The Legs Workout To Build Bigger Legs Fast

Best leg workouts: this leg exercise will build bigger, more toned legs. Do NOT neglect leg day!

The Legs Workout To Build Bigger Legs Fast

Want to get big legs? Well maybe not, but you're after the best leg exercises to build and tone your thighs, calves and glutes.

If you're reading this, you are probably on a mission to get in shape, bulk up, get ripped, get shredded or turn some of that superfluous tub into powerful muscle that's both functional and, dare we say it, attractive (to some people, at least).

The problem is, many folk tend to rush to a local gym and start frantically curling dumbbells, incorrectly benching foolishly heavy weights and endlessly ab crunching in pursuit of a dream body.

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We hate to break it to you, but it's a little more complicated than that and rewards will be reaped if you embark on a well-rounded workout programme that's supported by good nutritional information and a solid grasp of how to perform exercises safely and efficiently.

You can have a look through some of our other workout guides from top personal trainers should you want a better idea of where to start, or specialise in a particular body part.  

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“A quick scroll through the social media channels reveals that the days of big chests and bulging biceps might be over, as people want to develop a more natural, athletic look,” explains personal trainer and nutritionist Frankie Foster.

“Having a powerful lower body is a display of athleticism. Take a look at any professional sports player and you will see they are no stranger to training their legs.”

“But a solid set of leg exercises doesn’t come easy; it requires serious mental toughness,” explains the Love Island star.

External links: Follow Frankie Foster on Instagramfor more shirtless pics and workout guides.

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The monster leg workout: before you start

It's wise to invest in a foam roller

Don't go steaming into a new leg routine (or any new routine, for that matter) a 'roid-raging bull in a protein shop, because you'll only hate the workout, or sustain an injury and put the programme off track.

Introduce yourself to this workout gently and begin with very light weights until you've mastered the exercise in question and can confidently perform 8-10 reps without breaking a sweat.

Also, legs are complicated beasts and are essentially made up of lots of large and small muscle groups. For this reason, they tend to ache after exercise far more than any other body part.

Delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS if you're into gym-speak) can range from a slight ache hours after a routine, to “ouch, don't touch my damn thighs” pain two or three days after you've worked out.

Don't panic, it's normal, and you can reduce the sensation with ice packs, stretching, rest and massage. Or invest in a decent foam roller that helps work tightness the affected area.  

“Leg training is not for the faint hearted,” Frankie explains. “For optimal results, you will need to gradually crank up the intensity using resistance training, and for that reason, I suggest you get yourself a membership to a gym with a good spread of free weights,” he adds.

If you'd rather skip the membership and build a muscle-scaping man-cave at home, check out our guides to the best fitness equipment below.

A word on nutrition

“Growing any muscle group requires adequate stimulus plus adequate calories and protein,” Frankie explains.

“To build muscle, your body needs to be in a calorie surplus, this means eating more calories than you burn. The average man needs around 2,500 calories per day to maintain the same weight, so you want to be in a calorie surplus of around 250 calories per day if training hard,” he adds.

You'll also hear a lot said about protein, because it is essential to repairing and building muscle mass, so you'll need to inject more of this into your diet.

Introducing protein-rich healthy foods to the diet is the best way, but you can also supplement this with protein powders and we have a selection of the best here. 

“Where protein is concerned, you want to aim for two grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight,” says Frankie.

“For example, I weigh 90kg, and therefore I aim to eat 180g of protein per day. But also try and time your carbohydrate intake around training. Leg training requires a lot of energy, so you don’t want to be doing your heavy sets with depleted carb stores,” he adds.

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Frankie Foster knows the way to impressive legs

Frankie Foster's monster legs workout

Before we get going on the workout, there are three things you should never forget when aiming to build muscle:

Intensity: you need to be working hard.

Volume: you need to be performing adequate sets and reps per session.

Frequency: you need to be training that muscle group at least twice a week.

Ease yourself into legs training gently, but when you are familiar with the manoeuvres, aim to start adding more weight each week.

This workout features few reps, so make sure the weight is enough make you work hard.

