his fame. 

Platz was also renowned for his training philosophy, which emphasized the mental fortitude required to be a top bodybuilder.

He was known for training with extraordinary intensity, pushing himself to the absolute limits of endurance and strength. The mental toughness required to train this way became as much a part of his legacy as his physical achievements.

Among Platz’s most notable wins on a bodybuilding stage were placing 3rd at the 1981 Mr. Olympia and claiming the IFBB Mr. Universe title in 1980.

What Made Tom Platz’s Legs Special?

Here’s a picture of Tom Platz’s legs in his heyday. Need I say more?:

Tom Platz’s legs