The approach many gym-goers take to leg day is one of trepidation. This is because legs workouts are some of the toughest to complete in a given week. The days afterwards are also difficult, as people experience DOMS.
Although it may not be the most exciting part of working out, leg day is an important aspect of any good gym routine. Exercises that work multiple muscles at once, like squats, lunges, and deadlifts, are key for building the functional strength that is necessary for doing well in the gym, playing sports, and in everyday life. They also get your heart rate up and burn a lot of calories, which increases your cardiovascular fitness as well as your strength. Not only will you develop your leg muscles, but some of these lower body lifts also cause your body to release more anabolic hormones, such as testosterone and growth hormones.
Training your lower body is essential. Our workout specifically for bigger legs includes the 10 best exercises to achieve that, as well as a training plan to make your next leg day an effective one that will make you excited to wear shorts all summer.
This workout consists of difficult compound lifts, squats, jumps, and kicks. If you want to get the most benefit from the session, it is essential to warm up thoroughly. This will reduce your risk of injury and ensure you start the first working set ready to perform your best. Additionally, it might also lessen the soreness you feel after leg day.
To prepare for your workout, begin with some dynamic stretches to get your muscles moving. You can find a routine that will work all your muscles by searching online. After the stretching, do some movements that are specific to the workout you will be doing. This will help target the muscles you will use. The easiest way to do this is to do a few sets of the exercise with light weights or no weights.
You should begin your leg workout with light deadlifts as a warm-up. It’s beneficial to spend time on this warm-up since it’s the first move of the workout. Don’t start the workout without properly warming up first. Do several sets, gradually increasing the weight of each set while reducing the reps. In the periods between sets, do some mobility work. Build up until the next increase takes you to your working weight, then begin the workout.
12 Best Leg Exercises
1. Barbell Back Squat
The standard barbell squat is an extremely popular exercise. It is a compound lift that builds leg power and size, as well as increases overall strength and helps you pack on mass.
This is an exercise that not only trains your lower body, but also your posterior chain and core. Without this exercise, your routine will be incomplete.
How to do a barbell squat
Adjust the barbell so it is just below shoulder height on the squat rack. Get under the bar so it is resting on your shoulders, and secure it in place with your hands holding it an even distance apart. Press up and step back, so the bar is suspended by your body.
Begin by squatting down, keeping your head up and your eyes looking forward. Make sure your back is straight. Once your behind is lower than your knees, jump back up so you are standing again. That’s one repetition.
Squatting with a barbell as part of your leg workout is not only essential, but should be the main focus of your workout if you’re looking to add size. If your goal is to increase muscle mass, you should be using heavier weights and fewer reps.
2. Front Squat
The front squat is a compound lift that sees you squatting in the rack with the barbell on your deltoids. This targets different muscles and puts the focus on your glutes, as you experience greater knee flexion than during a back squat. They’re also good if you have problems with your back, as the anterior bar placement decreases stress on the lumbar and knees.
How to do a front squat
To do a front squat, position the bar at the top of your deltoids and either hug the bar with crossed arms or tilt your arms back and grip with your fingers.
Front squats in a workout
You should perform front squats as part of your routine, in the same way as you would with barbell squats. To make your leg workout more intense, try doing front squats after back squats.
3. Leg Extension
The seated leg extension is often criticized for ignoring a few key muscles, but it is still one of the best machine lifts you can do. Low-impact and extremely tough, the lift is guaranteed to help you define your quads. It’s a great addition to any big leg workout routine and is great for helping firm and define your legs.
How to do leg extensions
To use this machine, sit down and place your feet behind the foam pad. Then, press upwards. Extend your legs quickly and then lower them back down slowly.
Leg extensions in a workout
If you want to continue lifting weights while in isolation, it is best to either stick to your previous regime of lifting heavy weights with low reps, or to increase the volume to help define your muscles.
4. Romanian Deadlift
While the regular deadlift is great for overall muscle growth, the Romanian deadlift targets your glutes and hamstrings more specifically. This makes it ideal for people who want to work on these muscle groups in particular.
How to do Romanian deadlifts
Grasp the barbell with your hands about hip-width apart, palms facing your thighs. arch your back and push your hips back so your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Your knees should be slightly bent.
Squat down by pushing your rear back and lower the bar. Keep your head up and shoulders back as you do this. You will reach a point just below your knees where your hamstrings will prevent you from going any lower. Use your hips to drive yourself back up to a standing position.