1. Back Squat

5 sets of 5 reps: 120 seconds rest between sets

This is the Holy Grail of leg exercises and the high sets/low reps help build size and strength. But this only works if you push the weight each week. 

Set the barbell across your upper back and pull it into your body, engaging your upper back muscles. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and toes turned slightly out with a strong posture. Engage your core. 

Initiate the movement by breaking at the hip, and squat down until your hip crease is below the top of knee in a controlled fashion, keeping your back flat at all times. Do not round your back, otherwise it can cause injury.

Return to the starting position in an explosive manner and that, sir, is one rep. Just four more and you've completed a set.  

Learn to deadlift for solid gains

2. Romanian Deadlift

4 sets of 8 reps: 90 seconds rest between sets

Once mastered, this is a great compound movement that allows you to lift a lot of weight and load up your hamstrings.

Begin by holding a barbell at waist height, knuckles facing out and your feet directly below your hips, also facing forwards.

With slightly bent legs, initiate the movement by breaking at the hip. Imagine you are trying to tap your bum on a wall behind you but keep the back flat and chest high.

Ensuring your back stays flat throughout the motion, lower the barbell until you feel it in the back of your legs, and then return to start position. 

As with many exercises, this one is all about correct form, so ask a qualified personal trainer for advice or check out the many video tutorials online for help.

3. Leg Press 

3 sets of 12 reps: 90 seconds rest in between sets

You will need a leg press machine for this one, which typically means joining your local gym, but it's one of the best pieces of equipment for developing big quad muscles.

Start with feet just outside of hip-width and lower the machine slowly towards the body. Once knees are bent and pressure builds on the quads, fire back to the starting position in an explosive move. 

Remember to keep your lower back pushed in to the back rest at all times and never fully lock out your legs when returning to the starting position. 

Grab the Swiss Ball to target the hamstrings

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4. Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl

3 sets of 12 reps: 90 seconds rest in between sets

This exercise targets the hamstrings but requires very little in the way of equipment or weights. Invest in a Swiss Ball and get ready to feel the burn the next day with this one. 

Lie on your back and place your feet on a Swiss Ball. Make a bridge by lifting your hips and then pull the ball towards your body, digging your heels into the ball.

Return the ball to its starting position in a controlled manner without dropping your hips and that completes one rep. 

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5. Bodyweight Lunge 

100 reps in as few sets as possible

This is the ultimate workout finisher and typically requires a favoured playlist or some pumping tunes to get you through the burn.

It's super simple: you are going to perform 100 controlled lunges in as few sets as possible.

To perform a lunge, simply step forward with one leg and drop the opposite knee until the shinbone is parallel with the floor. 

That's one rep, so return to the starting position and swap legs until you've completed 100. This will hurt. 

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Want workouts for the rest of you?

Don't worry, T3 will boast a catalogue of workouts that target the rest of your body with a series of features on ways to get fitter using tech (and just a teensy bit of sweat and effort).

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Build Monster Legs With This Workout!

The Legs Workout To Build Bigger Legs Fast

First things first: You can track down the so-called “World's Best Mass-Building Leg Workout”—yes, it exists—or thousands of lookas, but none of them will mean squat, pun intended, if you can't push yourself hard in the gym. On leg day more than any other, effort correlates with success. In order to build bigger legs, hamstrings, and glutes, you must want to quit—and then not succumb to that wish.

And then, of course, you still need to follow a well-constructed routine. Sure, you can put a hurtin' on your quads with endless triple dropsets of leg extensions that'll surely have you screaming in pain, but that alone isn't going to get you growth. The burn is part of the plan, but not all of it.

Squats are the obvious place to begin your leg-day thrashing.

The approach here is nothing earth-shattering. It's built around the fundamentals, arranged in time-proven sequences and rep ranges. It's effective, but just to be clear, it's not for beginners.

Several of the movements are technically challenging—more than they often get credit for, in the case of back squats and front squats—so you must take the time to become proficient at them before going heavy.

