Want massive legs? Then try these 10 Leg Exercises For Building Big Legs Fast!
What’s the number one biggest mistake most guys do when they hit the gym? They shy away from intense leg exercises entirely. They’re all about the chest, the back and the gun show and when it comes to legs, they expect them to grow on a set or two of lunges and then some leg extensions and hamstring curls.
If you want to really up your game, you need leg exercises that’ll make your quads and hamstrings scream. I can virtually guarantee these will do it for you. Give them a try in your routine on rotation and be prepared to start seeing better results.
This leg exercise is a great move for using whenever you aren’t at the gym or simply want something that doesn’t incorporate equipment into the mix. While you can do it holding a dumbbell, doing it with just your bodyweight is fine too.
Step a few feet away from the wall and then with your back to the wall, simply lower the body down until your knees are at a 90 degree angle. Now, keeping the back pressed into the wall, hold this for at least 30 seconds, preferably 1-2 minutes.
Need more challenge? No problem. Stack a 45lb. weight plate on top of your quads as you do this and now hold it – up to two minutes. You’ll begin feeling your entire lower body shake as you do this due to the isometric contraction taking place. This is normal and shows you’re working hard! Keep crushing it.
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Glute Cable Kickbacks
Think glute cable kickbacks are for the girls? Think again. This is another of the leg exercises that guys can certainly do and they’re great for helping build out your glutes. The last thing you want is massive quads and hamstrings with a flat butt as that will create a look that’s not aesthetically pleasing to anyone.
For this one, strap an ankle band to the ankle and stand up against a cable machine. Lean forward slightly and then kick the leg back directly behind you. You will naturally adopt a forward lean, but avoid leaning forward too much.
You’ll want slower and controlled motion here, ensuring that you feel the tension on the cable at all times. I recommend 10-50 reps per set on this one, going higher the more advanced you are.
Mix it up and some days using lighter weights and higher reps and others, lower reps and heavier weight.
If you want to build intensity to this movement, try a superset with glute band walks, where you perform wide steps from side to side with a band around the upper shins. For this move, keep your weight back on your heels and take as wide of steps as possible to have those glutes really firing. Aim for a total time under tension of 30-45 seconds here rather than counting racks.
Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl
Getting into the right starting position on this exercise will be imperative to your success. What I want you to focus on doing is pressing your heels into the Swiss ball as hard as you can and then elevating your hips up off the ground. By doing this to start, you are already activating the hamstrings and glutes so now you just need to focus on keeping that tension in place as you complete the exercise.
If you’re just starting, keep both legs on the ball and do 15-20 reps per set. More advanced trainees can do this with just one leg (the other raised above you) and perform the same 15-20 reps per set.
This variation will also engage your core to a larger degree as it has to contract to keep the body balanced over the ball, so don’t be surprised if you’re feeling sore the next day.
Prone Hamstring Curl
This one of the top leg exercises is going to help you zero in on the hamstring muscle, isolating it and really focusing in on the contraction taking place. I recommend doing a time under tension for this, doing a T30 set using a moderate weight.
Want to add some variation to your routine? After doing the standard hamstring curl, prop your body up with your arms so your hips are almost rising off the bench. Now curl the weight up. You’ll immediately feel it more in the under glute region and less in the hamstrings, so is great for focusing on that glute-ham tie-in.
Try doing this for 10-12 reps, either using it as a superset with the standard hamstring curl or doing it on its own if you prefer.
Thought we were done? Here are 10 more leg exercises for building your skinny legs into wheels of steel.
One of the biggest mistakes many guys make with their physique is neglecting their lower body and forgetting to do leg exercises. A lagging lower body with a well developed upper body is a common sight in the gym and is only going to hold you back. Your legs are your foundation and what you use each and every day to power you through your session. If they’re weak, how can you expect to excel on all the other lifts you have planned?
Not to worry. Bringing up your legs can be easy when you get the right mix of exercises in order. I’ve brought to you my top 10 leg exercises for building mass, building strength, and helping you boost your fat loss progress so you can get that lean, ripped physique you’re after.
You really can’t beat the squat when it comes to building your lower body and giving your fitness a boost. Squats are going to target your quads, hip flexors, as well as the glutes, while also bringing your core muscles into play as they contract to keep you balanced.
This exercise is the king of leg exercises because it’s a test of your strength, endurance, as well as mental tenacity. Make no mistake, this is no sissy exercise. If you’re doing heavy back squats, you’ve earned your place in the gym.
