Would You Like to Have a Body Like Cristiano Ronaldo?

Widely considered to be one of football’s greatest ever players, Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most frequently cited celebrities our clients at Ultimate Performance seek to emulate.

While Ronaldo is today known for his lean, athletic image, he has worked hard over the years to develop this aesthetic.

Starting out at just 18 years old signing for Manchester United, the young Ronaldo soon had to develop a significant amount of upper body musculature to cope with the physical demands of the English Premier League.

The long-feted short, stocky physiques of the likes of Diego Maradona and Wayne Rooney were fast becoming a thing of the past. At 6ft 1in., Ronaldo brought a level of flair and finesse that had never before been witnessed in football.

As pacy attacker, Ronaldo needs to be able to pick up speed, change direction as well as slow down quickly, bringing a high risk of injury to the knee, ankle and hip joints.

The key to staying strong and athletic therefore lies in building a rock-solid posterior chain as well as developing the quads, calves and abdominals for optimal performance and a toned aesthetic.

With the exception of the A series (performed as straight sets to minimise fatigue and maximise training volume), this workout should be performed as supersets.

This allows you to perform a greater amount of work volume in a shorter amount of time. The exercise pairings should not impede your ability to work as hard when you return to the first exercise.

Check out this ultimate leg workout to emulate Ronaldo’s devastating combination of lean muscular build with agility and speed.

Why This Workout Works

Barbell Romanian Deadlift

This exercise targets the glutes and hamstrings and is suitable for trainees whatever range-of-motion you have available at the hip joint. Increasing strength and size in the glutes and hamstrings will help stabilise the hips as well as build speed and power in sprinting like no other exercise. The hamstrings act as the ‘brake’ when reducing speed, which is typically when many athletes encounter injuries. Make your lower body bullet-proof with this monster compound lift.

Leg Press (45-Degree Vertical or Horizontal Versions)

This exercise targets the quadriceps and the knee extensors, which are key for sprinting. It also works the adductors, which help stabilise the knee joint. They also stabilise the trunk through constant adjustment of the pelvis, essential for quick changes in pace and direction on the pitch.

Incline Hip Extension

This exercise targets the same muscle groups as the Romanian deadlift, helping build a strong, bullet-proof posterior chain.

Dumbbell Split Squat

An absolute must for anyone wanting to increase size and strength in the quads before moving on to the more complex barbell back squat (which may not suit all individuals). Placing this movement later in the program may limit the amount of load you can lift but it improves balance and even development in both legs. It also helps strengthen the abductors, which are involved in movement of the leg laterally, vital for quick changes of direction at speed.

Prone Leg Curl Machine

The hamstrings help stabilise the knee and hip joint, vital for preventing injuries. 

The prone hamstring curl machine achieves superior hamstring recruitment because the quads are fixed and the hamstrings can move freely through their range-of-motion. This also works the hamstrings in a shortened position, compared to the lengthened position in both the barbell Romanian deadlift and the incline hip extension. As the hamstrings act simply as a stabiliser in the split squats, this should not impair recovery between sets.

Reverse Abdominal Crunch

Cristiano is famous for his rippling abs and well-toned obliques. This exercise targets the rectus abdominis as well as the internal and external obliques, key for performance in stabilising the trunk as well as aesthetics.

Standing Calf Raise

It is crucial to train the calves to ensure stabilisation of the ankle when moving at speed and changing direction quickly.

The explosive ability of the calves means that you must hold the bottom of the movement for an extended period (three seconds or more) to prevent the Achilles’ tendon performing all of the movement.

“Deadmill” Treadmill Intervals

Performing HIIT-style training has been shown to improve cardiovascular fitness as well as provide a slight anabolic training effect. 

This exercise provides a sprint stimulus that will improve glute and hamstring output and development, essential for any striker worth their salt.

The Workout

How to Perform the Exercises

This guide is aimed at trainees with a good knowledge of the exercises and how to train safely and effectively. 

If you are unsure and want access to training programmes, nutrition information and over 250+ demonstration videos, sign up for LiveUP online coaching, today or consult a qualified PT.

How to Perform the Exercises

The Set-Up

  • Set up the bar in a rack at hand-level and add the desired amount of weight (start small and build up as your technique improves).
  • Stand close to the barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart and reach down to take the barbell with an overhand shoulder-width grip. 
  • Before taking the load, make sure to “take the slack out of the bar” by pulling away from the bar slightly to ensure your arms are taught. Lift the barbell off the hooks and take a step backwards.
  • Stand as tall as possible with your shoulder blades tucked into your back pockets. The barbell should be in contact with your thighs and there should be a soft bend in your knees. 
  • Look at the floor just in front of you or the barbell (this prevents the head from moving during the movement – we want zero movement in the spine throughout the exercise).
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.