Romanian deadlifts in a workout
You should start with lighter weights and more reps when doing Romanian deadlifts, as it can be a strange exercise to get used to. Experiment to see what works best for you.
5. Dumbbell Lunge
A very effective exercise that only requires a set of dumbbells, the lunge is a compound exercise that works your quadriceps, glutes, calves, and hamstrings.
How to do dumbbell lunges
Gripping dumbbells in each hand, lunge one foot forward and squat into the Lunge so your trail leg lowers until your knee is almost touching the floor. Stepping through with your trail leg, continue the action so it goes in front of your lead leg.
Dumbbell lunges in a workout
Doing fewer reps with heavier weights is the best way to build mass, size, and strength.
6. Standing Calf Raises
Standing calf raises are an great way to build your calves if you are looking for well-rounded legs. Compound lifts will help build your calves, but nothing is as efficient as isolating them with some heavy weight work.
How to do calf raises
To begin this exercise, stand on the edge of something with your heels hanging off. Raise your heels as high as you can, then drop them back down. You can do this using a calf raise machine or by holding a weight on your shoulders.
Calf raises in a workout
It’s best to do these exercises with slightly higher reps to increase muscle growth.
7. Broad Jump
Stand with your knees hip-length apart. Bend at the glutes and hips, then jump forward in a controlled movement. Land on your feet as far as you can from your initial starting point. “Maintain a soft bend through your knees to land like you’re a ninja trying to not make a noise,” Earnest adds. “This will help keep your knees safe and your jump fluid.”
Doing broad jumps regularly will help you jump further over time and make your leg muscles stronger. It will also help you with explosive movements.
8. Suitcase Deadlift
Step One: Hold a weight in your left hand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Clench your right hand into a fist. Step Two: Keeping your abs engaged and your knees soft, sit your hips back to slowly lower the weight until it reaches the middle of your left shin. Your back should be parallel to the floor. Step Three: Pressing through your heels and engaging your abs, quickly return to the start. Squeeze your glutes once you are completely upright. That’s one rep.
The suitcase deadlift also works your obliques in addition to your hamstring, glutes, and back.
9. Bulgarian Split Squat
To do a Bulgarian split squat, start by standing in front of a step with a weight in each hand. Extend one leg back and place your foot on the step. Bend your knees to lower your body as far as you can, keeping your shoulders back and your chest up. Pause, then press through your heel to return to the start. That’s one rep.
This exercise is more difficult than a regular split squat and will help improve your strength and prevent muscular imbalances.
10. Step Up
standing on a box or step with a weight in each hand, start by putting your left foot on the box and your right foot on the floor. Push up through your left foot to bring your body up until you’re standing on the box with both feet. Bring your right knee up so that it forms a 90 degree angle, then pause and return to the starting position. That’s one rep.
This exercise, which works your quads, hamstrings, and glutes while testing your balance, is helpful for all sorts of everyday activities.
If you are a runner, you should certainly add skaters to your routine, according to Earnest. “This cardio exercise helps strengthen your legs and knees, and improves stability and balance,” Earnest continues. To do this, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Then, shift your weight to one leg and use it to jump to the other side, landing on the opposite foot. You will look like you’re skating.
This move helps runners to maintain their speed and agility, as well as strengthening their knee stability.
12. Donkey Kicks
To do donkey kicks, start by positioning yourself on your mat on all fours. From there, keeping your right knee bent at a 90 degree angle, raise your right leg into the air so that your leg forms a straight line with your shoulders and back, with your right toe pointing up. To complete the move, reverse the motion to return to the starting position, and then switch legs and repeat the process on your left side.
If you want an exercise that will make your muscles burn, this one’s for you. Get ready for super strong glutes.
TIPS FOR BUILDING BIGGER LEGS
The following workout is a great way to bulk up your lower body; however, if you are looking to develop a keener understanding of effective leg training, we have pulled together some key pointers on how to build bigger legs. For anyone who is short on time, here is a brief overview.
- Train fast – explosive movements can build leg muscle more quickly.
- Do unilateral moves – maintain balance in your body by working one side at a time.
- Isolate the muscles – isolation exercises can increase muscle definition.
- Stabilise – don’t neglect stabiliser muscles, because they are key to performing heavy lifts safely and effectively.
- Use resistance bands – banded exercises can help you warm up and increase the difficulty of big lifts.
- Work your glutes – strong glutes are vital for building bigger legs. Add these glute exercises to your routine
- Don’t neglect your calf muscles – use calf raises and other calf exercises to ensure your lower legs aren’t left out.