I recommend varying your rep range on this move and changing up your weights as well. Anywhere from 4-12 reps works depending on what you want to focus on that day. Keep track of the weight and reps you do so you can change it up over time, adjusting something upwards so you’re making progress each and every workout. Don’t expect the weight to constantly go up. Some days, you’ll need to focus on adding more volume instead.
The barbell squat will target the quads, hamstrings, glutes, cavles, as well as all the muscles running up and down the back and the core as well.
Aim to do it fresh in your workout for maximum performance
When doing your squats, remember to keep your toes slightly pointed out. You don’t need to be very turned out, but having that slight turnout will help you go down further, utilizing the full range of motion so you see the best results possible. Don’t be afraid of going down below 90 degrees. Unless you have pre-existing injuries that will prevent you from doing so, going down lower will help improve your strength development.
Because squats are such a major lift, do them early on in your session when you’re fresh and aim to perform 5-10 sets per week. Use this exercise to your advantage.
Barbell Box Squat
If you’re already doing regular squats in your workout routine, you might wonder why you would ever need to add box squats to your leg exercises? Aren’t they just an easier version of standard squats?
Here’s the thing about box squats. While they do stop your range of motion at around 90%, preventing you from going that extra mile, they also prevent you from bouncing out of the hole. Many guys will use the bounce to help drive them upward at the bottom of the squat (this will be especially the case if you’re someone who utilizes knee wraps) and this can decrease the total strength progress you make.
The barbell box squat is a great move for when you really want to target your quads and drive them into growth. With this squat variation, you can go 10-20% heavier than you can on a regular squat, so they’re excellent to do when strength is a focus. They’re also good for avoiding injury risk as well as the knee won’t move as far past the shins.
I recommend doing 6-8 reps per set on this leg exercise and if you really want to brutalize your legs, do them after you do barbell squats.
With box squats, everything stops. You won’t have momentum to get you out of the bottom of the exercise. It’s pure power of your muscles, which can help with greater power building.
Plus, because you aren’t going down quite as low, most people find they can also lift more weight. This could help you get out of a plateau if you get stuck in one.
Try going a bit heavier than you do on standard squats and plan to do these on a day you aren’t doing your regular squats.
Dumbbell Walking Lunges
Moving on we come to dumbbell walking lunges. This exercise is fantastic for helping to hit your quads, hamstrings, and glutes and will certainly give your cardiovascular system a boost. If you’re someone who shuns traditional cardio, try doing a set of walking lunges across the room for your HIIT. It?ll be just as effective.
Quite simply, you can’t go wrong with dumbbell walking lunges. If you want mass, this is sure to do it. Be forewarned, this is also going to give you a great cardio workout as well. You’ll be gasping for air after each set is completed.
As dumbbell walking lunges are typically done as more of an endurance based exercise, do consider taking your rep range a bit higher on this move.
Aim for 8-10 reps per leg when doing this exercise, totaling 20 sets before resting.
You’ll be hitting just about every single muscle in the lower body – the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and even the calves to some degree. Make sure that when doing these, you aren’t leaning too far forward but instead, maintain a nice neutral position with your spine.
By leaning backward ever so slightly, you’ll place more emphasis on the glute muscles, helping them become more developed.
This leg exercise can be brutally effective and equally as painful if done right, but persist and you will be rewarded.
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift
As great as squats are for your workout routine, no lower body session would be complete without some sort of deadlift added into the mix. Squats put a lot of emphasis on the quad muscles, while deadlifts hit the posterior chain to a larger degree.
Having both in your program ensures you are building a well-rounded body and aren’t going to be at risk for any muscular weaknesses.
A dumbbell stiff leg deadlift is great for helping to work the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back and can be done quickly and easily as there’s no barbell to set up.
To really reap maximum gains from this move, you want to lower the weight down in a slow and controlled manner until you feel a good stretch on the hamstrings. Then pause and begin to ascent to the top and as you do, make sure you squeeze the glute muscles as hard as you can for 2-3 seconds.
This is going to help ensure maximum firing of the glute muscles and really build out their shape.
Watch as you do this move that you aren’t rounding your back out. If anything, it should remain relatively flat or even arched as you execute the movement. Do 8-10 reps per set, focusing on taking the weight heavier on this exercise.
When you feel that stretch and pull, you know you’re activating the right muscles and aren’t letting the low back do all the work for you.