The Movement

  • Push your hips backwards and bend forward at the hips. The movement should come only from the hips and you should feel a noticeable increase in hamstring tension. 
  • Keep your back straight and pull the barbell into your body to prevent it from drifting away from you. Keep the lats tight by imagining you are trying to “protect your armpits”. 
  • Lower the barbell as far as possible until you reach the end of your range-of-motion. You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when you can go no further without the lower back rounding or the knees moving. 
  • Pause for a moment in the bottom position and drive your hips forwards and squeeze your glutes to return to the start position. Make sure to “press” the weight upwards with the feet rather than yanking with the upper body.
  • Make sure to keep a solid brace throughout (see “How to Brace”). 
  • To begin, practise performing this exercise with control throughout. Once you have mastered the movement, you can add a more ‘explosive’ concentric movement (although this must still remain controlled).
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps. 


Trainer Tips

  • Use lifting straps to prevent grip becoming a limiting factor. 
  • Practise the hinging motion before attempting this exercise.
  • Keep a solid brace throughout. 
  • Avoid over-arching at the top of the movement; your lower back muscles will be working but you should not feel them throughout the movement.

The Set-Up

  • You may have access to either a 45-degree incline leg press or a horizontal leg press but the set-up is similar for both. 
  • Load the weight plates onto the machine or set the pin to the desired weight. 
  • Set the safety stop in the right position for your range-of-motion. 
  • Sit down on the machine and place your feet on the platform shoulder-width apart (a wider stance will favour more glutes/hamstrings but we want a quad-dominant focus here).
  • Position your feet at a level that is comfortable for your ankles (so that your feet remain in full contact with the foot plate at all times).
  • Grip the handles firmly and pull yourself down into the seat. 
  • Straighten your legs to take the weight off the racks.
  • Your knees should be slightly bent (not locked out).
  • This is the start and end position for each rep. 


The Movement

  • Start the movement by lowering your legs to bring your knees towards your chest. 
  • You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when you cannot lower your legs any further without your heels lifting or buttocks lifting off the seat. 
  • Pause for a moment at the bottom position, keeping tension in your legs (do not let the weight “sink” into the hip joint at the bottom. 
  • Press both legs into the platform to return to the start position. Focus on pushing through the entire foot; the toes, ball of the foot and the heel equally.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps. 


Trainer Tips

  • Keep your knees in line with your feet and do not allow your knees to “lock-out” at any point.
  • Practise keeping a rock-solid brace throughout. 
  • Only pause briefly at the top position between reps, not several seconds. 

The Set-Up

  • If the station angle is adjustable, set it to a 45-degree incline. This can also be achieved by placing plates underneath the station if it is non-adjustable. The lower the angle towards the floor, the more difficult the exercise will become. 
  • Climb onto the machine and lie face down with the ankles pressed firmly against the foot pads. Keep a hip-width foot stance, with the feet slightly turned out. 
  • Squeeze your glutes to fully extend your hips so that your body makes a straight line with the angle of the station, keeping the chin tucked. 
  • Cross your arms over your chest if using your bodyweight for resistance (get strong at performing the exercise like this before progressing to using dumbbells). If using dumbbells, allow them to hang below the shoulders with the palms facing inwards. 
  • Look at the floor just in front of you (or your feet); the aim is to maintain a neutral spine throughout, including your head.
  • This is the start and end position for each rep. 


The Movement

  • Focus on driving the hips upwards towards the ceiling and bend at the hips. It is important that the movement comes entirely from the hips and not the spine. You should feel a noticeable increase in hamstring tension.
  • You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when you cannot push your hips any further backwards without your lower back rounding or knees bending. 
  • Pause for a movement at the bottom position and drive the hips forward, squeezing the glutes to the start position (visualise closing the gap between the bottom of your bum and your knees). 
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps. 


Trainer Tips

  • Imagine pushing your feet through the foot plate to avoid swinging your torso. 
  • Do not worry about falling off! Practise with bodyweight first and progress to using resistance once you are confident and do not feel it in the lower back. 
  • Be careful not to overarch at the top; your lower back muscles will be engaged but you should not feel them working significantly.

The Set-Up

  • Stand in an open space with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  • Place your hands on your hips and tuck your elbows in if using bodyweight. If using dumbbells, allow them to hang by your sides with the palms facing inwards. 
  • Step backwards and place your toes on the floor, with shoelaces facing down and heel raised (stepping backwards is more stable than stepping forwards when using heavy loads). 
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.


