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Best Leg Workouts and Exercises for a Strong Lower Body

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Introduction to Leg Workouts 

Though some people see the lower body as ‘all squats,’ there is a lot more to it. Much like your upper body, the lower half consists of a range of muscle groups, each with its unique functions.

For instance, we have the quads – a large four-headed muscle group situated on the front side of your thighs (1). Its primary function is knee extension. We also have the hamstrings – a large three-headed muscle that resides on the rear of your upper thighs (2). Its primary job is knee flexion. Then, we have your more minor and less noticeable muscles like the adductors and calves.

And finally, we have the glutes – the largest and most powerful muscle group in the body (3). Their primary job relates to hip extension, but they are essential for a whole range of human activities like running, jumping, maintaining balance, and simply walking down the street. Your glutes also play a role in pelvic position and spinal alignment.

It can be helpful to track your workouts with an app like Hevy. This will help you keep track of the muscles that you are working out.

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In other words, a strong lower body is vital for your athletic performance, balance, posture, safety, and much more. A strong lower body also looks great. Let’s face it, a pair of well-developed thighs and glutes will never go out of style.

To reap these benefits, we’ll be taking a look at dozens of excellent leg exercises and five unique leg workouts you can start doing right away.

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5 Leg Workouts for a Strong Lower Body

Well Rounded Leg Day

We have put together this leg workout to provide a balanced stimulus for the entire lower body. Specifically, our idea was to train all of the major muscle groups of the lower body in a balanced way. To achieve this, we have set up the workout to go over the primary movements and gradually go down the list through assisting and isolation movements for your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

  • Barbell Back Squats – 4-5 sets – 6-12 reps
  • Romanian Deadlift – 3-4 sets – 8 to 12 reps
  • Bulgarian Split Squats – 3 sets – 8 to 15 reps per leg
  • Machine Hamstring Curls – 3 sets – 12 to 15 reps per leg
  • Adductor Machine – 2-3 sets – 12 to 20 reps
  • Standing Machine Calf Raises – 3-4 sets – 8 to 20 reps

Leg Workout A/B Split

Unlike the previous workout, this one is designed to be done in two days. Instead of doing one colossal workout, you get to perform two smaller ones. In doing so, you get to train your lower body in a fresher state, do higher quality work, and hopefully improve more. 

Each workout focuses on two muscle groups to do a bit more work and concentrate your efforts better.

Leg Workout A (Quads and Glutes)

  • High-Bar Back Squats – 3 sets – 6 to 12 reps
  • Hip Thrusts – 3 sets – 8 to 12 reps
  • Leg Press – 2-3 sets – 10 to 15 reps
  • Single-Leg Glute Bridges – 2-3 sets – 8 to 20 reps per leg
  • Goblet Squat – 2-3 sets – 8 to 15 reps
  • Donkey Kicks – 2-3 sets – 12 to 20 reps
  • Leg Extensions – 2-3 sets – 12-20 reps

Leg Workout B (Hamstrings and Calves)

  • Barbell Romanian Deadlift – 3 sets – 6 to 12 reps
  • Glute-Ham Raises – 3 sets – 8 to 15 reps
  • Lying Hamstring Curls – 3 sets – 12 to 20 reps
  • Seated Calf Raises (Machine) – 3-4 sets – 8 to 12 reps
  • Standing Unilateral Calf Raises (With Dumbbell) – 3-4 sets – 12 to 20 reps
  • Calf Raises – 3 sets x 6-12 reps

Tracking and creating workouts can be challenging, especially with pen and paper. Hevy can help you create and track your workouts in a more efficient way.

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Legs Body Workout at Home No Equipment

The primary difference between this and the other workouts relates to convenience. Most notably, you don’t need any equipment for this workout, and you can do it at home or in a hotel room. Since you won’t be using weights, you will likely have to do more repetitions to challenge your muscles enough for them to grow (4).

Like the other workouts, we’ll start with main lifts and slowly move down to accessory exercises.

