Muscle-Building Leg Work:
There are show muscles and then there are go muscles! Here’s how to build both because what’s the point of big muscles if you can’t use them to do real things in the real world!?”
Build muscle without sacrificing power is the mantra. Targeting every lower-body muscle—from quads to glutes to hamstrings—this simple yet effective lineup combines heavy isolation exercises and compound power sets to build size without sacrificing functional strength.
Don’t let the simplicity fool you: Your legs will definitely feel it by the end. If you’re ready, go crush some legs!
Here is the Minimalist Muscle-Building Leg Workout
The Barbell Squat is also familiarly called “the king of legs moves” and, it actually stands the essence of a true king in it. This workout channelizes every muscle in your lower body and, when you put a significant amount of weight on the bar, it transforms into a full-body exercise as you have to brace your core and contract your back muscles to keep your torso in the ideal position. Therefore, it is essential to create whole-body tension to make sure that you complete the move in good form.
5 sets, 20, 15, 12, 10, 8 reps
Split Squat with Dumbbells
In order to build strength and power in your legs and hips, the Dumbbell Split-Squat is a Squat variation you can definitely use, particularly the quads. Over the traditional squat practice, this workout helps in channeling the legs individually to build balanced lower-body strength. This is how you can work on it:
3 sets, 12 reps
The leg press is also known as the machine leg press, machine squat press, or seated leg press. It is common and known gym equipment that helps in building key muscles in your legs. Two types of leg press equipment commonly found in gyms range from the standard horizontal leg press machine or the 45-degree leg press with a seat that reclines at an angle while your legs press upward in a diagonal direction. Both of the machines help in developing the Quadriceps and hamstrings of the thigh as well as the buttocks.
3 sets, 8 reps
Seated Leg Curl
The standard leg curl could be done in a prone or seated position while using a machine to perform either of them. Set up the machine as such the pads sit comfortably against the lower back while you sit on it. Place your legs on the padded lever so it sits just below your calf muscles, and set up the lap pad so it sits on your thighs just above the knees. Lift your legs so that they are straight out in front of you and grasp the side handles on the machine. Pull the padded lever down and back towards you as far as you can with your legs, hold for a second, then slowly bring it back to the starting position.
3 sets, 15, 12, 10 reps
This exercise is usually done with a liver machine and is a resistance weight-training exercise that focuses on the quadriceps muscles in the legs. In order to perform this exercise, you are asked to sit on a padded seat and raise the padded bar with the force of your legs. This exercise helps in building lower body strength and muscle definition as part of a strength training workout.
3 sets, 15, 12, 10 reps
The Barbell Squat
A good leg workout begins or ends with a squat, and you’ll kick this one off with a traditional back squat, but with a slight variation to put more emphasis on building the front of your legs.
Position your feet to close together and place your heels on a couple of 25-pound plates. This stance shifts the focus to the outer sweep of the quads, helping you fill out the lines in your lower legs.
Before you get into a heavy weight on this exercise, make sure you do some warm-up sets. We recommend lighter weight and higher reps on your first set to get your joints warmed up and your back muscles prepared for the workout ahead. Only after you’ve completed a proper warm-up should you add more weight. Complete 5 total sets, adding weight and subtracting reps each time.
The Split Squat
Split squats target the back of the leg, particularly the powerful glute muscles. To maximize your lower-body athletic power, explode up from the bottom, keeping your head and chest up the entire time.
The key to this exercise is to maintain pressure on the heel of your front foot. If you’re feeling this move in the quad of the back leg, you’re putting too much pressure on your back foot resting on the bench. Shift your weight to your front heel, and make sure you’re not leaning forward.
You can use any type of weight for this exercise as long as you maintain proper form.
Any time you perform a single-legged exercise, make sure you start each set with the same leg so both legs get the same amount of rest on each round. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps on each leg.
The Leg Press
Dead rest leg press—in which you come to a complete stop at the bottom of every rep—builds power and strength. According to Holt, this exercise is easier if you have a pin-loaded leg press. If you don’t have access to this kind of press, you can do this exercise on a regular leg press and just pause at the bottom.
You already have a couple of other exercises under your belt, so it’s time to up your game and does 3 heavy sets of only 8 reps each. The objective is to build power and strength. By going heavy and using the dead rest method, you’re going to generate significantly more leg power.
You can also use this exercise to build size. All you need to do is switch up the position of your feet.
“If you want to put more emphasis on the quads, position your feet a little lower and close together,” Holt explains. “If you want to emphasize your hamstrings, place your feet higher and a little wider.”
Seated Leg Curl
The seated leg curl is an isolation movement, so make sure at the end of each rep you get a good squeeze in the hamstrings to emphasize your mind-muscle connection and prevent any other muscle from taking over the movement. If you prefer, you can do lying leg curls instead. Just remember to increase the weight on each set as you drop those reps.
Just as you did with leg curls, add weight and drop reps on each set of these extensions. This is another isolation movement, so once again you’ll want to focus on that quad squeeze at the top of each rep.
By the end of this workout, every muscle in your legs—glutes, hamstrings, quads—should feel like it got run through the washing machine on the heavy-duty cycle. The entire workout will take you 45-60 minutes. Work it into your split any time you need to hit your legs hard!