This exercise will still work the low back, but it should never be the primary mover in a stiff leg variation.
You likely won’t lift as much weight with dumbbells as you would with a barbell on this leg exercise, so consider taking the reps higher to compensate.
Donkey Calf Raises
Don’t forget about those calves! Another big mistake too often seen in guys who do leg exercises in the gym is completely neglecting their calf muscles. While the calves do tend to be resistant to muscle size growth, with sufficient training, you can get them responding.
While I only do one main calf exercise in my workout routine, I’m able to get three great variations with that single exercise, ensuring I still give my calves a good workout.
Donkey calf raises are an excellent option for this smaller lower body muscle group because they hit the calves from all angles and work both the gastroc and soleus.
The key with your calf muscles is plenty of variety and enough volume. Don’t be afraid of multiple sets here – they can handle it.
When doing this exercise, you’ll want to do 7-10 reps with the feet placed in a forward, parallel position, 7-10 with the feet turned out and then a 7-10 reps with the feet turned in as well. Or, if you prefer, just do a time under tension set of 30 seconds for each position, resting briefly between sets.
What’s great about this exercise is that it allows you to hang your feet below parallel, which is going to extend your range of motion and work the calves to a much greater degree. Make sure that you use that range of motion, rather than cutting it short as some people do.
To get the best bang for your buck, do a set with your toes straight, inside and outside on the platform each time you train them.
After hitting your legs hard with some compound movements, it’s time to add in an isolation based movement. Isolation exercises aren’t typically regarded as huge mass builders, but a leg extension done to the point of exhaustion is excellent for stimulating hypertrophy and also bringing out more muscle shape and definition.
Do this one for high reps and it’ll certainly have your muscles screaming. The leg extension is going to strictly target the quad muscles while all the other lower body muscles get to have a rest.
Because this exercise is less demanding on your central nervous system compared to the other compound moves, you can add some intensity building techniques into the protocol.
For instance, try a T30-45 set, meaning you’ll ditch counting reps and instead, do as many as you can in 30 or 45 seconds. Beware you will feel the lactic acid burn with this protocol.
Or, you can try a mirror rep drop set. Do your first set, drop the weight by 30% and then do a second set after that. Aim for 8-10 reps per set when doing this set-up.
You can also change the direction you’re pointing your toes in order to change the nature of the stimulus on the muscle tissue. Point the toes out to work the inner quad, in to work the outer quad, or straight to work the quad head on.
As a replacement to the squat or simply to complement that major compound exercise, the leg press is a fantastic move to bring into your arsenal. This one of the top 10 leg exercises will hit your quads, hamstrings, and glutes and will allow for excellent power generation.
When doing the leg press, be sure to keep the back pressed flat into the back pad at all times (never let the low back round as you drive the weight up) and go as low down as you can go.
Drop sets are especially effective on this exercise, so try stripping one plate off the machine after each set. Do a few of these with little rest in between and you’ll really feel it burning.
Smith Machine Stiff Leg Deadlift
A good exercise to alternate between with your dumbbell stiff leg deadlift is the smith machine stiff leg deadlift. This exercise will hit your hamstrings, glutes, as well as your core as it contracts for stabilization.
The nice thing about the stiff machine deadlift is because the bar is running along the tracks, there’s no chance of you moving out of proper alignment. For many, this can help save their form.
When doing the smith machine stiff leg deadlift, you’ll want to focus on squeezing your glutes at the top of every single rep for a few seconds. This helps improve the mind-muscle connection and increases overall activation.
Smith Machine Calf Raise
If you don’t have a donkey calf raise machine available, the smith machine can be a great stand-in. Get underneath the bar and then simply begin rising up through the toes, performing your calf raises.
Want to give yourself an extra boost? Stand on top of a box so you can hit the decline better. Feeling the stretch on the calf and coming out of the hole will help train this muscle even harder.
Finally, be sure that you turn your feet in, out, and then do this exercise straight-on as well for optimal results.
Split Leg Lunge Jumps
Lastly we come to split leg lunge jumps. This is perfect to do at the end of your workout session as a finisher and will help to hit your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, all while increasing your plyometric power.
These can be done without weight or with a weighted vest – your choice. Be sure to do them on a non-concrete surface in order to save your joints. They’ll be great for building athleticism and explosiveness.
Did you enjoy these leg exercises? Then check out comprehensive directory of other exercises.
I’m Troy and I’m the creator of SuperHuman You and Co-Founder of Alpha Lion.
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