If you're on the fence, the “Starting Strong” workout in my article “The 7 Best Workouts For Thicker Quads, Glutes, And Hams” is be a better option for now. Then come back when you're ready, and you'll get all you can handle from this routine!

1. Start With A Free-Weight Squat Variation

Squats are the obvious place to begin your leg-day thrashing. Why? Let us count the ways. Squats are the most challenging leg movement, you can move the most weight with them, they recruit all the lower-body musculature (and more core and upper body than you might think), and they've been shown to spike muscle-building hormone release better than any other movement.

Squats are actually a family of exercises that combine hip and knee extension, and there are any number of variations, all of which have their own value. Some differ by bar placement, others by type of equipment used, and still others by foot position.

Yes, you could start your leg day with front squats or a single-leg squat variation. But for this mass-building routine, we're going with the high-bar back squat, in which the barbell sits atop the upper traps. This version is preferred by most bodybuilders because it hits the lower-body musculature fairly evenly, and because you can move more weight with it than most other variations.

The most common recommendation is to squat at least to a point at which your thighs are about parallel to the floor, but honestly, that's relative to each individual and their flexibility. No matter how deep you go, it's paramount that your spine remains neutral and never rounds into what is known as 'butt wink', which can put dangerous forces on the discs.

The solution: Work on your flexibility; tightness in your hip flexors and calves can also affect the depth of your squats. That, along with tightening up your technique will pay off big time—as long as the form is good, a deeper squat is always a better squat.

Go down as far as you can while keeping your back neutral.

Make It Monster

Do multiple warm-up sets, pyramiding up in weight each time, but never come close to failure in warm-ups.

Most workouts designate the 8- to 12-rep range as the proper muscle-building zone, but in the first few working sets of your workout, when your strength levels are highest, opt for the heavier loads.

So instead of choosing a weight at which you fail at about 8 reps, go slightly heavier for sets of about 6. This gives you a slightly better strength-building stimulus.

2. Do Another Squat Variation, Adjusting The Intensity And Angle

No, it's not time to start doing machines yet. In this workout, you won't even go near a machine until the end of your training session.

We're still looking at knee- and hip-extension movements, and your best choice is probably one that matches up best with your personal weaknesses. Most recreational lifters come up a little short with quad development, so the front squat is the on-deck hitter in this routine.

The simple change of moving the bar from behind your head to the front changes how the load is distributed over the lower-body musculature. It emphasizes the quads over the glutes and hams, which means you'll have to lighten the load. The movement also requires that you maintain a more vertical position, which can be kinder to your back while also enabling you to squat deeper.

3. Add A Heavy Posterior-Chain Movement

The Romanian deadlift is the perfect backside builder to slot in after your squats. It's an upper-hamstrings/glute exercise that's un most other single-joint moves because you can really overload it.

Plus, most hamstrings exercises are leg-curl movements (which work around the knee joint), while this one is performed by bending at the hips.

It's vastly underutilized in most trainers' workouts, another reason it's probably a good fit in your routine.

But as with most heavy movements, the key is to not do it wrong, which can put your back at risk. With RDLs, you never want to allow your lower back to round or the bar to drift away from your shins.

If this makes it really hard to go down to the ground, good—you shouldn't be going all the way to the ground on RDLs anyway.

Just get a good stretch, go down as far as you can while keeping your back neutral, and come back up.

Barbell Romanian Deadlift

Learning good form is imperative, so keep practicing with light weight. Once you've got the technique down, start loading this up, but always be cognizant of keeping your back flat.

4. Include A Unilateral Movement To Work Each Leg Individually

Now that you've got the heavy bilateral work the way, it's time to work each of your legs individually. The Bulgarian split squat, where you stabilize your rear leg on a bench behind you, is an ideal choice.

Elevating your rear leg forces the front thigh, especially the quad, to pick up more of the workload, while also torching the glute of that leg. If the balance component is too difficult at first, you can substitute split squats or lunges.

In a pinch, you can do these on the Smith machine.

Don't let the fact that you can't load these up back squats fool you into thinking this is a weak movement.

On the contrary, it's a leg builder of the first order, according to strength coach and researcher Parker Hyde.

