Written by Ron Harris
11 September 2020






Kingsnake Kills Legs!

How Steve Kuclo Trains His Wicked Wheels


By Ron Harris



This is an article I’ve been waiting to write for well over a decade now. I’ve had the privilege of detailing how Steve Kuclo trains standout body parts of his like shoulders and arms and even chest, but until now the opportunity to get into what he does for his massive wheels has never presented itself. Steve’s legs have always been impressive, and he’s been known since his teenage years as being incredibly strong and intense on leg day. It’s finally time to get into how the man they call Kingsnake gets the job done!


A Head Start Thanks to Sports


If you didn’t know, Steve played ice hockey from the age of 6 to 18, and he was damn good. At 14, he played on the Michigan Jaguars the year they won the prestigious international Silver Stick tournament and had the team’s name engraved on a plaque at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. If he hadn’t fell in love with bodybuilding in his last couple of years of high school, it’s almost certain Kuclo would have played in the NHL. All this is relevant because hockey involves explosive bursts of speed, just like speed skating. If you’ve ever seen the thigh development of Olympic speed skaters, they put the legs of most bodybuilders to shame. “Elite hockey players tend to have pretty big quads and calves,” Steve informs us.


As is often the case with bodybuilders who come to the sport from other sports, Kuclo had started to enjoy the strength-training component of his practices more and more. “I used to hit the weight room for an hour after the second football practice of the day,” he tells us. By the time he graduated, Steve could clean 315 pounds (an explosive pull from the floor to the shoulders), bench press 315, and squat 405.


After high school is when Kuclo went all in for bodybuilding. He began training with fellow Michigan native Justin Harris in DC Training style, in which progressive overload is the theme and beating the previous week’s numbers is a constant goal. It was during this time that he won the heavyweight title two years in a row at the Teenage Nationals, and legs were something he became exceptionally powerful at. He could front squat 500 pounds for reps, and 500 on standard back squats wasn’t even heavy, as he was able to get 700 on those. As the numbers creeped ever upward, his legs continued to grow thicker and took shape.


What’s Changed?


Today at 34, Steve is both older and wiser than in those days. “I used to be all about going as heavy as I could for six to eight reps, but you can’t train like that forever without getting hurt,” he explains. “I still go pretty heavy, but now it’s more volume and I utilize intensity techniques like drop sets, supersets, and giant sets to keep the intensity high and continue stimulating the muscles without wrecking my joints.”


One significant alteration in his leg training has been to break it up into two distinct training days each week: one that focuses on his quads, the other on hamstrings. “I started doing this a few years ago, and this way I can put more energy into each area,” he says. “If you train legs all at once, one of them usually suffers, and it’s almost always hams. Guys get all fired up to do the quad movements, and by the time they get to hamstrings, they don’t have much left in the tank mentally or physically.” Now, let’s look at the exercises Kingsnake keeps in his toolbox to craft his mighty thighs.


Leg Extensions


Steve uses leg extensions for two ways on his quad-dominant leg days. The first time is simply to get the blood flowing, three sets of 15 to 20 reps that aren’t demanding at all. With that done, he moves into supersetting extensions with sissy squats. This time, he doesn’t necessarily go much heavier, but he will squeeze and hold the peak contraction on every rep for a two-count. “I focus on keeping my ass in the seat so my hips don’t come up, and really contracting my quads.”


Sissy Squats


Sissy squats might have a silly name, but they are a killer, and more so if you are brave enough to do them seconds after completing a tough set of leg extensions. Your own bodyweight is sufficient resistance, and that goes double for Kuclo, who carries 280 pounds on his big frame. He will do three sets to failure, which typically happens around 10 to 12 reps. “Here I’m aiming for a deep stretch of the quads on every rep, especially the top of the quads near the hips,” he says. “They really do help bring out deeper separation in that area if you do them consistently.” Steve is shown holding suspended handles here, but there are also dedicated sissy squat platforms at many gyms, or else all you really need is something sturdy to hold on to as you lower yourself.


