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A lot of exercisers put more time and energy into their upper body workouts than training their legs. Some people skip leg day entirely. Even if you follow a well-designed program, you are still probably training your upper body more than your legs, especially if leg day comes but once a week.  

Your lower body makes up about 40% of your total muscle mass. If you leave your lower body underdeveloped, that means a lot of untapped muscle growth potential. Also, a bigger upper body paired with skinny legs looks plain wrong, like you spend most of your time walking on your hands!

So, as the meme says, friends don’t let friends skip leg day.

Skip Leg Day

Whether you’re guilty of skipping leg day or just want a new lower body workout, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we unveil four new legs workouts for you to try.

Before You Start…

Leg training is hard work. Those big muscles demand a lot of blood and oxygen, which is why your heart races and your lungs heave after something like a high rep set of squats. Also, because your legs are (or should be) pretty strong, you can lift heavy weights, which puts a lot of stress on your joints and muscles.

Make your leg day workout safer and more effective by warming up before you start. A good warm-up will prepare your body and mind for what is to come, so you can perform at your best while reducing your risk of injuries.

Begin with 5-10 minutes of cardio. Start slow and increase the intensity gradually so that, by the end, you are warm, slightly out of breath, and sweating lightly.

Next, do a few dynamic mobility and flexibility exercises for your major joints and muscles. Pay particular attention to your knees, hips, and lower back.

Finally, fire up your hips by doing 10-15 reps of bodyweight hip thrusts and mini-band side steps.

For hip thrusts, lie on your back with your legs band and feet flat. Push your hips up into the air, lower your butt back to the floor, and repeat.

To do mini-band side steps, put something like a booty band around your legs, just above or just below your knees. Then, keeping tension on the band, step from side to side.

You should now feel warmed up and ready to attack your leg day workout!

Leg Day Workout for Men

For this workout, we’re going to focus almost exclusively on big compound exercises and plenty of heavy weights. This is arguably the best way to build big, muscular, powerful, manly legs!

While this isn’t the most complicated workout you can do on leg day, you can be damn sure it’ll be effective.

So, chug down a shot or two of your favorite pre-workout and get started!

Leg Workouts for Men:

For big quads, glutes, and hams

  Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Front squat 4 6 2 minutes
2 Romanian deadlift 3 8 2 minutes
3 Leg Press 3 10 90 seconds
4 Reverse hyperextension 3 10 90 seconds
5 Walking lunge 2 12 per leg 60 seconds
6 Box Jump 2 12 60 seconds
7 Seated calf raise 3 15 60 seconds
8 Standing calf raise 3 15 60 seconds

Exercise descriptions:

Get the most from this workout by doing each exercise using proper form. This will not only make your training more productive, but it’ll also reduce your risk of injury. If any of the following exercises are new to you, start with light weights and only increase them if you are confident that you’re doing them correctly.

1- Front Squat

All types of squats involve all the major leg muscles. However, compared to back squats, front squats put more stress on your quadriceps, which are the muscles on the fronts of your thighs. Forget leg extensions; if you want big quads, front squats are the exercise you should use!

Find you how to do front squats in our in-depth guide.

2- Romanian Deadlift

Where front squats emphasize your quadriceps, Romanian deadlifts are all about your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. This exercise will beef up your posterior chain and ensure that you develop the fronts and backs of your legs equally.

Learn how to do Romanian deadlifts here.

3- Leg Press

Ronnie Coleman Doing Leg Press

After front squats and Romanian deadlifts, your lower back is probably feeling a little tired. But that’s no excuse for giving your legs a break! Hop on the leg press and keep punishing your lower body. Take care not to bend your legs too far, as you could end up rounding your lumbar spine, which is a common cause of lower back pain.

Find out how to do leg presses here.

4- Reverse Hyperextension

Reverse Hyperextension Muscles Worked

Reverse hyperextensions, also known as reverse hypers, is a very spine-friendly hamstring and glute exercise. Popular with powerlifters, this exercise allows you to develop your glutes and hamstrings without overloading your lower back.

Learn how to do reverse hypers here, plus alternatives if you don’t have access to a reverse hyper machine.

5- Walking Lunge

Walking Lunges

Working one leg at a time, lunges are a great way to make sure that your legs are equally well-developed. Also, lunges increase inner and outer thigh muscle engagement, so they’ll add a lot to your lower body appearance. Do this exercise with a barbell, dumbbells, or just your bodyweight as preferred.