“Some EMG evidence suggests that 4 sets with your 10-rep max with Bulgarians aren't too different from back squats,” Hyde says. “The same study also found similar testosterone responses to Bulgarians and back squats.”[1]

5. Add Volume As You Train For The Pump

You won't build great legs with machines alone, which is why the leg press isn't very high on the list. But machines are ideal at increasing your training volume later in your workout, when your thighs are fried and you have trouble maintaining balance and good form.

What's more, you can adjust your foot position to change the focus. Higher on the sled hits the glutes and hams more, while lower on the sled shifts more of the focus to the quads. wise, the deeper you go, the more the hams and glutes have to work.

Since this portion of the workout is when you're looking to deliver a serious pump to your muscles, dropsets make far more sense here than, say, with back squats. The pump promotes hypertrophy by driving blood into the tissue, a different growth mechanism than the tension generated by those heavy squat sets early in your routine.

6. Finish The Hamstrings With A Single-Joint Movement

The hamstrings are antagonists to the quads, so you want to ensure they're getting plenty of work to match what you've been doing for the front side of your body.

A leg-curl movement, which better emphasizes the lower half of the hamstrings above the knee, is also a nice complement to the upper-hams-focused RDL. It's a pump movement of the first order as well, making it a perfect finisher before you stagger into the locker room

The Monster Leg Workout

  • Warm-up sets are not included; do as many as you need, but never take warm-ups to muscle failure.
  • Choose a weight that allows you to approach muscle failure by the target rep listed. Rest as needed, but try to decrease the amount of rest you need over time.
  • On exercises 5 and 6, do a double dropset on your final set. That is, once you reach initial muscle failure, quickly reduce the load by about 25 percent and continue the set.
  • Once you reach failure again, do another 25 percent drop and do as many reps as you can.
  • On the first week of this program, do just 2 sets of the first two exercises to control the degree of muscle soreness, and stop all sets of all movements about a rep short of muscle failure. As you progress, adjust the volume and exercise selection as necessary to ensure you remain within your abilities.


Ultimate Leg Day Workout That Will Give You Big Legs Fast

The Legs Workout To Build Bigger Legs Fast

Your leg day workout is crucial in achieving a symmetrical, good looking physique. You don’t want to be a gym buff with chicken legs, right? Follow this leg workout for mass building, and train your lower body a champ!

The Leg Mass Building Rule

Successful leg mass building relies on a 4-point rule. First, you must start the workout with the most strenuous exercises and the heaviest weights. Second, you have to hit the thighs from different angles. Third and fourth, you need to keep every routine’s volume high and train to muscle failure.

This is a reverse-pyramid program to let you take more sets to muscle failure. We’ll be hitting four muscle groups — quads, calves, hamstrings, and glutes — in this mass-building workout. Ready to build and toughen up those chicken legs?

1. Barbell Squat

(4 sets of 6-10 reps, lighten the load after the first 2 sets)

Make a hip-width stance with your toes facing slightly outward. Support the barbell on the top of your trap muscles, chest up, and head facing forward.

Bend your knees slowly, while driving them outward and keeping your back straightened. Hinge your hips and your knees will move forward. Make sure the bar moves in a straight line up and down.

Slowly keep the weight on your heels and push up to go back to your initial position.

2. Leg Press

(4 sets of 8-10 reps)

Set the weight then sit on the machine placing your feet (shoulder width) on the footplate in front of you. Make sure to press your back firmly against the backrest.

To start, lower the footplate’s safety bar and press all the way up so that your legs are fully extended creating a 90-degree with your torso and legs. Remember to keep the knees bent slightly when extended to avoid injuries or accidents.

Slowly lower the footplate as you inhale to make a 90-degree angle with your upper and lower legs. Place the weight on your heels and push the plate back to your starting position. Finish your reps, and don’t forget to lock the safety pins after.

Tip: Put your feet up higher on the footplate to work your hams and glutes. Make sure your hands are always on the safety bars for your own protection.

3. Dumbbell Walking Lunge

(3 sets of 10-14 steps each side)

Begin with a hip-width stance holding a dumbbell in each hand.