Leg Press


Leg presses have been a staple in Steve’s leg training since high school, and little has changed except his performance style. Now he prefers using a much more controlled tempo, taking two to three seconds to lower every rep before driving back up. He usually does five sets of 15 to 20 reps, adding weight on each set. For his sixth and final set, he usually does a double drop set, getting 10, 10, and 10 reps for a grand total of 30.


Hack Squats


Hack squats have established a reputation for improving outer quad sweep, and Steve often does either these or safety bar squats along with leg presses on his quad-dominant leg day. Hacks are also notorious for destroying the knees, but Kuclo has found a workaround for that issue. “I hook up reverse bands, which give me a little help coming out of the hole and really take the stress off my knees,” he explains. “I also like the Arsenal Strength hack squat because it allows you to adjust the angle of the foot plate until you find the angle that fits your structure best.”


Seated Leg Curls


Because hamstrings need to be in proportion to the quads, Steve includes a leg curl on each of his leg days. The seated version is often his pick on the quad day, while he tends to select the lying leg curl when it’s time to put more emphasis on his hamstrings. Sometimes he likes to do “single leg to double leg” curls, alternating a few reps back and forth with each leg a couple of times before finishing the set with both legs at once. Lately he has taken a liking to a leg curl made by Prime that has a similar design feature to the old Strive machines, which is three separate posts that allow you to overload either the stretch, midpoint or contraction aspects of the rep. “It’s just a totally different feeling from the standard lying leg curl,” he notes.


Glute-Ham Raises


The hamstrings require not only an exercise involving flexion such as leg curls for full development but also a movement that involves hip extension. Steve will do either Romanian deadlifts or a glute-ham raise machine to fulfill this function. Not all gyms have one, but for any of you who have ever suffered a lower back injury that prevented any form of deadlift, these can be a godsend. “I actually like doing them both on my hamstring day,” Steve tells us. “I get a different feel from each one, and the glute-ham machine is better for emphasizing the contraction point of the rep,” he explains. “Romanian deadlifts allow me to focus more on getting a good stretch.”


Leg Abductor


At the highest levels of pro bodybuilding where Steve competes for titles like the Mr. Olympia and Arnold Classic, there is no room for overlooking any aspect of the physique. That’s why Steve began working his thigh abductors and adductors on hamstring day a couple of years back. “I saw the exceptional inner thigh development of guys like Juan Morel, and realized I could stand to fill in that area myself with dedicated adductor machine work,” he says. At the end of his hamstring-focused session, Kuclo supersets the thigh adductor and abductor machines for three sets.




He didn’t do them at this photo shoot, but Steve assured me that squats are still part of his leg training. These days he prefers the safety bar squat, the bar with a yoke harness welded on to it. “The bigger I got, the harder it was for me to reach back and hold on to the bar for squats,” he says. “These let me squat with my arms out in front.” He likes to do these with a wedge under his heels for elevation. I knew Steve had put up some very heavy weights on squats even as a very young man, but I had to ask what he felt the most impressive squatting feat he’d ever performed was. “I got 405 for 31 reps once,” he casually informed me. I’d say don’t try that at home, but how many of us could even dream of doing that?


Rolling Forward on Those Big Wheels


That’s how Steve trains his legs today, a real evolution from the days when his leg workouts were closer to powerlifting than bodybuilding. As he’s matured both in mind and body, his training has also shifted toward a more intelligent, targeted approach geared not only toward continual improvement but also longevity. Steve Kuclo is in the prime of his pro bodybuilding career, and his approach toward training reflects the lessons he’s learned thus far. Take what you will from what Steve does, and use his techniques to blow up your wheels. “I still want more thickness and detail in my legs,” Steve reveals. “I’m proud of what I’ve done so far, but it’s always about getting better.”