  • Single-Leg Assisted Squats – 3 sets -5 to 15 reps per leg
  • Glute Bridge Curls – 3 sets – 10 to 20 reps 
  • Bodyweight Jump Squats – 3 sets – 15 to 30 reps
  • Glute Bridges – 3 sets – 15 to 30 reps
  • Alternating Forward Lunges – 2-3 sets – 20 to 50 total reps
  • Standing Unilateral Calf Raises – 2-3 sets – 15 to 30 reps per leg

Bonus: Lower Body Mobility Workout

We can’t do safe and effective strength training without good mobility. So, we present a lower body mobility workout designed to improve your range of motion and allow you to get in a position to perform all of the basic lifts with good form. 

Unlike the other workouts, we’ll emphasize longer holds and greater mindfulness when moving your body through space.

  • Deep Squat Holds – 2-3 sets – 6 to 10 holds
  • Alternating Deep Lateral Lunges – 2-3 sets – 5 to 10 reps per side
  • Forward Lunges to Hip Flexor Stretch – 2-3 sets – 30-second holds (per side)
  • Side to Side Leg Swings – 2-3 sets – 15 swings per leg
  • Back to Front Leg Swings – 2-3 sets – 15 swings per leg

Warming Up

Warming up before each workout is vital because it primes your nervous system, allows you to perform better, and prepares your joints, connective tissues, and muscles for the upcoming session (6).

You should have a two-part warm-up. The first part should be general and used to raise your core body temperature and provide most of the benefits. This warm-up can include five minutes of low-intensity cardio and dynamic stretches like arm and leg swings.

The second half of your warm-up will be the specific part. The goal is to practice the primary lift you’re about to train with a lighter weight. This warm-up achieves two things. First, it allows you to practice good form and perform better once it’s time for your working sets.

Tread mill - cardio

Second, it helps you double-check that your body is adequately warmed up before lifting any significant weight. For instance, if you experience a minor ache on your hip, you can go back to the general warm-up and do some specific work to mobilize that area further before you start training. 

The second part of your warm-up should include warm-up sets with lighter weights, gradually working up to your working weights, and without pushing yourself hard. This warm-up should not take longer than five to ten minutes.

Essential Compound Exercises for Leg and Lower Body Workouts

1. Barbell Back Squat

The barbell back squat is the gold standard for lower body exercises. It has a fantastic overloading potential. It strengthens your quads incredibly well and builds Full-body stability and athleticism (5, 7).

Muscles trained: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, back, abs, chest, shoulders, and arms
Equipment: barbell, stand or power rack, and weight plates

1. Set the barbell at collarbone height, grab it evenly, and get your head through.
2. Place the barbell on your upper back, take a breath, and extend your knees to remove the bar from the rack.
3. Take a couple of steps back, point your toes slightly out, take another breath, and squat until your thighs are parallel with the floor.
4. Once you’re ready to go back up, push through your heels and raise yourself to the starting position as you exhale near the top.

2. Deadlift

Like squats, the deadlift is another excellent movement that builds whole-body strength, muscle mass, and athleticism (8).

Muscles trained: hamstrings, glutes, entire back, quadriceps, abs, arms, chest, shoulders, and hands
Equipment: barbell and weight plates

1. Position your shins a couple of inches from the bar, bend forward and grab it evenly with an overhand grip.
2. Without moving the bar, bring your shins forward as you squeeze your back to straighten it and bring your chest out. Doing this will help pull the slack off the bar and place your shins against it.
3. Take a breath, pull the bar as you dig your heels into the floor, and use your back strength to lift the bar.
4. Finish the repetition by driving your hips forward without overextending.
5. Lower the bar gradually as you exhale.

Popular Exercises For Legs And Lower Body

1. Leg Extension (Machine)

The leg extension is a fantastic isolation exercise that strengthens and develops the quadriceps, thanks to its impressive overloading potential and great range of motion.

Muscles trained: quadriceps
Equipment: leg extension machine

  1. Sit down on a leg extension machine and adjust the back pad to allow for your knees to meet the edge of your seat. 
  2. Adjust the shin pad to come up right over your feet. 
  3. Grab onto the machine’s handles, take a breath, and extend both knees simultaneously to lift the weight until your knees are almost straight. 
  4. Lower the weight to the starting position in a controlled fashion and repeat.

