Want bigger sculpted legs? Here’s now to get there with the top leg workouts you can do at the gym!
Hitting the weights a lot lately? We sure hope you’re remembering to incorporate leg exercises into your routine or you might end up looking like an upside down pyramid. Nice and heavy at the top, with toothpick legs at the bottom. Not exactly the best look.
But we get it, we really do. Leg day probably isn’t your favorite, so you’re probably tempted to skip it a few times… or a lot of times.
Don’t be tempted.
And no, it’s not just about squats.
There are a few tricks to building bigger, stronger legs. We’ll answer questions like:
- what are the best leg exercises,
- what’s the best leg workout,
- how to work legs correctly
- and which ways are going to bring you the most results.
Why should you train legs? Well, where do start? If you want a balanced physique and a strong attractive lower body, there’s no way around it. Running and other cardio won’t do it. In case you need any more convincing, here are: 6 Biggest Reasons You Must Train Legs.
Ready to get started?
Let’s take a look at the science stuff first.
Leg Day Workout Background
Let’s review the muscles in the leg so we know exactly what we want to target. The quadriceps is made up of four muscles that are basically that chunk of muscle at the very front of the thigh.
Those four so-called “heads” of the quads are the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius.
As for the back of the leg, it’s mostly made up of three major muscled that contract the hamstring tendon. Those muscles are the biceps femoris, the semimembranosus, and the semitendinosus
And the calf muscle has two main muscles – the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Most of the calf is made up of the gastrocnemius.
Those are the major muscle groups that we want to focus on for the best visual development. There are a lot of smaller muscles that can play a role in your body’s ability to train those larger muscles, but we don’t need to focus on those. Instead, with the advice and exercises we provide, these smaller muscles will grow with the larger ones.
Leg Day Workout Myths and Mistakes
What do you think the three biggest mistakes people make when it comes to a good leg workout?
The first mistake is focusing their attention to the wrong type of exercises in their leg workout. A majority of individuals spend too much of their time on isolation and machine exercises. While these are good for your body, they aren’t going to get you to bigger, stronger legs.
The second mistake is bad squats. Partial squats are one of the biggest mistakes you can make – and the most common.
Do you know about proper squat form?
There are other mistakes, too, like bowing your knees in, keeping your body hunched over and allowing your knees to push out way beyond your toes. This can increase your risk of injury and not get the job done right at all.
The third mistake is a killer – and that’s spending all of your time focused mostly on high-rep training. We say it’s a killer because it can actually hinder any muscle group within your body from growing. Do you know about How Many Reps to Perform for Building Muscle?
Pretty crazy, huh?
And if you’re lifting heavy, you will need to focus on eating properly to actually build muscle outside of the gym. This means ample protein, fat, and carbohydrates or you just won’t see results. Do you the best tasting protein shakes for building muscle?
Big Legs Training Secrets: Go Heavy
The first thing you’re going to want to do is spend your time with heavy weights in terms of your leg workout. For big legs, an effective leg workout means you need to spend your focus on heavy lifts. This means aiming for a rep range of either four to six or five to seven.
And secondly, use your leg workout to help you focus more on progressive yet sufficient overload. This means you’re going to want to turn to exercises like the front squat, the back squat, the barbell lunge and the hack squat.
Guess what else is important?
Both the frequency of the exercise and the volume of your training.
Of course, in comparison to ideal rep ranges, frequency in terms of training is yet another controversial fitness topic.
But basically, what it comes down to is this:
Frequency of leg workout day should be determined by the overall intensity of the workout itself and the volume of exercises or work performed in the workout.
If you’re using pretty light weights, and not doing as many sets every workout, you can train that specific muscle group more often throughout the week. If not, going heavy will cause more growth and require more rest.
For example, if you’re using one of our Ultimate Bodyweight Workout routines, you can do this a few times a week. But for heavy weight low rep training, you’ll see increases in muscle size, but your body will need recovery time.
So, if you’re using some pretty heavy weights and you’re aiming for more sets for every workout, then you’re going to want to train that muscle group less often, since it’s a more hardcore workout.
Researchers at Gothenburg University had a few words to say on the subject. In terms of various kinds of splits and frequency, they came up with what they believed to be the best.
If you’re training and using the proper intensity by using your focus on lifting heavy weights, the best frequency appears to be performed is forty to sixty reps. Because this is a fairly heavy load, you can do this every five to seven days. And that’s the goal you should aim for.
According to university study, an effective leg workout includes 40-60 total reps, heavy weight, performed every 5-7 days.
And sure, this works for legs, but you can apply this to any other major muscle group you’re currently working on.
Big Legs Techniques and Leg Workout Hacks
If you considered yourself advanced in terms of weightlifting (by this, we mean at least 3 or ore years of proper training), you may want to bump this number up. We suggest keeping it within the seventy to eighty rep range. If you want to go above that amount, you may find yourself getting overtrained, fatigued and injured and that’s a set of problems no fitness lover wants.
Do you know what the signs are that you might be overtraining?
