Lower Body Workouts & Best Leg Exercises to Build Muscle, Boost Strength & Tone the Upper & Lower Legs! 

Its strange how the upper body takes most of the glory in the gym, even though weak & unshapely legs look even worst on a person with a well developed upper body! Whether its toothpick legs or fat thighs, an unbalanced lower body clearly makes people look unfit and out of shape. Whether man or woman, looking to tone up or add muscle, the lower body workouts & exercises on this page will help you reach your goals faster.

One of the common mistakes when training Legs is to emphasize the Quadriceps(front of thigh) far too much, while not paying enough attention to the Hamstrings. The Calves are another problem area, but in most cases, people simply aren't training them with enough volume(workload) and frequency. 

Women tend to overemphasize Glutes training with isolation exercises, when all thats needed is a few good compound movements that can blast and shape the entire posterior chain(back of legs up to lower back) really well. The secret to lower body training lies in choosing exercises and set/rep schemes that promote balanced development.

Yes, working out the legs is tough and intense, requiring a lot of energy and leaving you feel gased after a hard set. But would you have it any other way? The shape & development you want has to be earned, one tough rep at a time. The good news is, once you get used to it, you'll love the feeling you get from training the legs!

Quick Tip: The best approach to training your lower body is to include it in a well-structured, total body workout program that scientifically plans all of these things for you: 1) volume, 2) intensity, 3) frequency, 4) progression, 5) exercise selection, 6) periodization & MUCH more...

 Discover the Secrets to Developing a Perfectly Balanced, Ripped Physique (95% of Gym Rats Have No Clue About This)

Here's an outline of the rest of this page:

1) Introduction of the Lower Body Muscle Groups
2) Leg exercises
3) Quick training tips
4) Sample lower body workout

Introduction & Basic Anatomy

The Quadriceps is an enormous muscle group made up of 4 muscles on the front of your thigh. Starting with the big, bad rectus femoris, its main function is extension of the knee, or straightening out your legs in other words. The rectus femoris also acts as a hip flexor due to its originating location(near the hip).

Then there are the Vastus Lateralis, Medialis & Intermedius. As you can see below, these muscles help to "fill" out your legs even more and enhance the highly defined "tear drop" look that can greatly improve visual appeal. These muscles are basically involved in extension of the knee as well.

The Hamstrings muscle group is made up of the Biceps Femoris, Semimebranosus and the Semitendinosus. Collectively, as a group, the ordinary function of these muscles is to aid in knee flexion, bringing the heels to the butt, and hip extension, moving the leg to the rear. However, in practical terms, the main function of the hamstrings is to decelerate(slow down) the lower leg in the sagittal(vertical) plane.

The biggest muscle in the Calf region is the gastrocnemius, comprised mainly of the medial and lateral heads. The other major calf muscle, lying beneath the gastrocnemius, is the soleus. This muscle is visible from the sides of the lower leg. The third muscle in the group is the plantaris, which is a small muscle that originates behind the knee, running the length of the calf and attaching to the achilles tendon. 

Lower Body Exercises

Barbell Lunge

- Place bar behind head, resting on shoulders.
- Hold bar with elbows at about 90 degrees.
- Step forward with one leg into a lunge position.
- Return to standing and repeat with other leg.

 Barbell Squat

- Place barbell over shoulders, behind head.
- Grip bar firmly with hands, elbows bent to 90 degrees.
- Feet should be about shoulder distance apart.
- Slowly bend knees, keeping back straight.
- Return to start position and repeat.

Side Lunge

- Stand with weight in hands.
- Step sideways to left as shown, keeping trunk vertical.
- Push back up to starting position.
- Repeat sets to right side.

Wide Squat

- Stand with feet wider than hip distance apart.
- Toes should be slightly pointed outward and aligned with knees.
Hold weights in hands, resting on shoulders.
- Squat down until thighs are almost parallel with floor while moving buttocks backward, similar to beginning to sit in a chair.
- Return to start and repeat.
- Keep weight on outside of feet and heels. Start with a partial squat and increase as you become familiar with the movement. Do not let knees extend past the toes
.

Dumbbell Calf Raise

- Stand with weights in hands.
Feet placed shoulder distance apart.
Raise up on balls of feet.
Return to start position and repeat.