2. Seated Leg Curl

Seated leg curls are fantastic for isolating and developing your hamstrings – the back thigh muscles. Similar to leg extensions, this machine also offers good overloading potential and an excellent range of motion.

Muscles trained: hamstrings
Equipment: seated leg curl machine

  1. Adjust the shin pad to be below your knees and the ankle pad to be right at your Achilles. Make sure your seat is comfortable and allows you to curl the weight safely. 
  2. Start with a lighter weight to get a good feel for the machine.
  3. Begin by grabbing onto the machine’s handles, taking a breath, and unpinning the weight. Then, curl the weight with your hamstrings by bending your knees as much as you can. 
  4. Practice a controlled release of the weight, take another breath, and repeat.

3. Lying Leg Curl (Machine)

Like the seated leg curl, this machine is also remarkable for targeting and isolating your hamstring muscles.

Muscles trained: hamstrings
Equipment: lying leg curl machine

  1. Start with a light weight and adjust the pad to be right over your Achilles. You might have to get up a couple of times to get it right. 
  2. Also, make sure to position the pad in a way that prevents the weight from hitting the stack upon straightening your legs. 
  3. Lie on the machine, grab its handles, take a breath, and curl the weight by bending your knees. 
  4. Exhale as you gradually release the weight.

4. Leg Press (Vertical)

Thanks to its excellent design and overload capacity, the vertical leg press machine is perfect for developing the entire lower body and building strength in your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

Muscles trained: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves
Equipment: a vertical leg press machine 

  1. Adjust the weight on the machine and lie down with your butt firmly planted. Position your feet on the platform and have them slightly wider than your hips and with the toes pointing slightly out. 
  2. As soon as you unrack the weight, you should feel in a strong position for pressing. It might take you some adjusting to find the optimal stance for you. 
  3. Take a breath and lower the weight by bringing your knees in. 
  4. Push through your heels to lift the platform to the starting position and exhale.

5. Leg Press (Horizontal)

This exercise is another excellent leg press variation that strengthens and develops your entire lower body thanks to good overloading potential and range of motion.

Muscles trained: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves
Equipment: horizontal leg press machine

  1. Sit down on the machine and adjust the seat with your glutes, back, and shoulders to feel supported and in position. Adjust the weight on the stack and place your feet flat on the platform. 
  2. Assume a stance slightly wider than shoulder-width level with toes pointed slightly out. 
  3. Grab the handles, take a breath, and push through your heels to bring yourself away from the platform. 
  4. As you’re bending your knees and returning to the starting position, exhale and prepare for the next repetition.

6. Seated Calf Raise

Seated calf raises are a fantastic movement for strengthening and developing the calf muscles, particularly the soleus, which originates from the fibula (the small bone in the lower half of the leg), and inserts into the Achilles tendon.

Muscles trained: calf muscles
Equipment: seated calf raise machine

  1. Adjust the weight and sit down. Place your lower thighs on the pad and adjust it so you fit snugly. 
  2. In doing so, you can unrack the weight by contracting your calves. Place the balls of your feet on the platform with your ankles underneath your knees and heels hanging off. 
  3. Push through your toes to remove the weight from the rack and lower it gradually until you feel an intense stretch in your calves. 
  4. Take another breath and push through your toes to contract your calves.

7. Hyperextensions

Hyperextensions are one of the most valuable exercises you can use to emphasize your lower back, strengthen it, and improve overall core stability.

Muscles trained: lower and upper back, abs, transverse abdominis, glutes, and hamstrings
Equipment: hyperextension machine

  1. Get on a machine and secure your feet firmly—press upper thighs into the pad. 
  2. Take a breath, contract your glutes and abs, and place your hands behind your head. 
  3. The body should be at a 45-degree angle to the machine.
  4. Slowly bend at the waist and lower your torso as comfortably as possible without rounding your lower back. 
  5. Contract your back and glutes to extend yourself to the starting position, exhaling on the way up.

8. Hip Thrusts

Heavily popularized by Bret Contreras, the hip thrust is a fantastic exercise for overloading and developing your entire posterior chain – back, glutes, and hamstrings (9). 