Find out how to do walking lunges here.

6- Box Jump

Box Jumping Exercises

Your final upper leg exercise is box jumps. Your legs are tired, so don’t overestimate how high you’ll be able to jump. A knee-high box should be plenty. It’s always better to outjump your box than not be able to reach the top!

Learn how to do box jumps here.

7- Seated Calf Raise

Seated Calf Raise

Seated calf raises target your soleus, which is the lowermost calf muscle. The soleus is most active when your knees are bent. While the soleus IS involved in standing calf raises, it’s worth training on its own if you want to develop big, muscular lower legs.

Check out our guide to seated calf raises to find out how to do this exercise correctly.  

8- Standing Calf Raise

Standing Calf Raise

Standing calf raises work both calf muscles, the smaller soleus and the larger uppermost gastrocnemius. Together, these are powerful muscles, so don’t be afraid to use plenty of weight.

Learn how to do standing calf raises here.

Leg Day Workout for Women

While some women want bigger, more muscular thighs, most are more interested in developing a round, tight butt. If that sounds like you, this is the workout you want. While we won’t be ignoring your quads and hamstrings, your glutes are the star of this leg day workout!

Leg Workouts for Women:

To strengthen your lower body and glutes development
 

  Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Booty band goblet squat 3 10 90 seconds
2 Single-leg Romanian deadlift 3 10 90 seconds
3 Barbell hip thrust 2 12 75 seconds
4 Booty band clamshell 2 12 75 seconds
5 Deficit kettlebell sumo deadlift 2 15 60 seconds
6 Cable pull-through 2 15 60 seconds

Exercise descriptions:

Get the most from this workout by doing each exercise using the proper form. This will not only make your training more productive, but it’ll also reduce your risk of injury. If any of the following exercises are new to you, start with light weights and only increase them if you are sure you’re doing them correctly.

1- Booty Band Goblet Squat

Squats are a great lower body exercise, but adding a booty band makes them much more glute-centric. You can use a dumbbell or kettlebell for this exercise. Maximize glute activation by pushing your knees out and keeping tension on the band.

Learn how to do booty band goblet squats here.

2- Single-leg Romanian Deadlift

Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts

The single-leg Romanian deadlift is one of the best posterior chain and side glute exercises around. It’s also very lumbar-spine friendly. Standing on one leg increases gluteus minimus and medius activation. Bigger side glutes will give you a more rounded butt.

Check out our guide to learn how to do this excellent exercise.

3- Barbell Hip Thrust

Barbell hip thrusts provide a great way to really overload your glutes for maximal strength and growth. If you find that the barbell presses uncomfortably into your hips and lower abs, cushion it by using a squat pad, a folded towel, or an exercise mat.

Find out how to do barbell hip thrusts here.

4- Booty Band Clamshell

After some pretty serious strength training exercises, you are probably ready for something a little easier. While this movement is less challenging, it’s still very effective for targeting your gluteus minimus and medius.

How to do it:
  1. Put your booty band around your knees and lie down on your side. Stack your hips and bend your knees to 45-degrees.
  2. Rest your head on your lower arm and brace your core to stabilize your spine and pelvis.
  3. While keeping your feet together, lift and rotate your upper knee outward as high as possible without moving your hips or pelvis. Do NOT lean backward.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat before rolling over and changing legs.

5- Deficit Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift

Conventional barbell deadlifts are a great lower body exercise. But using a kettlebell, sumo stance, and a deficit makes them even better for building the perfect lower body. Keep your core tight during this exercise, as rounding your lower back could lead to injury.

How to do it:
  1. Place two bumper plates on the floor slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Put a kettlebell on the floor between them.
  2. Stand on the plates with your feet turned out about 45-degrees.
  3. Reach down and grab the kettlebell with an overhand grip. Pull your shoulders down and back, brace your abs, lift your chest, and drop your hips.
  4. Drive your feet into the floor and, without rounding your lower back, stand up straight.
  5. Push your hips back, bend your knees, and put the kettlebell back down on the floor.
  6. Reset your core and repeat.

6- Cable Pull-through

Your final exercise is all about that butt! Cable pull-throughs are popular with powerlifters looking to beef up their glutes for bigger, heavier squats and deadlifts. With next to no stress on your lower back, make sure you go hard and heavy with this movement, leaving no muscle fiber left unstimulated.

Learn how to do cable pull-throughs here.