Dumbbell Deadlifts

- Stand with feet together, weights on floor in front of feet.
- Squat down placing chest against thighs.
- Tighten lower back muscles, grasp weights in hands.
- Keep head forward and back straight, and gently straighten knees until a gentle stretch is felt. - Hold for several seconds.
- Slowly stand upright.
- Keeping back straight, reverse the motion and lower weights to floor, keeping knees as straight as possible and hold for several seconds, then bend knees, returning to start position.
Note: Do not perform this exercise until you have been properly taught and observed doing the deadlift
.

Seated Calf Raise

- Sit at calf strengthening machine, feet flat on floor.
Place pad on top of knees.
Lift heels off of floor.
Return to start position and repeat.

Glute Bridge

- Lie on back with knees bent as shown.
- Place bar across hips.
- Lift up buttocks.
- Lower and repeat
.

See More Lower Body Exercises, Videos & Training Tutorials

Quick Training Tips

  • Squats, Deadlifts & Lunges are very effective complete lower body workouts that emphasize the Quads, Hamstrings & Glutes depending on the variations you use.
     
  • A regular squat with shoulder-width stance or slightly less keeps tension on the quads. Front squats, when you place the barbell in front near your deltoids, also increase tension on the quads.
     
  • For a little more emphasis on the inner quad, assume a slightly wider than shoulder-width stance with your toes pointed out. For emphasizing the outer quad, try hack squats.
     
  • Leg extension machines offer the best quad isolating exercise, but avoid holding the weight at the top because it can put excessive strain on the patella tendon.
     
  • Wide squats and deep squats(below parallel) recruit the hamstrings along with the glutes.| Pushing with the heels while preventing your knees from going past the toes puts more emphasis on the hamstring & glute region.
     
  • One of the best exercises for blasting the entire back of your thighs is Stiff-Legged Deadlifts, a variation of the regular Deadlift in which there is no more than a slight bend in the knees throughout the whole raising and lowering motion.
     
  • When performing Stiff-Legged Deadlifts, start with lighter weights, keep the back straight without letting it round out, and make sure you have good hamstring flexibility. Avoid going to failure in this exercise and avoid using loads in excess of 80% 1 rep-max.
     
  • Deep Lunges, where your knees almost touch the floor, and deep Reverse Lunges, going to the rear instead of forward, are effective lunge variations for hitting the hamstrings & glutes.
     
  • Side lunges are an excellent lunge variation to target the glutes. Make sure not to step out too close or too far out when lunging to the side...aim to keep your shin aligned above the placed foot.
     
  • Flutter kicks are another great exercise to really burn the glutes after doing all your major exercises. On a step or platform, lie with your face down and hips on the edge, so that your legs are hanging off with toes lightly touching the floor. Straighten & raise the legs until they are level with the hips...squeeze at the top!
     
  • Stairmasters & climbers can be very effective at firming up those buns. When you step, push through the heels and keep your body upright. Use longer, slower steps rather than short and fast steps. 

Sample Lower Body Workout

It can be tricky to the train the lower body because there are a variety of exercises to choose from, various rep ranges and ways to sequence and structure the exercises...

The sample workout below is a snapshot of how a typical legs workout should look like. However, legs training needs to be effectively periodized, meaning that there should be a long term plan to change the exercises, the rep schemes, and the overall structure of the routines. 

Barbell Squats(regular stance): after warming up, 2 sets of 10-12 reps
Stiff-Legged Deadlifts: 2 sets of 12-15 reps (don't go to failure)
Side Lunges: 2 sets of 8-10 reps
Standing Calf Raise: 2 sets of 12-15 reps
Seated Leg Extension: 2 sets of 12-15 reps
Lying Leg Curls: 2 sets of 8-10 reps
Seated Calf Raise: 2 sets of 10-12 reps

This workout can be done 1-2x  a week, with rest times of 2-4 minutes between sets depending on your goals & conditioning level. You can do Upper Body Workouts on separate days or use a 3, 4, 5 Day Training Split

Remember that effective Legs training means that you should be changing rep schemes and exercises over time, as well as using different variations of squats, deadlifts & lunges to emphasize different regions.

Click the link below to learn how to maximize your lower body development over the long term: 

 Discover the Secrets to Developing a Perfectly Balanced, Ripped Physique (95% of Gym Rats Have No Clue About This)

 

Upper: Abs | ArmsBack | Chest | Shoulders | Forearms | Biceps | Triceps | Lats | Full Upper
Lower: Quadriceps | Hamstring | Glutes | Calves | Full Lower