So what exactly are the best kind of exercises you can do for good legs? There are a select few that are really going to get the job done.
First on our list is the barbell back squat.
This probably isn’t going to come as a surprise to you, as you probably know already that the squat is by far, the best and more effective leg exercise around.
Because it literally targets every single muscle in your legs–not to mention:
Squats target 85% of your body’s muscle mass, if you skip that, you might as well skip the gym entirely.
….BUT, you must do them correctly. If your form is wrong, the results are going to be wrong (not to mention potentially harmful).
Remember: the more shallow a squat is, the less the muscles in your legs have to do, so you aren’t going to see a big jump in both strength or muscle growth.
Proper Squat Form:
Keep your chest up, with your shoulders back. You want both your head and your spine in a neutral position, with your knees behind your toes. If you follow these key steps, you’re going to have the proper form.
There are also a ton of benefits to doing a full squat, which is essentially makes your butt and legs do even more work.
Because it entails things like flexibility and mobility, our suggestion is start with the parallel squat and working your way up. Once your strength grows, you can add in the full squat.
Now before we jump to the next exercise, let’s talk about one of the biggest issues people have when they’re trying to keep their form while squatting.
That would be lack of both flexibility and mobility in the lower body.
You’ll hear us talk a lot about how to Increase Your Flexibility to Prevent Injuries.
Why? Because the most common issue in weightlifting is injury from lack of flexibility training. With squats, this issue comes down to hip flexibility. This lapse in training can prevent just about anyone from doing a squat correctly. But other things, like stiffness in the calf and ankle or tightness in the hamstring, can mess with your form as well.
Try a squat mobility routine to get your form on point.
Next is the barbell front squat, which is one of the best workout variations, you should know about.
This is an awesome exercise when you really want to enhance your quads. Plus it takes any extra stress off of your lower back, so you can keep your form proper.
If you’re coming back from an injury, or have trouble with your lower back, try a Squat-Free Lower Body Routine.
We know you probably aren’t looking forward to this one – but the more you do it, the easier it is going to get – aka less awkward and more doable.
Another exercise that really enhances the quads (and the glutes) is the dumbbell or barbell lunge. Mix it into your routine and see if it’s a better fit for you.
You can also try the Romanian deadlift, which really targets hamstring muscles and carves them out.
We aren’t generally big advocates for using machines when it comes to sculpting but hear us out for this one.
The hack squat sled, which puts virtually no stress on your lower back, is extremely effective with enhancing the quads too.
Another machine we’re OK with recommending is the leg press machine.
It’s pretty effective when it comes to leg training and also enhances the quads, but gets the glutes and hamstring muscles, too.
You can also try a standing or seated calf raise.
It’s a fairly easy exercise and it’s an absolute killer when it comes to building calves. The seated calf raise is more successful at not putting any stress on your lower back, even as you bump up the weights.
Finally, you can also give calf raises on the leg press a shot. It’s a good variant for building calf muscles and adds an extra bonus: you get a full range of motion here.
Like all exercises, it’s not just doing that matters – it is progressing. Progressing with exercises will give you the results you want and keep your muscle mass going. As you go about your exercises, push yourself and bump up your weights. Focus on heavy weights and the exercises we named that target the quads and hamstrings. The higher the rep work, the more the weights, the more you’re going to see.
Top Leg Workouts You Can Use At The Gym
We’ll leave you with a leg regimen to try over the course of the next 8 weeks.
What do you need:
If you don’t have access to a gym, having a few sets of dumbbells at home can go a long way towards enabling your home workouts. If you’re modifying your workout to perform from home, consider picking up:
If you can, do this routine every five to seven days.
- Start with a warm up and switch to the barbell back squat. (using the dumbbells braced on your shoulders with your hands if modifying) Aim for four to six reps of 3.
- Next, if your gym as a hack squat (use a hack squat sled if it doesn’t), do the same – four to six reps of 3.
- Switch over to the dumbbell lunge and, maintaining your proper form, doing three sets of six to eight reps. If you aren’t able to keep your form, drop to do four to six.
- After that, do 3 sets of four to six reps of hamstring curls.
- Ready to target your glutes? If your legs don’t feel like jello, you can go for the hip thrust. Strive for three sets of six to eight reps.
If you hit the very stop of your rep range, congrats! Now move it on up. You want to keep going and boosting your weights so your muscle can continue to grow.
And of course, rest in between each set. Take 2 to 3 minutes to give your muscles some time to recover. You’re going to be pushing them to their maximum capacity so you want to make sure you avoid injury, but are still working as hard as you can to get to your goal.
When it comes to recovery, there’s nothing more effective than keeping an ample supply of clean, effective Whey Protein on hand. Bring a shake to the gym so that you can ensure to get this into your body within 30 minutes of your workout for ideal results.
Combine this leg workout with proper nutrition to fit into your broader routine and you’ll be working with souped up wheels in no time. Your legs are a huge muscle group that cannot be ignored in terms of achieving a balanced physique.
So remember, friends, don’t let friends skip leg day.
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