At-Home Leg Day Workout

No gym? No problem! Men and women can both develop a great-looking lower body using nothing but bodyweight exercises and in the comfort of your own home. While this leg day workout won’t build massive muscles or incredible strength, it will develop lower body tone and endurance.

At-home Leg Workouts:

With or without weights

  Exercise Sets Reps Recovery  
1 Bulgarian split squat 3 10 per leg 60 seconds  
2 Prisoner good morning 3 15 60 seconds  
3 Squat jump 3 12 60 seconds  
4 Heel slide leg curl 3 12 60 seconds  
5 Step-through lunge 3 10 per leg 60 seconds  
6 Single-leg calf raise 3 12 per leg 60 seconds  

Exercise descriptions:

Get the most from this workout by doing each exercise using the proper form. This will not only make your training more productive, but it’ll also reduce your risk of injury. If any of the following exercises are new to you, start with light weights and only increase them if you are sure you’re doing them correctly.

1- Bulgarian Split Squat

While many people like to do Bulgarian split squats with weights, it’s also a pretty challenging bodyweight leg exercise. Working one leg at a time, this exercise is good for improving balance and mobility as you work your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

Learn all there is to know about Bulgarian split squats with our in-depth guide!

2- Prisoner Good Morning

Prisoner good mornings are so-called because, when you do them, you put your hands behind your head like a jail inmate and lean forward like you are greeting a friend with a bow. This exercise works your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back using nothing but your body weight for resistance.

How to do it:
  1. Place your hands behind your head and push your elbows back to open your chest. Stand with your feet roughly hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Without rounding your lower back, lean forward from your hips as far as you can. Push your butt back to really stretch and work your hamstrings.
  3. Drive your hips forward and stand back up, but do not lean backward at the top. Doing so puts unnecessary strain on your lower back.

3- Squat Jump

Squat Jumps

Squat jumps are a bodyweight power exercise. Power can be defined as force produced quickly. Jumping exercises provide an effective way to overload your muscles without having to rely on things like barbells, dumbbells, or resistance machines.

Learn how to do squat jumps here.

4- Heel Slide Leg Curl

You probably don’t have a leg curl machine at home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do a similar exercise and work your hamstrings. All you need is a folded towel and a smooth floor, such as tiles or linoleum.

How to do it:
  1. Lie on your back on a smooth floor with your legs straight and a towel under your heels.
  2. Simultaneously lift your hips and bend your knees, sliding your heels in toward your butt.
  3. Extend your legs, lower your butt back to the floor, and repeat.

5- Step-through Lunge

Step-through lunges combine forward and reverse lunges to deliver a challenging and effective total leg and glute workout. This exercise is also good for mobility and balance. And yes, that burning you can feel on the outside of your hips is entirely normal; that’s your gluteus minimus and medius crying for mercy!

How to do it:
  1. Stand tall with your feet together and your hands by your sides. Look straight ahead and not down at the floor. Brace your abs.
  2. Take a large step forward, bend your legs, and lower your rear knee down to within an inch of the floor.
  3. Push off your front leg and step back into a reverse lunge. Do not “touch down” as you move between forward to backward lunges.
  4. Push off your back leg and move into another forward lunge.
  5. Continue alternating forward and backward lunges for the prescribed number of reps.
  6. Rest a moment, change legs, and repeat.

6- Single-leg Calf Raise

Single Leg Calf Raises By Arnold
Single Leg Calf Raises By Arnold

Not having a calf machine at home doesn’t mean you can’t train your lower legs. In fact, because you’ll only be using one leg to do this exercise, you’ll have to work extra hard to stabilize your ankle. This will increase calf muscle engagement.

How to do it:
  1. Stand on the ball of one foot on the edge of a step, so your heel is free to move. Keep your supporting leg straight and use your arms for balance.
  2. Lower your heel down as far as you can toward the floor and then rise up onto your tiptoes.
  3. Repeat for the prescribed number of reps and then change sides. Do the same number of reps on both legs.

Machine-Only Leg Day Workout at Gym

We’re heading back to the gym for our last leg day workout. However, for this one, you won’t be using barbells or dumbbells to work your legs; it’s all resistance training machines.

Some gyms only have limited supplies of freeweights, especially hotel gyms. Also, when you work out using machines, you don’t have to worry so much about things like balance or posture as the weights are guided for you, and your back is usually supported.

So, disengage your brain, load up the weights, and focus on pushing your muscles to their limit!