Muscles trained: glutes, hamstrings, back, calves, abs, and quads
Equipment:  bench, barbell, weight plates, and barbell pad (to avoid bruising your waist area)

  1. Set the barbell next to the bench. Move underneath the bar and have your upper back on the bench. Bring your upper thighs are beneath the bar. 
  2. Bend your knees and plant your feet flat on the floor. At the same time, place both hands over the barbell and bring your elbows on top of the bench. 
  3. Take a breath, squeeze your glutes, brace your core, and drive through your heels to extend your hips up and lift the bar. 
  4. Slowly release it to the starting position as you exhale on the way down.

9. Lunge (Dumbbell)

Lunges are a fantastic assistance exercise that emphasizes your quadriceps, builds single-leg strength, and develops your glutes and hamstrings.

Muscles trained: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves
Equipment: pair of dumbbells

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand tall with your chest back, gaze forward, and arms to your sides. 
  2. Take a breath and extend your right leg forward as comfortably as you can. 
  3. As you plant it firmly, bend the knee and go down until your back knee taps the floor. 
  4. Push through the heel to bring yourself back to the starting position, exhaling on the way back. 
  5. Once you’re back to the starting position, extend your left leg and do the same thing. 
  6. Keep alternating until you finish the set.

10. Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

According to EMG data, the Romanian deadlift is one of the best exercises for hamstring activation (10). They emphasize our posterior significantly and allow us to overload these muscles with heavy weights.

Muscles trained: upper and lower back, glutes, hamstrings, hands, and forearms
Equipment: barbell with weight plates or a pair of dumbbells

  1. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip and have your hands at a shoulder-width level. 
  2. Bring your chest out, maintain a slight bend in your knees, and take a breath. 
  3. Begin to lower the bar in a straight line by bringing your butt back and keeping your back neutral. 
  4. Lower as much as you can and extend your hips to get back to the starting position as you exhale.

11. Farmer’s Carry

The farmer’s carry is a simple and effective movement for building whole-body muscle mass and crushing grip strength.

Muscles trained: forearms, biceps, back, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and abs
Equipment: pair of heavy dumbbells

  1. Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells, bring your chest out, and walk back and forth for as long as you can. 
  2. Make sure to breathe evenly and keep your back neutral.

13. Goblet Squat

Like front squats, Goblet squats are fantastic for reinforcing back activation while also working on your quads and glutes.

Muscles trained: back, arms, shoulders, glutes, hamstrings, and quads
Equipment: heavy enough dumbbell or kettlebell

  1. Grab a dumbbell and lift it to your chest. Position the dumbbell vertically and carefully place your palms firmly against the weight for support. Have your feet slightly outside hip-width level with toes pointing slightly out. 
  2. Bring your chest out, take a breath, and squat until your elbows are near knee level. 
  3. Push through your heels to get back to the starting position.

14. Standing Calf Raise

The standing calf raise is a superb movement for overloading your calves and emphasizing the two-headed gastrocnemius muscle.

Muscles trained: calves (particularly the gastroc, which crosses the knee joint)
Equipment: a standing calf raise machine

  1. Place your shoulders underneath the machine’s pads and position the balls of your feet on the platform with heels hanging loose. 
  2. Take a breath, bring your chest out and extend your knees to remove the weight from the rack. Lower down until you feel an intense stretch in your calves. 
  3. Push through your toes to contract your calves as you exhale.

15. Hip Abduction

Hip abductions are a popular bodyweight movement that strengthens our glutes and other related muscles. Doing regular abductor exercises can improve our stability and ability to perform various activities.

Muscles trained: glutes (medius and minimus) and tensor fascia lata (outer thigh muscle)
Equipment: exercise mat

  1. Lie on your side with your legs stacked, knees straight, and body straight. You can have your bottom forearm flat on the floor for balance. 
  2. Take a breath and raise your top leg toward the ceiling in one smooth motion. Make sure your hips keep facing forward and try to position your heel toward the ceiling. This exercise will keep your glutes engaged and prevent your hip flexors from taking over. 
  3. Lower your leg to the starting position as you exhale.