Put one leg forward, bending your knees to lower your hips. Dip until your back knee nearly meets the floor. Keep an upright posture, and avoid moving your front knee past your toes to avoid injury.

Put your weight on your front foot’s heel and ascend from the lunge. Switch sides and repeat.

4. Leg Extensions

(3 sets, 8-12 reps)

Set the load, sit on the machine keeping your legs hooked under the foot pads, and put your hands on the sidebars. Make sure that your upper and lower legs form a perfect 90-degree to avoid undue stress on your knees. Always keep your knees aligned with your toes.

As you exhale, extend your legs fully using your quads. Keep your back flat on the padded seat during the movement. Pause and squeeze for a moment and then slowly retreat to your original position.

Repeat until you finish the set.

5. Romanian Deadlift

(3 sets, 8-12 reps)

Assume a shoulder-width stance while holding a bar with your palms facing down at a hip level. Arch your back, keep your shoulders back, and your knees bent slightly.

Move your buttocks back as far as you can as you lower the bar. Maintain the bar’s distance to your body while keeping your shoulders back, chest out and your head looking forward. Lower the bar down to about knee level, then drive the hips forward, and return to your initial position.

6. Lying Leg Curls

(3 sets 8-12 reps)

Lie face down on the machine and place your feet under the foot pad — a few inches below the calves. Grab the machine’s handle, keep your torso flat, and stretch your legs fully.

Keeping your upper legs on the pad, curl your legs as far as you can while you exhale. Pause for a second after fully curling your legs. Go back to the original position as you inhale.

7. Standing Calf Raises

(4 set, 14-20 reps)

Set the calf raise machine to your height. Stand on the machine with your toes facing forward and your shoulders rested under the machine’s pads. Plant the balls of your feet firmly on the step with your heels extending over the edge.

As you exhale, raise your heels as high as you can, feeling your calves flex. Pause for a second and lower your heels to return to your initial position.

Watch this video below for a leg day warm up to go perfectly with this workout:

To make the most this leg day workout routine, choose loads that let you hit muscle failure within the repetitions you set. If you want to cut the workout short, you can leave out the hamstrings or calves exercises (or both) and train them on another day.

Do you have any leg day tip you might want to share? We’d love to know them in the comments section below!

Up Next: How To Do Squats With More Weight | Exercises For Knee Pain


The Legs Workout To Build Bigger Legs Fast

The Legs Workout To Build Bigger Legs Fast

Leg day is approached with trepidation by many gym-goers and with good reason. Not only is a leg workout itself one of the toughest you’ll tackle in any given week, but the days afterwards tend to be a struggle as well, as you stagger around in the grip of DOMS.

However, leg day is an essential part of any good gym routine. Compound exercises squats, lunges and deadlifts are the key moves that build a powerhouse of a body that’s fit to excel in the gym, when playing sports and in everyday life. They also get the heart pumping and burn boatloads of calories, increasing your cardiovascular fitness as well as your strength.

For your next leg day session try this six-move workout. It focuses on the quads, hamstrings, glutes and core to help you to build useful muscle in your lower body.

The workout is made up of two straight sets followed by two supersets, where you do the exercises back to back to keep the muscles under tension for longer.

These supersets also increase the cardiovascular benefits of the workout, because training with minimal rest really gets your heart rate up.

Follow the instructions below to the letter when it comes to sets, reps and rest for a terrific leg-day workout. Then have yourself a nice little sit-down.

How to do the workout

This six-move session is made up of two straight sets and two supersets. Do move 1, sticking to the sets, reps and rest shown, then do all reps of move 2. After resting, do moves 3A and 3B as a superset, and the same again for 4A and 4B, to shock your legs into growing bigger and stronger.

Warm up thoroughly, starting with some gentle lower-body mobility movements and dynamic stretching. Then do some light deadlift sets, interspersed with more mobility work in the rest periods between warm-up sets. Gradually increase the weight of each warm-up set while reducing the reps until the next increase is your work weight.

