You don’t get the nickname ‘Quadzilla’ for nothing, but with thighs that have a circumference of 74cm, German track sprinter Robert Förstemann is certainly worthy of his title, and it’s a title that the 29-year-old former sprint world champion is immensely proud of.
“It’s an honour for me to have my own nickname. Everybody who hears the name ‘Quadzilla’ knows that it means Robert Förstemann so of course it’s a great thing,” says Förstemann. “It was an honour to get this as a track cyclist because I’m not a bodybuilder or something like this.”
OK, Förstemann isn’t a bodybuilder, but he isn’t a butcher or a baker either. He competes in a sport where it’s not uncommon to see athletes with legs that look like Popeye’s arms. But like you, we want to know how these cyclists are building these mammoth legs?
Because friends don’t let friends ignore legs, we got in touch with Förstemann, who is currently training for the London leg of the Six Day cycling series, to find out his leg-day routine. Get ready for heavy deadlifts, even heavier squats and some interesting techniques with a Swiss Ball.
How to: Stand with your feet more than shoulder-width apart – this wide stance will allow a deeper squat, getting your glutes and hamstrings involved. Hold a barbell across your upper back with an overhand grip – avoid resting it on your neck. Hug the bar into your traps to engage your upper back muscles.
Take the weight of the bar and slowly squat down – head up, back straight, buns out. Lower yourself until your hips are aligned with your knees, with legs at 90 degrees – a deeper squat will be more beneficial but get the strength and flexibility first. Drive your heels into the floor to push yourself explosively back up. Keep form until you’re stood up straight: that’s one.
Förstemann says: “The squat programme differs during the season. In preparation for the season I’m training a lot of repetitions, so typically 60-90 per workout with 50-70 per cent of my maximum weight. As the season progresses, and the closer I get to the peak of the season, the repetition numbers decrease and the loads increase to the maximum [which for Förstemann is 280KG] doing 1to 3 repetitions for 4 to 6 sets.”
How to: Stand with feet slightly wider that shoulder-width apart, with the barbell on the floor in front of you. Bend at the knees and the hips to take hold of the bar with an overhand grip; your hands should be shoulder-width apart. Straighten your legs slightly to load the tension on the bar. Head up, back straight: squeeze your glutes, tighten your shoulder blades and pull in your lower abs. After that, it’s simple. Stand up.
The bar should remain close to your body the whole time, in contact with your thighs when you’re fully standing. Keep tension in your core as you lower the bar to the ground – this doesn’t have to follow the same pattern of movement, just get it down safely.
Förstemann says: “The system in the execution of the deadlifts is similar to that of the squat. However, it is not quite as extensive as it is just a so-called assistance exercise. I usually do 4-6 sets of 4-8 repetitions. The maximum load is about 240kg. you can also vary this exercise well by using rubber bands and thus create additional stimuli.”
How to: In the leg press machine position your feet shoulder-width apart on the platform and raise until your legs are outstretched without locking your knees. Slowly lower the platform until your knees are at 90 degrees to the floor, then push back to the start position through your heels.
Förstemann says: “I exercise a lot with just one leg because on the bike you need each leg. Power on the right leg, power on the left leg, so it makes sense to train one at a time.”
Swiss ball crunches
How to: Lie on a Swiss ball with your spine arched slightly backwards and your knees bent. Hold a weight on your chest with both hands. Flex at the waist to raise your upper torso until you feel tension through your abs.
Förstemann says: “Stabilisation training and mobility training are of paramount importance. Core-training with the help of a Swiss ball, or all exercises that have a wobbly background where you have to create balance, are highly recommended.”
Get on your bike
Förstemann says: “I do a lot of road training. It’s also possible with these big legs to do a 230km ride, on the road bike. It’s no problem for me, but of course the distances are shorter usually, between 50 and 80km.”