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16. Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift is a fantastic alternative to the classic exercise and one that places slightly more emphasis on your quadriceps (8).

Muscles trained: glutes, hamstrings, quads, back, abs, shoulders, arms, and hands
Equipment: barbell and weight plates

  1. Feet wider than shoulder level with toes pointed slightly out and shins a couple of inches from the barbell. Bend forward and grab the bar with an even grip at roughly shoulder-width.
  2. Bring your chest back as you simultaneously get your shins in contact with the bar and brace your midsection. This exercise will tighten your stance and pull the slack off the bar. 
  3. Take a breath and push through your heels to lift the bar. As the bar goes up, keep pushing down and extend your hips forward while ensuring your back remains neutral. 
  4. Lockout, but do not hyperextend your back and slowly lower the bar to the floor as you exhale.

17. Good Morning

The Good Morning is an excellent hip hinge alternative to classic deadlifts. They work great for training and developing the entire posterior chain.

Muscles trained: glutes, hamstrings, back, abs, shoulders, and arms
Equipment: barbell, weight plates, and barbell stand or squat rack

  1. Have the barbell at collarbone height and grip it evenly and wider than shoulder level. Tuck underneath it and place it on your lower trap area, similar to a high-bar back squat position. Think of it as creating a shelf for the barbell. 
  2. Straighten your knees to unrack the barbell and take a couple of steps back to make enough room. Have your feet hip-width apart with toes pointed slightly out.
  3.  Ensure your chest is out, direct your gaze forward, and take a breath as you brace your core. Begin to lower your torso forward as you bring your glutes back and keep your back neutral. 
  4. Go down as comfortably as possible and extend your hips to back up and get yourself to the starting position, exhaling near the top.

18. Front Squat

The front squat is an excellent movement for emphasizing your quadriceps, strengthening your back, and promoting good posture (12). 

Muscles trained: quads, hamstrings, glutes, upper and lower back, abs, shoulders, and arms
Equipment: barbell, weight plates, and squat or power rack

  1. Position the barbell at collarbone height. Extend your arms and place your index and middle finger over them at a shoulder-width level. Walk forward as you bend your elbows without letting your fingers get off the bar. Have the bar resting on the shoulder, keep elbows up and extend your knees. 
  2. Remove the bar from the rack as you take a breath. Take a couple of steps back, make sure your chest is out and your elbows are positioned up and facing forward. 
  3. Take a Descend
  4. Descend until your thighs become parallel with the floor before pushing through your heels to get back up.

Bodyweight Exercises For Legs And Lower Body

1. Pistol Squats

The pistol squat is a challenging bodyweight movement that builds single-leg strength and balance incredibly well.

Muscles trained: quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, abs, and back
Equipment: none

  1. Stand tall with your feet together and chest out. 
  2. Raise one leg forward and keep it as straight as possible. Extend your arms forward for balance. 
  3. Take a breath, brace your core and begin to bend your supporting leg to descend into a squat. As you do this, make sure your hovering leg remains straight and in the air. 
  4. Go down as comfortably as you can and push through your heel to get back to the starting position. Exhale near the top.
  5. Once finished, do the same for your other leg.

2. Nordic Curls

The Nordic curl is a fantastic bodyweight hamstring exercise that builds up your posterior chain and reduces the risk of injuries.

Muscles trained: hamstrings, calves, glutes, back, and abs
Equipment: a bench, barbell with weights, under which to secure your feet

  1. Kneel and secure your feet underneath a loaded barbell, gym bench, or something else. With your knees firmly planted and ankles secure, straighten your back, take a breath, and brace your core. 
  2. Begin to lower your torso forward, controlling the motion with the rear of your thighs. Go down as much as you can – ideally until your knees are almost straight. 
  3. From there, engage your hamstrings to curl your body back to the top as you exhale near the top.

3. Walking lunges

Walking lunges are a fun and versatile movement you can use to improve whole-body balance and develop your lower body musculature. 

