Training your legs is arguably far more important than training any other muscle group in your body. And the obvious reason for this? Simply the fact that the legs contain more muscle than anywhere else in the body. Muscles like your hamstrings and quadriceps are far larger than muscles like your biceps or triceps, and so by working these you are going to trigger a lot more growth overall leading to more growth hormone being produced and more fat being burned. While many people who train at the gym casually then will ignore their legs, the more hardcore and serious bodybuilders know how important they are and some sources even state that it’s impossible to grow beyond a certain point if you aren’t training your legs.
So in other words, if you aren’t already doing it you need to start punishing those leg muscles as soon as possible. Here we will look at some exercises for your legs to get you started.
Squats: Squats are the single most powerful move in the gym full stop and absolutely crucial if you want to build powerful legs. These are best performed using a squatting rack where you will lift a barbell off onto your shoulders and then squat down slowly by bending your knees until you are poised as though you were sitting in an imaginary chair. Then from this point you simply push through your legs to stand back up – making certain the whole time not to bed your spine at all and to keep it completely straight.
Deadlift: The deadlift, like the squats above, is another one of the ‘big three’ compound movements meaning it will utilize multiple muscle groups in a single go and will result in maximum gains as a result. Here you again lift a barbell, but this time you will pick it straight up off of the ground in front of you by squatting down and grabbing it on the floor with both hand then standing directly up, again making sure not to bend your back at all.
Calf Raises: Simply take a weight in each hand and then step on the edge of a wooden block or a step so that you can let your heels drop lower than the balls of your feet and then stand up on tip toes to engage the calves. Another variation of the calf raise meanwhile is to sit down with the weight resting on your knees and then to lift it by going up onto tip toes that way.
Lunges: Put a barbell across your shoulders, or take a dumbbell in both hand, and then step far forward and deep so that your back leg is stretching with the knee nearly touching the ground. Now step back and repeat on the other side.
Leg Press: The leg press has you in a chair with a flat surface opposite in front of you to push away with your feet. This is basically a squat but easier and safer, and it won’t train all the supporting muscles in the same way.
Hamstring Curls: Here you lie flat on your face on a bench with your heels hooked over some pads which you then curl up to touch your buttocks to work your hamstrings. These isolate the hamstrings as the name may suggest.
Leg Extensions: Sitting in a chair with pads on the bridge of your foot you simply extend your legs as though you were kicking outwards in order to lift the pads. This trains the quadriceps.
Hip Abductors/Adductors: These are moves where you use your thigh muscles to bring pads in towards your other leg, or out to the side. These can be accomplished sitting down with the pads outside or between your legs (like you’re about to give birth) or standing up.
Calf Raises: To do calf raises with just your bodyweight simply do it on one leg while balancing on the edge of a step. Or you can do the exercise where you had the dumbbell on your upper leg, but simply push down on it with your hand instead.
One Legged Squat: And going on one leg can also make the squat much harder too as you might imagine. For both these exercises you can place your hand lightly against a wall or door to stabilize yourself through the movements.
Lunge Walking: Here you lunge forward, but rather than using weight and then returning to the starting position, you are instead going to use just your bodyweight and step all the way through with your other leg so that you are in the opposite position. This way you are essentially walking but taking long and very deep strides to work the leg muscles and this can provide a great workout.
Jack in the Box: Crouch down into a ball with your arms around your knees and then explode up and outwards to throw your hands and feet out in a star jump before returning to the starting position. This works the same muscles as the lunge walking and squat, but in a more explosive fashion that will train the fast twitch muscle fibers.
Box Jumps: Another way to work those fast twitch fibers is to practice jumping up onto a box and then off again which requires a lot of explosive power. If you want to make this harder try using a higher box, or even hopping up onto it with one foot.
Sissy Squats: Sissy squats are squats where you don’t use weights, but use a much more difficult position instead. To do these, bend your knees forward so they are pointing in front of you and you are on your tip toes, and have your upper body leaning backwards so that you are nearly parallel to the floor – then bend at the knees to lower yourself like Neo from the Matrix and back up. This is hard on the knees so not recommended for anyone with existing problems.
Running: And there’s also of course nothing wrong with good old fashioned running, which is a great way to train a lot of the muscles in the legs and at the same time to burn fat and increase your production of growth hormone and other positive hormones.