Machine Only Leg Day:

Great workout routine for separation & detail

  Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Smith machine squat 3 8 90 seconds
2 Leg curl 3 10 60 seconds
3 Hack squat 3 12 60 seconds
4 Leg extension 3 10 60 seconds
5a Cable hip abduction 2 12* 60 seconds
5b Cable hip adduction
5c Cable hip extension
6 Leg press 2 15 60 seconds
7 Explosive calf raise 3 15 60 seconds

Exercises 5a, 5b, and 5c are to be done as a tri-set. Do the exercises in turn, with no rest in between. Swap legs and then repeat. Rest 60 seconds and then repeat on the first leg.

Exercise descriptions:

Get the most from this workout by doing each exercise using the proper form. This will not only make your training more productive, but it’ll also reduce your risk of injury. If any of the following exercises are new to you, start with light weights and only increase them if you are sure you’re doing them correctly.

1- Smith Machine Squat

While Smith machine squats aren’t deemed as functional as freeweight squats, they still give your legs a decent workout. Keep the tension on your quads by stopping just below lockout when doing this exercise.

Find out how to do smith machine squats here.

2- Leg Curl

Your hamstrings are involved in most compound leg exercises, but leg curls are the only exercise to really isolate these muscles. You can do seated, standing, or lying leg curls as preferred. Whichever one you choose, bend your legs slowly and lift the weight smoothly to maximize hamstring engagement. Jerking the weight up takes tension off the target muscles.

3- Hack Squat

Ronnie Coleman Hack Squat
Ronnie Coleman Hack Squat

Hack squats were originally a barbell exercise invented by weightlifter and wrestler George Hackenschmidt. Famed for his massive legs, the hack squat involved a sort of deadlift with the barbell behind your legs. This move was pretty awkward, and the hack squat machine is a far more straightforward alternative that emphasizes your quadriceps.

Learn how to do hack squats here.

4- Leg Extension

Leg Extension

Finish off your quads with a few sets of leg extensions. Get the most from this exercise by lifting the weights slowly and smoothly and pausing with your legs straight at the top of each rep. Do not kick the weight up, and keep the tension on your muscles by not touching down between reps.

Check out our guide to leg extensions.

5a – Cable Hip Abduction

Your next three exercises (5a, 5b, and 5c) are designed to be done as a three-exercise triset. Do each one in turn, with no rest in between. After finishing the last exercise (5c), swap legs and repeat.

Cable hip abductions work your outer glutes and thighs.

Find out how to do cable hip abductions here.

5b – Cable Hip Adduction

Cable hip adductions work your inner thighs, namely the adductors longus, brevis, and magnus. Use your arms for support if you find it hard to balance during this exercise.

Learn how to do cable hip adductions here.

5c – Cable Hip Extension

Your last exercise in this triset targets your gluteus maximus. Make sure the movement comes from your hip and that you don’t hyperextend your spine. Brace your core to keep your lower back stable and stationary.

Find out how to do cable hip extensions here.

6- Leg Press

Leg Press Machine Training

Having worked your legs from all the available angles, your entire lower body should be pretty tired. Finish it off with a couple of sets of hard and heavy leg presses. Remember to protect your back by not bending your knees too far.

Find out how to do leg presses here.

7- Explosive Calf Raise

This calf raise variation allows you to use more weight than usual, overloading the eccentric portion of the movement. If this move doesn’t kick your calves into a growth spurt, nothing will! While this exercise is often done using just a barbell, we recommend using a calf raise machine, which is probably a little safer.

How to do it:
  1. Put your shoulders under the pads and the balls of your feet on the edge of the footrest. Straighten your legs and brace your core.
  2. Slowly lower your heels down below the level of your toes and get a good calf stretch.
  3. Next, bend your knees and then “jump” back up onto your tiptoes and simultaneously straighten your legs.
  4. Lower your heels down again and repeat.

Leg Day Workouts – Wrapping Up

Whether you love or loath leg day, there is no escaping the importance of lower body training. It doesn’t matter if you are a bodybuilder, powerlifter, figure athlete, runner, cyclist, or just want to be fit and healthy; you should NOT skimp on leg training.

While you could just do a few random leg exercises once or twice a week, you’ll get better results if you take a more calculated approach and follow a decent workout.

So, whether you’ve been skipping leg day or just need to shake up your lower body training, try one of our four leg day workouts. Each one is tried, tested, and was written just for you!

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