If you aren’t sure how to build muscle in your leg, leg day can be confusing. There are so many exercises out there that it’s difficult to know which ones are effective. Here, we offer a list that may offer some clarity. The following exercises were chosen because they are easy to learn and perform, provide total muscle stimulation and intensity, are recommended by bodybuilders and lifters, and use equipment that’s available in commercial gyms.
- Barbell Back Squat: Squats are the most challenging leg exercise because they work all the lower-body muscles and spike muscle-building hormone release. Choose a high bar to hit all the muscles evenly or a low bar to target the glutes and let you lift more weight. If you can’t decide, pick whichever lets you squat deeper, more comfortably, and without rounding your back excessively.
- Barbell Front Squat: When you switch the bar from the back to the front, it dramatically changes the squat to emphasize quads over glutes and hams. Front squats decrease the risk of lower back injury by helping you maintain a vertical torse position, and they can help build serious core and upper back strength.
- Olympic Lifts: Snatch and Power Clean: These moves take dedication to master but can help improve jumping power and squat strength. The significant amount of muscle mass you’ll use and the high intensity of the movement can increase testosterone release.
- Deadlift: Deadlifts are technically whole-body exercises, but they definitely work the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
- Split Squat: Spilt squats are tough on the legs and can create quad activation and testosterone response similar to back squats. If balance prevents you from doing them, drop your back foot or hold onto a stable object.
- Hack Squat: Machine-based leg exercises don’t generate the hormone boost of free weights, so you should do them later in your workout when you’re fatigued. A hack squat allows you to manipulate foot placement, with a high placement emphasizing glutes and hamstrings while a lower placement targets quads. Hack squats also allow you to change weight quickly, so it’s easier to use advanced intensity techniques.
- Lunge: Because they involve hip and knee extension, lunges stimulate the thighs and glutes. If you want higher reps, use your body weight or weigh your lunges with dumbbells or a barbell. Walking lunges can provide cardio with your weight training.
- Leg Press: When you do squats early in a workout, and high-rep leg presses later, you’ll promote leg growth. You can change your foot position to work different muscles but be careful to keep your back straight because a rounded spine puts you at risk for injury.
- Romanian Deadlift: This is a great lift to build your hamstrings and should be used more often, particularly in women’s workouts.
- Leg Curl: For balanced, strong hamstrings, use leg curls in concert with your squats and deadlifts. Seated leg curls activate the lower hamstrings more dramatically than deadlifts.
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