Steve on Where Most Guys Get Leg Training Wrong


“The biggest problem I see with leg training and all training in general is focusing so much on how heavy you can go that your form gets lost and you have no real connection to the muscle. You’re just moving weight. Sometimes simply moving weight works, as in squats. On a movement like the lying leg curl, if you let your hips come up and heave the weight up, surrounding muscle groups do more of the work instead of your hams. I’d say no matter what you are doing, shoot for a complete range of motion and do your best to really feel the muscle working on every rep.”


Quad-Dominant Leg Day



Leg Extensions

4 x 15-20

With Seated Leg Curls


Leg Press

5 x 20

1 x 10, 10, 10 (drop set)



Vertical Single Leg Press

3 x 15-20

With Walking Barbell Lunges


Ham-Dominant Leg Day



Barbell or Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts

3-4 x 10-12

With Lying Leg Curl (final set a double drop, total 30 reps)


Glute-Ham Raises

3 x 10



Adductor Machine

3 x 10-15

With Abductor Machine

3 x 10-12


Standing Calf Raises

3 x 10-12


Leg Press Calf Raise

3 x 12-15


Supplementation by Allmax Nutrition

Pre-Workout: 1 scoop HVOL

Intra-Workout: 1 scoop AMINOCORE™ + 2 scoop CARBION

Post-Workout: 1 scoop ISOFLEX + 1 tsp (5g) Glutamine


For more information, visit allmaxnutrition.com




Training Split



Chest, shoulders, triceps



Legs (Quads emphasis)



Arms, calves, abs



Back and biceps



Chest and shoulders



Legs (Hams and glutes emphasis)




IG: @stevekuclo


Steve Kuclo’s Contest History


2004 Capital City Classic

Teenage Winner, 3rd Place Men’s Heavyweights


2004 Michigan Championships

Teenage Winner, 4th Place Men’s Heavyweights


2004 Teen Nationals

Heavyweight Winner


2005 Michigan Championships

Teenage Winner, 5th Place Men’s Heavyweights


2005 Teen Nationals

Heavyweight Winner


2005 Collegiate Nationals

3rd Place, Men’s Heavyweights


2007 IFBB North American Championships

8th Place, Super Heavyweights


2008 Nationals

3rd Place, Super Heavyweights


2009 Nationals

13th Place, Super Heavyweights


2010 USA Championships

6th Place, Super Heavyweights


2010 Nationals

3rd Place, Super Heavyweights


2011 USA Championships

Super Heavyweight and Overall


2012 New York Pro

3rd Place


2013 Dallas Europa



2013 Mr. Olympia

14th Place


2014 Arnold Classic Brazil



2014 Dubai Open

4th Place


2014 Nordic Pro, Finland

2nd Place


2014. Mr. Olympia

9th Place


2014 Prague Pro

5th Place


2014 San Marino Pro

7th Place


2015 Arnold Classic Europe

10th Place


2015 Mr. Olympia

Did not place


2015 Phoenix Pro

6th Place


2015 Prague Pro

10th Place


2015 Texas Pro

2nd Place


2016 New York Pro

5th Place


2016 California Pro



2016 Mr. Olympia

13th Place


2018 Arnold Classic

5th Place


2018 Indy Pro



2018 Mr. Olympia

10th Place


2019 Arnold Classic

6th Place


2019 Indy Pro



2019 Mr. Olympia

6th Place


2020 Arnold Classic

4th Place


Ron Harris got his start in the bodybuilding industry during the eight years he worked in Los Angeles as Associate Producer for ESPN’s “American Muscle Magazine” show in the 1990s. Since 1992 he has published nearly 5,000 articles in bodybuilding and fitness magazines, making him the most prolific bodybuilding writer ever. Ron has been training since the age of 14 and competing as a bodybuilder since 1989. He lives with his wife and two children in the Boston area. Facebook Instagram










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