restore: the legs program

training the quads!


How will we train the quadriceps?


A progressive “Three-Block” Training System utilizing the single best ISOLATERAL (one-sided) exercise to build leg and hip strength, the Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat (aka Bulgarian Split Squat).

Block 1: We focus on a slow eccentric action (lowering) and then a “fast” powerful concentric action.

Block 2: We focus on a “fast” lowering eccentric action, but then HOLD isometrically…before returning to the start position. (Very challenging indeed).

Block 3: We focus on a rapid oscillation in a lower, disadvantaged position to improve reaction and relaxation skills.

Of course, before you can progress into a more progressive intermediate to advanced program, you must have mastered the basic bodyweight version of this exercise, first. 

Review the video below and use the early weeks of the PLAN to master this, before moving on to block 1! 

Train smart!

The Basic Bodyweight Rearfoot Elevated Split Squat

If you’d like to do a DEEP dive into the science behind the BLOCK 3  focus on the oscillating movement at the bottom of the squat position, keep reading. Enjoy the learning!

RFESS Oscillation Training: What’s the purpose and the science behind these?

This Block 3 includes an “oscillating” movement at the bottom of the RFESS squat position.

This position is what I think of as, “disadvantaged.” At first glance, this mini-oscillation might appear gimmicky, so to make sure you’re informed I’m providing some science and background information so you can have a better understanding of what it’s all about. 

All of this is one reason why I believe this is super effective training if done correctly and progressed smartly – the kind of training that is very helpful in building the kind of strength that will help you run and ride much faster and more powerfully.

Above I mentioned that we’re doing these oscillations in a disadvantaged position, which is another way of saying, a very challenging position. Before I move on, let me discuss this for one minute because it’s important.

Here’s the deal: One thing we know all know, is that the intensity of any exercise (including this RFESS) is drastically increased if an athlete is required to spend a longer duration of time in a range of motion that is commonly considered to be weaker.

I believe this disadvantaged (lower to the floor position) is weaker in all of us comparatively. 

As such, and as has probably become apparent, an “advantageous” position (stronger) would be one much nearer to the top of the squatting movement. 

One of my most influential teachers, thinkers and researchers is Dr. Stu McGill. This man has done more research on the spine than anyone else on the planet and has also had the unique opportunity to work for years on elites and weekend warriors alike. He’s forgotten more about the human body than most of us will ever know.

One of the things he’s often stated (based on his research predominantly) is that the BIGGEST DIFFERENCE between elite athletes and everyone else, ISN’T their individual strength or flexibility – rather, it’s actually how they RELAX.

Say again? How they relax?


To put it more succinctly, it is the speed at which their muscles relax in between muscle contraction. Elite athletes have the ability to relax much faster between contractions. This is one of the reasons why they look smoother, silkier, and generally more relaxed, whereas some of us look stiff and rigid comparatively.

Dr. McGill, in THIS article, puts it this way when speaking about the “paradox of muscle force and speed”:

“When muscle contracts it creates force, but also stiffness. Force creates faster movement but the corresponding stiffness slows the change of muscle shape and joint velocity. For many the instruction to relax to obtain top speed seems counterintuitive. But this becomes instantly apparent hitting a golf ball. Try and hit hard using muscle and the ball never goes far. This is because muscle stiffness slows the motion down. The great long ball hitters relax through the swing gaining top speed but rapidly contract at ball contact to create a stiffness that is transferred to the club and ball. This is the “pulse”. Then the musculature instantly relaxed to maintain speed of follow through.”

It makes total sense that the same “rules” apply to both running and cycling. Which is to say, it isn’t just about the amount of force you can create when your foot hits the ground or when you are pushing on the pedal…

…it’s as much or more about how FAST you can apply that force (Rate of Force Production, e.g. RFP) and how quickly your muscles relax in between contractions.

It’s worth noting that while we could argue as to the existence of Sherrington’s Law in this day and age (a topic we are probably all familiar with – and one I’ve written about quite a bit – if you need to, google it), this simple idea that when a muscle is contracting (shortening), the muscle opposite it must lengthen to some degree to allow for movement around a joint.

We KNOW that both muscles are contracting – one is doing it concentrically (shortening) and the other is doing it eccentrically (lengthening). And there’s likely some elements of isometric action as well (no change in actual length of the muscle).

Let’s use a very simple example to look at what I’m hoping to convey: a basic biceps curl.

During a bicep curl (elbow flexion) it is clear that the bicep is shortening. However, the tricep must also allow lengthening for the elbow to complete flexion. If the tricep does not relax in a rapid enough fashion, whether that be due to a lack of strength or motor pattern, the bicep is not capable of producing the maximal level of force possible. If we’re talking about a relatively high-velocity setting such as fast running or pedaling very fast, the slower relaxation of the opposing muscle (in this example, the tricep) will cause even greater difficulties as the speed of elbow flexion will be greatly reduced.

Although this is an over-simplified, single-joint example, the same contraction and relaxation rules apply within all movements. It is the ability to control this task of rapid contraction/relaxation in the “push-pull” mentality that separates the elite from everyone else.

When you push down on the pedal on the bike, or when you’re pushing off to propel yourself forward in running, there’s a definite concentric (acceleration) series of muscle actions going on. At the same time, the muscles opposite those producing that force are acting as decelerators. They’re resisting forces acting on your body and also working to control the rate of acceleration or force production.

Bottom line: these oscillations are simply about teaching the muscles of your hips and legs, as well as the proprioceptors such as the golgi tendon organs, to function more quickly and efficiently. (If you’re thinking this is simply SKILL training, you’d be partly correct!). They’re designed to hopefully limit the action of the antagonistic inhibitors, thus allowing for more efficient muscle action and greater force produced, at a faster speed (RFP).

As a quick reminder, strength is a skill. 😊

One thing about golgi tendon organs, or GTOs. These are the large nerve proprioceptors (as opposed to small nerve proprioceptors located in our feet and in other places as well) located in tendoness connective tissue.  Large simply means “slower,” compared to small nerve (those in our feet – much faster!).

GTO’s act as neuromuscular inhibitors and are sensitive to the forces developed within the muscle. If muscle tension increases sharply, which can obviously happen and does happen in cyling and running, the GTO reflex responds.

This response can and often does lead to an inhibition of muscle action, ultimately decreasing tension to prevent the muscle and/or tendon from incurring damage due to the rapid, high levels of force.

Every GTO is set to a specific, trainable, activation threshold. Think of this activation threshold as a governor on a truck. It is in place to ensure the safety of the structure and reduce the likelihood of injury.

In general, the majority of GTO’s are pre-set to inhibit a muscle up to 40% below what that structure can actually handle. For example, if a muscle structure is capable of handling 100 lbs of exerted force, the GTO system would reach its activation threshold at 60 lbs of force. This leaves 40 lbs of untapped performance potential. Through appropriate training of the weaker points within range of motion the activation level of GTO’s can be elevated, as the body adapts and is taught to handle higher loads in specific ranges of motion.

Ultimately, the ability to reduce the activation of GTO’s at high force levels will lead to increased force output from the muscle and improve strength. 

Again, bottom line – these are about teaching our tissues to function more quickly and effectively and efficiently to hopefully allow for greater force production and speed of that force production.

With ALL that being said, here are some practical tips for how to approach these Block 3 RFESS oscillatory reps…

  • Move as quickly as possible when oscillating. Think of flicking a light switch on and off rapidly.
  • When beginning this block of training, do not use any load. Master faster oscillations first, then we’ll add load as your skill improves.
  • Stay as low as you can. You are weaker, the lower you go. It’ll be harder. We will, at times, train in a more advantaged position also.