Best Leg Exercises for Strength and Size

Although you might feel like jelly afterward, these to ten leg exercises will help you grown muscle, increase your strength, and give you a great, muscular silhouette. The very best leg exercises involve multiple joints and muscle groups, enhancing your body in the way it was designed to move. There are the best ten exercises for your legs:

The squat (high bar and low bar)

Squats are one of the best due to their challenging nature and their ability to increase difficulty by adding weight. They work your entire lower body, from glutes to calves, and even have been shown to increase the release of a muscle building hormone. Doing these first in your routine may actually help increase your ability to grow muscles in other areas!

Bodybuilders generally use the high bar squat, resting the bar atop their traps and allowing all leg muscle to hit fairly consistently and evenly. Powerlifters, on the other hand, prefer the low bar version, resting the bar along the rear delts and shifting their body’s center of gravity forcing the glutes to do more of the workload. This allows you to use more weight.

Front squat

You may be able to build a butt you can bounce a quarter off of by doing regular squats, but to increase the muscles in your quads, a front squat isolates them better. When you move the bar from the back to the front, even though the distance isn’t far, you change the position of the muscle loading. You may have to lift a lighter load, but the added focus will make it worth it.

You’ll need strong upper back and core strength to perform this move, helping to maintain a neutral spine. You may be pleasantly surprised to see your back increase in strength, too! The more vertical position of a front squat also may decrease your risk of a lower back injury.

Olympic Lifts: Snatch And Power Clean

These take time to master both form and technique – make sure that you have good concentration when performing the exercise. Your body position must be precise, and should ideally be your first exercise of the day when your muscles aren’t fatigued. Focus on getting a triple extension from your ankles, knees, and hips, almost as if you plan to jump with the bar.

If you’re looking to improve jumping power or squat strength, then these are the moves for you. While you may not achieve hypertrophy, the range of muscles used and the control needed to perform the moves, will release testosterone and increase your ability to perform other lifts.

Deadlift

These are considered whole-body exercises, and specifically, work the “posterior chain” including your hamstrings and glutes. You’ll achieve some quad and calf activation, as well as feel the stabilization in your abs, obliques, and back muscles. You can use a large amount of weight with a deadlift, enabling you to see rapid strength improvements.

Depending on when you train your deadlifts, you may not be able to get as large of an amount of weight as you’d like. Typically, these are part of back day, which may enable you to do more. However, if you’re putting deadlifts into your leg day routine, then you might not want to go too heavy, with moderate reps, and not working to failure.

Bulgarian Split Squat

This exercise can be difficult because you’re training one side at a time. You’ll need balance and control, as well as strength, to perform this correctly. This twist on the split squat involves elevating your rear leg, forcing the front leg to hold more of the weight load. If you aren’t comfortable with your balance, try this on a Smith machine until you get your form correct.

If you’re doing a 4 set, 10 rep max with the Bulgarian split squat, try to keep it in the middle of your workout. Some experts think that you’ll get almost the same effect as a back squat. Focus on balance, and you can do your reps close to failure.

Hack Squat

Machine exercises don’t provide the benefits of free weights because they provide the pathway for you, eliminating or reducing the work that your stabilizing muscles have to do. This one can be done toward the end of your leg training session.

One of the benefits of the hack squat is your ability to manipulate your foot placement. Placing your feet higher allows you to descend further, emphasizing your hamstrings and glutes. A lower foot placement gives more emphasis on the quads. It can also be easier to spot on machine exercises, and you may be able to complete forced reps and drop sets.

Dumbbell Lunge

This is one of the most basic leg moves, involving the multi-joint extension of hips and knees. This stimulates thigh and glute development, as well as your hip flexion. You may do these standing in place and alternating legs, moving forward and backward around the room. This exercise is especially helpful to runners, to build hip and glute strength.

You may use either a barbell or dumbbells to complete this. Lunges are best on fatigued legs, so using a moderate workload and waiting until the middle or end of your leg day is best. Ensure that your steps are far enough forward for extension, yet not so far that you’re off balance.

Leg Press

The leg press allows for a variety of foot positions, and while it isn’t intended to replace squats in your routine, can give you an extra boost. The different font positions allow precision development of hard to reach muscles, such as the “teardrops” or outer thighs. Don’t lower the sled too far, however, or you’ll risk injury. Your glutes may end up off the butt pad, and your lower spine would curl. This puts you at risk of an injury.

Romanian Deadlift

This allows more emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes, because of the sheer amount of weight you can use on this exercise. While may hamstring movements focus on leg curls, centering around the knee joint, this one works more from the hip.

Although it’s a bit tricky to master, you should see good results sooner rather than later. Focus first on perfecting your form, then adding the weight. Make sure to keep your lower back from rounding out in the movement.

Machine squat

This move is best for beginners, to learn the form, and master the movement before incorporating stabilizing muscles. Using a Smith machine adds a degree of safety. Machine squats are also god later in your workout, to give you an assist balancing your weight. They may also help if you’re recently getting over an injury, as the assist in movement can help you regain your balance.