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Phil Heath, 7x Mr Olympia, shares machine-only leg workout routine

By Megan Whitby    08 May 2024
Phil Heath has shared the secrets behind his machine-only leg workout using Panatta equipment / Panatta

Phil Heath, professional athlete, bodybuilder and 7x Mr. Olympia, has fielded a lot of questions about bodybuilding without machines. Should bodybuilders be limited to just free weights? Why?

“As an athlete, I know no one wants to waste their training time using poor tools. We want to use the best equipment to experience the maximum benefit possible. In my opinion, it’s always about providing hope for people who have yet to start their bodybuilding journey to any level.”

Now, Heath has shared his step-by-step machine-only routine to help inspire and inform others.

A bodybuilding leg workout without machines – can it get any better?

I was open-minded enough to take my usual standard leg workout and elevate it with amazing Panatta machinery.

Anyone who has followed my journey knows that training on equipment has always been a top priority because I train alone the majority of the time. A lot of my competitors would always make jokes about me; “He doesn’t train that hard because he only uses machines.” On the contrary, there are many reasons I like machines and I know the importance of training with the right equipment and getting the right intensity.

Trapped in a cycle of free weights?

Some people are going to say: “Oh, well, I’m fine with the equipment that I have” – but I’d say, you haven’t tried these machines yet and don’t know how helpful they can be. To me, you should always be asking yourself, how can I improve and what tools do I need to reach new heights?

When people decide on equipment, they choose equipment without knowing how it works and understanding how it was made. However, this knowledge is essential if you want to keep challenging your body with new, efficient tools.

In my first Panatta machine workout, I found myself humbled and inspired and was thrust out of my comfort zone. I immediately knew I wanted their machines at home and if I’d have had them back in my early training days, I could have been even better!

Four tips to get the most from a new leg machine

When confronted with new equipment you’ve never trained with, you’re dealing with the unknown. You’re thinking: “Is this really going to work? I’m really excited. I really want to grow. I really want to get lean and muscular… I want to do it, but I don’t want to hurt myself.”

My purpose here is to share not just how to train, but how to train your mind and how to use the tools/machines and how to express yourself – because bodybuilding is a form of expression. How you focus is how you become that change you visualise. Here’s Heath’s Power Play for You!

1. Conquer yourself

You have to stand strong when you look at a new machine. Because, maybe in your mind you think you can’t. But then if you’re a little bit curious, you can push yourself beyond the unknown and emerge victorious.

2. Experience an incredible sensorial feeling

Equipment is something you have to feel.

My job is to allow myself to push from A to B but I want to feel the entire movement because I’m trying to think of the muscle fibres that are being involved. I’m visualising it.

Especially as a bodybuilder that competes, I know every rep has to be a contraction and I’m then taking biomechanical data.

The reason I love Panatta machines so much is because they lock me into the perfect angle every single time – this means the exercises are easy to do without pain, giving you more confidence, and most importantly, they’re effective at creating muscular development.

3. Don’t use too much weight

After trying a machine for the first time and feeling more confident, the next step is to add more weight. But before this, let me understand how this movement works with little weight and how to get the peak contractions from here to here [in one direction], from here to here [from another direction]. Before you know it, you’ll be challenging yourself.

As a bodybuilder, you want to know not just about how much weight you can lift, but you want to know how your muscles are contracting throughout each repetition from start to finish.

Peak contraction is usually peak resistance but with Panatta machines, resistance is exerted the entire way. That’s why the strength curve is so different to all the other equipment I’ve ever used.

When you understand the biomechanics after years of training – the workout with Panatta equipment is like a dream come true. When I’m training, I know I’m going to grow at every rep because it’s not painful, it’s very safe and it’s precise.

Panatta’s range of machines always let me pull and push from different angles and get the perfect repetition.

4. Remember the purpose: getting the best tools for the perfect rep

Over the years, as we've honed our skills and experimented with various tools, the pursuit of excellence remains constant. Bodybuilders are driven to push boundaries, seeking superior equipment and methods to elevate our performance and mastery in every aspect.

Many years ago, I wanted a machine that was sent to the gym. I used to train with it for a pre-contest but surprisingly, when it arrived, I didn’t like it because it hurt. This upset me because I didn’t have the equipment that I really needed to grow.

Most people may not know that there are differences and not all equipment is the same because they haven’t had an opportunity to train on the top equipment. It’s like riding a vehicle. Put somebody in the Ferrari for the first time, even in the passenger seat, they smile. They like how it feels. If they never tried it, they wouldn’t know!

So that’s why it’s so important to choose certain types of equipment. You have to know both the machine (how it works, who made it, what materials are used, the type of padding etc.) and yourself. Because in bodybuilding what are we trying to do? We’re trying to focus on what? The smallest details to reach ultimate perfection! You should be thinking about how the smallest details can give you the best edge.

I’d recommend Panatta’s equipment to anyone – go and try it wherever you can! Even better, try it out using my workout below. Test out Panatta machines, bring your strongest mindset, be ready to move past your comfort zone and learn the perfect rep for your muscle growth.

Leg Extension – 4×8/12 reps Alternate Leg Extension – 4×8/12 reps
Front Squat – 4×6/8 reps Super Pendulum Squat – 4×6/8 reps
Leg Press – 3×6/8 reps Super Horizontal Leg Press Dual System – 3×6/8 reps
Hack Squat – 7×6/8 reps (FST-7) Super Hack Squat – 7×6/8 reps (FST-7)
Standing Calf Raises – 4×15/20 reps Donkey Calf – 4×15/20 reps
Leg Press Calf Raises – 4×15/20 reps Super Seated Calf – 7×12/15 reps (FST-7)
Seated Calf Raises– 7×12/15 reps (FST-7) Alternate Leg Curl – 4×6/8 reps
Lying Leg Curl – 4×6/8 reps Kneeling Leg Curling – 4×6/8 reps
Standing Leg Curl – 4×6/8 reps Seated Leg Curling – 7×5/7 reps (FST-7)
Sitting Leg Curl – 7×5/7 reps (FST-7)

Phil Heath  Panatta 
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