1 Deadlift

Sets 5 Reps 8 Rest 60sec

Why It’s the classic big lift for all-over muscle

How Stand tall with the barbell in front of you, then squat down and grasp it with an overhand grip. Keeping your chest up and core braced, press down through your heels to stand up. Push your hips forwards at the top, then lower.

2 Leg press

Sets 5 Reps 8 Rest 60sec

Why Work your quads and hamstrings hard and safely

How Sit in the machine positioned correctly according to the instructions. Place your feet lower and closer together to work your quads more, or higher and wider to hit your hamstrings and glutes more directly. Bend your knees to bring them towards your chest, then press back to the start.

Superset 1

This first superset will hit your hamstrings and quads hard. Because these two major muscles will be thoroughly warmed up from the first two straight sets, try to go as heavy as you can while maintaining correct form and completing all the reps. Go slow on the eccentric part of the move, where you return to the start, to work your muscles even harder.

3A Seated hamstring curl

Sets 4 Reps 10 Rest 30sec

Why It isolates the backs of your thighs to fatigue more muscle fibres

How Position yourself correctly with your legs straight and the padded bar against your lower leg. Squeeze your hamstrings to bring your heels towards you, then return to the start.

3B Seated leg extension

Sets 4 Reps 10 Rest 60sec

Why It isolates your quads so you can go heavy

How Position yourself correctly with your knees bent and the padded bar against your shins. Raise your feet to straighten your legs, then squeeze your quads at the top. Lower back to the start position slowly to increase the tension on the target muscles.

Superset 2

This final superset comprises two high-rep moves to target and fatigue as many muscle fibres as possible so you end the session with your heart rate soaring. If you struggle to hit the rep target, lift lighter or finish each set with bodyweight reps.

4A Dumbbell lunge

Sets 3 Reps 8 each side Rest 30sec

Why This works all your lower leg muscles as well as your abs and lower back

How Stand tall, holding a dumbbell in each hand. With your chest up and core braced, take a big step forwards with your left leg and lunge down until both knees are bent at 90°. Push off your front foot to return to the start, then repeat with your right leg. Alternate your leading leg with each rep.

4B Dumbbell squat

Sets 3 Reps 15 Rest 60sec

Why It targets your glutes and abs as well as your quads and hams

How Stand tall, holding a dumbbell in each hand. With your chest up and core braced, bend at your hips and knees to squat down as deep as you can without rounding your back. Push down through your heels to stand back up and return to the start position.

Photography: Glen Burrows; Model: Olly Foster


The 6 Secrets to Building Bigger, Stronger Legs

The Legs Workout To Build Bigger Legs Fast

About a year ago, I decided to fully dedicate myself to transforming my legs. Which might sound funny, given that I’m the Fitness Director of Men’s Health.

But let me give you some context: Here at MH, I specialize in making fitness videos. In fact, you can see me in our brand’s videos on Instagram, and, of course,

Which is a lot of fun, but also has its drawbacks. Namely, lots of people to share their opinions about how I look. Or more specifically, how my legs look. But not in a good way.

One day, I got fed up with all of the “someone skipped leg day” comments, and decided to do something about it.

To be clear, I’ve never been one to skip leg day. However, my history of knee injuries had made it difficult for me to train my lower body as often or as hard as I want to.

I struggled with patellar tendonitis from the ages of 14 to 21, and had four knee surgeries by the time I was 22. The last surgery actually ended my college football career. So throughout my 20s, I just decided to work around my past injuries and wear pants to cover up.

But not anymore.

Above are before-and-after photographs of my transformation. It’s no coincidence that I’m doing stepups in the images—they are staples in my leg-changing program.

When I first looked back at my old photos, the difference in my legs was shocking. What’s even more surprising? The change throughout my entire body.

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Even though I purposefully trained my upper body less in order to allow my legs to catch up faster, I was leaner and more muscular up top.

And that’s a true testament to how much horsepower can be added to your metabolic engine by building more muscular hips and thighs. A bigger metabolic engine not only helps you lean out, but it also sets a daily calorie-burning foundation so you can maintain your results for the long haul.

