The Best Leg Exercises to Develop A Strong Lower Body
I think everyone could agree that having a strong set of legs is important for health, fitness and overall functionality.
Your legs are your driving force.
Training your lower body will provide an enormous amount of benefits- benefits that training the upper body could never achieve. In addition, well developed legs look good.
If you have chicken legs, don't fear. We did too.
* (well, we still kind of do, but much less chicken then before)
Welcome to the third installment of the WCT Body Building series. In Part 1 How to Build Your Arms, we go over the best exercises to grow and develop your upper Body.
In Part 2, How to Build Bigger Glutes, we discuss the best exercises to help grow a natural bum.
This post will go over the best leg exercises to build strength and tone your leg muscles.
You may need to sit down for this one...
This post is going to cover:
The Anatomy of the Leg Muscles
The Benefits of A Strong Lower Body
The Best Leg Exercises
Leg Exercises You Can Do At Home
Leg Workouts For Men & Women
The Anatomy of the Leg Muscles
The legs are composed of three major muscle groups: The Flexors, The Extensors and the Adductors.
- Quadriceps (Vastus Medialis, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Intermedius and Rectus Femoris)
- Hamstrings (Semitendinosis, Semimembranosis, and Biceps Femoris)
- Adductors (Magnus, Brevis, Longus)
The quadriceps muscles are located in the front of your thigh. They connect your anterior pelvic bone to your knee. As you can guess, they are composed of 4 muscles.
They function to extend or straighten your knee
The hamstring muscles are located in the back of your thigh. They connect your posterior pelvis to the back of your knee.
The hamstrings function to flex your knee, AND extend or straighten your hip when your trunk is flexed.
The adductor muscles are located on the inside part of your thigh.
They function to adduct, or bring your thigh back in towards your body
The Tremendous Benefits of Leg Workouts
The muscles of your upper leg are large compared to the other muscles in your body. As such, working out your legs elicits the largest possible stimulus, exercise can provide.
Leg Workouts Increase Muscle Mass
- The stimulation of these large muscles causes the release of several muscle building hormones, far more than any upper body workout could ever provide.
Leg Workouts Help You Lose Weight
- As such, training your legs will help you lose weight. As we discuss in How to Exercise to Lose Weight, increasing your muscle mass will significantly ramp up your metabolism, and thus fat loss.
Leg Workouts Improve Your Functionality
- You need strong legs to walk. You need strong legs to run. You need strong legs to hike. You need strong legs to carry your groceries home. You need strong legs to go up flights of stairs. I can go on and on but I'll stop there.
The Best Leg Exercises Known to Man
So now that you're convinced, lets go over the best leg exercises ever.
If you have ready any other WCT Post, you will probably know that best exericse is:
There are so many different variations of the squat exercise, there is no way that you cannot perform this exercise. You can do them with barbells, dumbbells, or just your own bodyweight.
Squats are a lot like BOGO. They train your Quadriceps and your Adductors at the same time.
Here are some Bodyweight Variations:
Here are some Barbell Variations:
The Leg Press is one of the few machine exercises that are useful. Do not go overboard with this exercise. Control the speed of the repetitions, and do not slam your knees at the lockout.
The Best Hamstring Exercises
All of the aforementioned exercises train your quadriceps and your adductors. We haven't given the Hamstrings any love yet. Here are the three best hamstring exercises.
The Romanian Deadlift is one of the best hamstring exercises available.
The RDL isolates the hamstrings and glute muscles more than the conventional deadlift.
The DL is the next best exercise to develop the hamstring muscles. We have written ad nauseam about the deadlift, and we have extensive tutorials on it which can be found Here
Ball Leg Curl
The two prior exercises train your hamstrings ability to extend the hip with the trunk flexed. This exercise trains your hamstrings ability to flex your knee.
It is not as important as the other two, but it is a nice addition to add to your arsenal.
Leg Exercises at Home
Don't have time to make it to the gym? Don't have any equipment? No problem.
There are many variations you can perform from the comfort of your own home. All of these will strengthen your legs adequately.
Body Weight Squat Variation from Above
Lunges without weight
Split Squat without weight (use a chair or any other household item)
Single Leg Glute Bridge
How Many Times a Week Should You Workout Legs?
As with all major muscle groups, 1 to 2 times a week is sufficient. Because the legs are so powerful, it is important to give them adequate rest. If it takes 1 week to recover, so be it.
You can perform as little as 5 reps on leg exercises, and up to 12. Anything beyond 12 provides diminishing returns.
Is it OK To Skip Leg Day?
Is it ok to take a day off from taking care of your kids?
Didn't think so.
Training legs is easy.
You only have to do it 1-2 times a week. You have to take care of your kids 7 days a week.
Sample Leg Workout at the gym
If you have access to a gym, here is a sample routine you can use for 8-12 weeks to help develop your lower body. There are two dedicated lower body days in this program.
This workout could be performed in 35 minutes.
A) Front Squat 3 x 6 reps
B1) Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift 3 x 10 reps
B2) Lunges 3 x 8 reps each leg
A) Back Squat 3 x 8 reps
B) Conventional Deadlift 2 x 6 reps
C) Ball Leg Curls 3 x 12 repetitions
Leg Workouts for Women
Women do not need any special considerations when working out their legs. All of the principles laid out above hold true for both and women.
Women should train their legs 1 to 2 times a week, for 5-12 repetitions per exercise.
As we mention in all of our bodybuilding posts, women can generally handle more volume than men. What this means is that they can usually perform more sets and more repetitions then men without as much fatigue.
If you are a woman and you haven't noticed any substantial changes to your leg physique, try increasing your volume.
If you want to be the strongest and healthiest version of yourself, then your legs must be trained.
Jogging will not do.
Use these exercises to develop and tone the biggest and most powerful muscles in your body.
Do you want to learn the absolute best exercises to improve your health and fitness? Check out The Only Exercises You Need to Build Strength and Fitness. Almost every other exercise is a waste of time.
What do you prefer?
Muscular legs? Toned legs? Neither?
Comment below and let us know.
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