Muscles trained: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and abs.
Equipment: a pair of dumbbells, weight plates, or kettlebells

  1. Grab a weight in each hand, stand tall, and have your feet close together. Take a breath and lunge with your right leg. 
  2. As you plant it firmly, bend the knee until your back knee almost taps the floor. Exhale. 
  3. Without moving your right leg, inhale again, extend your left leg forward into a lunge, and descend with it. 
  4. Keep alternating between your left and right leg, moving forward.

4. Jumping Squats

Jump squats are an excellent plyometric movement for strengthening your lower body and building power.

Muscles trained: quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, abs, and back
Equipment: none

  1. Stand tall with your hands to your sides, feet slightly wider than your hips, and toes pointed slightly out. 
  2. With your back neutral and chest out, take a breath, and begin to squat as you bring your arms in front of your body. 
  3. Once your thighs are almost parallel with the floor, explode through your heels to jump vertically and simultaneously bring your arms back. 
  4. Exhale in the air. As you land, take a breath and descend into your next squat repetition.

5. Sprints

Sprinting is an all-out run that builds whole-body strength, coordination, speed, and explosiveness (13).

Muscles trained: upper and lower back, glutes, hamstrings, calves, quads, abs, shoulders, chest, and arms
Equipment: none

  1. Warm-up well, position yourself on the start line and bolt off. You can start from a low or high position – whichever you prefer. 
  2. As you run, maintain good posture and have your gaze directed a few feet in front of you. As you run, make sure to land on your entire foot – avoid striking the ground with the balls of your feet or your heels. Also, keep your elbows at 90 degrees and avoid swinging them too far back or forward. Controlled motions save energy and make the run more efficient.

6. Frog Jumps

Frog jumps are an excellent full-body plyometric exercise that builds muscle, power, and overall athleticism.

Muscles trained: Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, adductors, calves, abs, and hip flexors
Equipment: none

  1. Bend forward with a wide foot stance and toes pointed slightly out. Place your palms on the floor and between your feet. 
  2. With weight on your heels, take a breath, brace your core and jump forward and up as high as you can.
  3. As you land, descend into another squat, place your palms flat on the floor again and prepare for your next repetition.

7. Box Jumps

Box jumps are a great plyometric movement that emphasizes your lower body to build muscle, strength, and power.

Muscles trained: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, adductors, back, and abs
Equipment: plyo box

  1. Stand in front of a plyometric box with your feet hip-width apart and toes pointed slightly out. 
  2. Take a breath, brace your core and descend into a quarter squat as you bring your arms down and back. Simultaneously swing your arms forward and explode through your heels to land on the box. 
  3. Exhale as your feet touch the box. Your land should be soft and controlled, similar to the quarter squat you descend into before jumping. 
  4. Once finished, get down from the box and prepare for your next repetition.

8. Dumbbell Step-ups

Step-ups are fantastic for overloading your entire lower body and placing specific emphasis on your glutes and quads.

Muscles trained: quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, abs, back, and arms
Equipment: stool or plyo box and pair of dumbbells

  1. Stand in front of the stool or plyometric box with a dumbbell in each hand. Your feet should be close together, your back should be straight, and your chest should be out. 
  2. Take a breath, extend one foot forward and place it flat on the elevated surface. From there, push through the lead heel to raise yourself on the platform and exhale. 
  3. Get off the platform and extend your opposite foot to perform the same motion. Keep alternating between left and right until you finish the set.

9. Glute Bridge Hold

The glute bridge hold is an excellent isometric exercise that strengthens and develops your posterior chain musculature. 

Muscles trained: glutes, hamstrings, and lower back
Equipment: none

  1. Lie on the floor, bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the floor, about hip-width apart. 
  2. Have your arms to your sides for balance, take a breath, and push through your hips to lift your hips off the floor. Your neck, hips, and knees should be in a straight line on top. 
  3. Hold this position as you breathe regularly. 

10. Wall Sit Hold

The wall sit is an effective isometric exercise that trains and develops your core and lower body musculature.

Muscles trained: quads, hamstrings, glutes, back, and abs
Equipment: none

  1. Face away from a wall and place your back flat against it. S
  2. quat until your knees form a 90-degree angle and have them directly over your ankles with your shins vertical. Keep your back firmly against the wall and rest your arms atop your thighs. 
  3. Hold this position for as long as you can, breathing in and out as usual.