The Movement

  • Drop your back knee down towards the floor and drive your front knee forwards to close the gap between your hamstrings and calf (elevating the front heel with a wedge may allow a greater degree of motion if you do not have a great deal of ankle flexibility).
  • In the bottom position, your front foot should be flat and your back knee bent at 90 degrees and one to two inches above the floor. 
  • Pause for a moment at the bottom, keeping the upper body braced and tension in your legs. 
  • Push through the front leg to reverse the motion (imagine closing a pair of scissors) to return to the start position. 
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps. Pause for 30-60 seconds before switching sides. 


Trainer Tips

  • Start with your weaker leg forwards first and perform the same number of reps on both sides. 
  • Pick a stride length that allows you to keep your front foot equally placed on the floor throughout, without the heel lifting. The back foot should not be so far back that you cannot fully flex the back leg or the hips are pulled forwards. 
  • Make sure to keep the range-of-motion consistent throughout. Try placing a small block under the back knee if you are unable to reach the floor. 
  • Only pause briefly at the top position and do not rock backwards onto the back foot. 
  • Use straps to prevent grip becoming a limiting factor when using dumbbells.

The Set-Up

  • Adjust the ankle pad so that it is just above the ankle joint. 
  • When you lie down on the machine, your knees should be just short of full extension (this set-up will vary between machines). 
  • Position yourself so that your knees line up with the machine pivot point.
  • Grip the handles, lift your chest up slightly and engage the lats by tucking your armpits down towards your hips. Point your toes up towards your shins.


The Movement

  • Push your thighs down into the and curl your legs up towards your buttocks. 
  • You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when your knees are fully bent or you cannot move any further without your hips or thighs lifting off the pad. 
  • Pause for a moment and focus on contracting (squeezing) your hamstrings. 
  • Reverse the motion, under control, to return to the start position. 
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps. 


Trainer Tips

  • Keep your abs braced to limit movement of the hips at the top of the movement. 
  • Avoid ‘swinging’ the weight; as your feet near your buttocks, the movement should be slowest as this is the shortest and weakest position. 
  • Keep the range-of-motion and tempo consistent throughout.

The Set-Up

  • Lie face up on a bench with your knees tucked all the way into your chest. 
  • Hold onto the head of the bench with both hands. 


The Movement

  • Engage your abdominal muscles and curl your lower back off the bench. Visualise closing the gap between the bottom of your ribcage and your pelvis. 
  • You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when you cannot move any further without rolling up onto your upper back. 
  • Pause for a moment and breath out in a long stream as if blowing up a balloon to achieve an extra contraction in the abdominals. 
  • Reverse the motion, under control, to return to the start position. 
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps. 


Trainer Tips

  • If you cannot feel an intense sensation in your abs, you are likely using momentum and other muscles, like the hip flexors, to swing upwards. Try slowing down the movement until you can feel it. 
  • If you are unable to perform the exercise effectively flat, try a slight decline with your head at the bottom to allow gravity to help you.
  • Once you are able to complete the movement flat, you can progress the exercise to a slight incline with the head at the top of the bench.

The Set-Up

  • If you have access to a standing calf raise machine, adjust the shoulder pad height so that you are able to fully extend and flex the calf. Take the handles with your hands on both sides and keep the elbows tucked. 
  • This exercise can also be performed with a Smith machine and plates but ensure you have enough range-of-motion to fully extend the calf. 
  • Stand as tall as you can, squeezing your calves as much as possible. This is the start and end position for each rep. 


The Movement

  • Engage your abs to keep your hips and torso stable throughout.
  • Lower your heels to the floor to achieve a maximal stretch in the calves, but do not allow the knees to lock out.
  • Pause for at least three seconds to ensure it is not the Achilles’ tendon driving the exercise. 
  • Press upwards through the toes to squeeze the calves as much as possible. 
  • Keep the motion controlled throughout and do not use momentum.


Trainer Tips

  • If you cannot feel an intense sensation in your calves, you are likely using momentum to drive the movement. 
  • Keep the top of the movement controlled and ensure that the knees do not “lock out” at any point.

The Set-Up 

  • Using a stationary treadmill, take the handles and lean your chest over the front panel.
  • Step backwards onto your toes, keeping the heels up towards the ceiling. 


The Movement

  • Begin to propel the stationary belt by pushing through the toes and driving the knees up towards the chest. 
  • Sprint for thirty seconds, maintaining as consistent a pace throughout as possible. 
  • Rest for 60-90 seconds before repeating. 
  • Repeat for the desired number of sets. 


Trainer Tips

  • Maintain consistent pressure through the toes and avoid ‘bouncing’ the feet as this will make propelling the belt harder. 
  • Keep the chest over the front information panel and the elbows tucked. 
  • Do not allow yourself to slow down!



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