Cardio And Leg Exercises for Legs And Lower Body

1. Running

Running is one of the most natural activities to improve our aerobic capacity, keep our heart healthy, burn calories, and stay in shape (14).

Muscles trained: calves, hamstrings, glutes, quads, abs, arms, shoulders, and back
Equipment: good pair of running shoes

Warm up well and start running at a sustainable pace. Keep your body upright, gaze directed a few feet in front of you, and arms to your sides. With each stride, swing one arm forward and the other one back for balance. Don’t worry – this should come naturally. Try having shorter steps – experts recommend aiming for up to 180 per minute. Imagine running to the beat of “N.Y. State of Mind” by Nas. Also, aim for a mid-foot strike. Avoid placing your weight on your toes or heel with each step – aim for somewhere in the middle.

2. Cycling

Cycling is a low-impact aerobic activity that builds endurance, burns many calories, and strengthens your lower body.

Muscles trained: quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes
Equipment: bicycle or stationary bike

Stand next to the bike and adjust the seat to hip height – this is a great starting point. Sit on the seat, grab the handles, place your feet on the pedals, and begin to cycle. Keep your back and arms straight, gaze directed forward, and push through the balls of your feet. Breathe regularly and maintain a sustainable pace.

3. Stairmaster

The Stairmaster is a unique cardio machine that emphasizes the muscles in your posterior – glutes and hamstrings. 

Muscles trained: glutes, hamstrings, calves, quads, and abs
Equipment: Stairmaster machine 

Step on the machine with both feet and grab onto the handlebars if you wish. Press the ‘On’ button and start with a low speed at first. Similar to walking up a flight of stairs, take it one leg at a time. Breathe regularly and maintain good posture. Avoid holding onto the handlebars throughout your workout. This exercise will force your core to work harder and keep you balanced.

Benefits of Having Strong Legs and Lower Body

1. Strength and General Athleticism

One of the most notable benefits of having a strong lower body is overall strength and athleticism. Your lower body is home to three of the largest muscles in your body – quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings.

These muscle groups play a crucial role in various athletic activities, and strengthening them translates to improved athleticism, better sports performance, and greater overall strength.

For instance, your glutes and hamstrings are the strongest hip extensors and play a vital role in exercises like the deadlift and activities like running and jumping (2, 3). Your quadriceps are powerful knee extension muscles that also play a role in running, jumping, squatting, lunging, and more (1).

2. Muscle Symmetry and Aesthetics

We all know that one guy with a built upper body and sticks for legs. And let’s be honest here it doesn’t look good. Sure, you might have guns of steel and washboard abs, but your physique will never look great unless you also work on building up your lower body. 

A set of well-developed legs will always look good and contribute to your overall aesthetics and muscle symmetry. Even if your upper body lacks some development, a well-built lower body looks great.

Leg exercise - box jump - full body

3. It Contributes to Whole-Body Strength

Many people see lower-body training as just that: developing your legs. The truth is, just as you work on your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, you inevitably also strengthen your core and entire upper body musculature.

It would be challenging to have a strong lower body without also having a solid upper body musculature. For example, the barbell back squat. Ask most people and they would say it’s a leg exercise. While this is partially true, the squat is a whole-body activity that heavily taxes your core and entire upper body (5).

  1. Your core works hard to keep you stable and upright.
  2. Your back prevents you from folding underneath the load. 
  3. Your arms, shoulders, and chest work hard to keep the barbell in position.

The Basics of a Strong Lower Body

Having a strong lower body is essential. But what does it even mean? First, it means you have adequate mobility to perform various movement patterns safely and with a good range of motion. For instance, you can squat to a decent depth while keeping your balance. 

What good is strength if mobility limits you from moving freely through space?

Second, it means having enough strength to squat and use your lower body to explosively push yourself off the ground – for instance, in activities like sprinting and jumping.

Third, a lower body means you’re functional enough to perform everyday tasks with relative ease. Activities like walking uphill, carrying groceries, climbing stairs, playing sports, running, and jumping are things everyone should be able to do. Strength is great to have, but it isn’t helpful to only produce it within a small subset of activities in a controlled training environment.

This third reason is why movements like the barbell squat and deadlift help so much. These fundamental movement patterns prime your body for many other activities, such as producing power through your lower body, picking heavy objects off the floor, and more.

Popular Workout Plans Containing Leg Exercises

Push-Pull Legs Plan

The push-pull legs plan is one of the most popular ways of organizing your weekly training. With it, you have three types of workouts each week: push, pull, and legs. The push and pull workouts train your upper body musculature, where the leg-focused one trains your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves.

You can choose a training frequency of anywhere from three to six weekly workouts, depending on your schedule, fitness level, goals, and more. For instance, if you choose to have three weekly workouts, you would train your legs once per week. In contrast, training six days per week would mean you get to train your legs twice. For example:

Monday – Push
Tuesday – Pull
Wednesday – Legs
Thursday – Push
Friday – Pull
Saturday – Legs
Sunday – Off

Structuring your leg workouts is relatively straightforward: Begin with compound movements like squats, and deadlifts, transition to assisting exercises like the leg press and lunge, and finish off with isolating activities like leg extensions, hamstring curls, and calf raises.

Lower body - squats - Barbell

5×5

The 5×5 training plan is a proven system designed to get trainees incredibly strong. With it, you get to train three times per week, with at least a day of rest in-between. You also have two types of workouts – A and B. Meaning, you alternate between the two:

Day 1 – Workout A
Day 2 – Workout B
Day 3 – Workout A
Day 4 – Workout B
Day 5 – Workout A
Day 6 – Workout B

You get to finish both workouts three times in two weeks. 

As far as leg training goes, you get to train your legs each time you’re in the gym. Your workouts always begin with barbell squats – five sets of five reps. Workout B also features deadlifts that train your posterior chain and work your quads and calves to a degree (8).

The traditional 5×5 plan is fantastic for building leg strength, particularly for squatting. With the high frequency and controlled exposure, many lifters find themselves getting quite substantial in a matter of months.

As far as muscle growth is concerned, the 5×5 program does receive some criticism due to the lack of specific assistance and isolation work. For instance, your legs mostly grow from squats and deadlifts, but many people enjoy doing more movements to keep their training engaging and possibly drive more balanced growth.

In any case, if you’re looking for a simple program that builds strength and has you work your legs often, 5×5 is excellent.

Conclusion

Lower body training is not rocket science, but it also isn’t as simple as “Squat heavy.” There are plenty of unique exercises to choose from and many ways to organize your leg training within a training week.

The best part is that you can put together effective and balanced workouts in mere minutes, so long as you know the best leg-building activities. For instance, the “Well Rounded Leg Day” workout we featured above is a fantastic example. It allows you to train and develop your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and inner thighs in a balanced way, not leaving any muscle group behind.

Using an app like Hevy will ensure you will be keeping to a balanced workout program for all your muscles.

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own chest workouts with Hevy, and track your progress.

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own chest workouts with Hevy, and track your progress – for free.

As far as exercises go, the deadlift and back squat are two amazing compound lifts. But, you don’t have to do these because you can choose from many other great exercises like the leg press, hip thrust, lunge, and Romanian deadlift. Even if you have to train at home, you can still pick from great movements like pistol squats, Nordic curls, jump squats, and glute bridge holds.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a good Lower Body or Leg Workout? 

A good lower body workout features unique movements that offer balanced growth for the major muscle groups. It also features a variety of repetition ranges that allow for a varied stimulus to the muscles.

2. How can I work out my legs at home?

Working out your legs at home is not that different from doing it at the gym. So long as you follow the basic principles of workout structure, progression, muscle activation, and good form, you will succeed.

3. How long should my workouts be?

The most straightforward answer here is:

Your workouts should be as long as they need you to go through all movements and recover sufficiently between sets.

4. How long should I rest between leg workouts?

This answer depends on the intensity and training volume of each leg workout. In general, you should give your legs at least 48 hours to recover before training them again.

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