Rather than share my actual program with you, I think you’ll benefit more by learning the 6 key training principles I followed.

After all, the program I used was very specific to my needs. For instance, I really emphasized building my quads since that are needed the most work. But follow these guidelines, and I promise that your legs and body will change.

1. Squat every day
The squat serves as the foundation for all lower-body exercises. So if you want the best results, you need to spend time in a squat position daily. This doesn’t mean you need to squat heavy or even underload every day.

But it does mean you need to 1) accumulate as many reps as possible of the squat, and 2) spend as much time as possible in a deep squat position.

To start, I recommend squatting under load three times per week. As for the other days, you should do bodyweight squats and squat mobility work spending 5-to-10 minutes in a deep squat.

It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. I to rotate between barbell front squats, barbell back squats, box squats, and goblet squats.


Build Bigger Legs With This Brutal Lower Body Workout – Fitness Volt

The Legs Workout To Build Bigger Legs Fast

If you really want to build the biggest, strongest, leanest body you can, you need to get serious about leg training. Your lower body makes up close to 50% of your muscle mass, but a lot of people don’t really apply themselves to leg training. That leaves a lot of untapped potential for muscle growth.

Why the lack of love for leg training? It’s probably because working the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves is HARD! Even the most basic leg workouts can be exhausting and can leave you sore and limping for days afterward.

Friends don’t let friends skip leg day!

Unfortunately, and unless you are happy with an average physique, you can’t afford not to train your legs hard and often. There is nothing worse than seeing an otherwise well-developed person walking around on skinny, weak legs. the meme says, “Friends don’t let friends skip leg day!”

Lower body anatomy 101

Effective leg training needs a variety of exercises. That’s because your legs are made up of a lot of different muscles with a range of functions. Your main lower-body muscles are:

  • Quadriceps– quads for short, these muscles are located on the front of your thigh. Their primary function is extension of the knee.
  • Hamstrings– located on the rear of your thigh, these muscles are responsible for knee flexion and hip extension.
  • Gluteus maximus– glutes for short, and also known as your butt, this is the largest muscle in the human body. Its main function is hip extension.
  • Adductors – located on the inside of your thighs, these muscles are responsible for drawing your leg in toward the midline of your body. There are three adductors: Longus, Brevis, and Magnus.
  • Abductors – the muscles of the outer hip responsible for lifting your leg out and away from the midline of your body. The main abductors are gluteus minimus and medius, and tensor fasciae latae , or TFL for short.
  • Gastrocnemius – the larger, upper calf muscle responsible for pointing your foot, a movement correctly called plantarflexion. Gastrocnemius is also a secondary knee flexor.
  • Soleus – the smaller, lower calf muscle. Also involved in plantarflexion and most active when the knee is bent.

Lower Body Anatomy

How to build bigger, stronger muscles

You can’t just go through the motions in the gym and expect your muscles to grow. Instead, you need to adhere to the principles of effective exercise to get the results you want. That means you need to train long enough and hard enough to trigger hypertrophy. According to studies, for muscles to grow, you need to consider the following factors in your training (1 & 2):

  1. Focus on compound exercises– compound exercises involve movement at multiple joints at the same time. They also allow you to lift heavyweights. Examples of compound lower body exercises include leg presses, lunges, and step-ups.In contrast, isolation exercises leg extensions and hip abductions only involve movement at one joint. They are not bad exercises, but your training should include plenty of compound exercises if you want to build maximal muscle and strength.
  2. Train hard – easy workouts don’t build muscle. If you want your muscles to grow, you need to challenge them. Lift heavy weights and take most of your sets close to failure. Failure is when you cannot perform any more reps in good form. This creates muscle tension and microtrauma, both of which are required for muscle growth.
  3. Make your workouts progressive– make sure you increase your weights week by week, otherwise your progress will soon stall. If you can’t add more weight, try and squeeze out an extra rep or two, or shorten your rests between sets.
  4. Don’t forget sleep and nutrition – training hard takes a lot your body. Make sure you replenish your energy levels by getting enough sleep and eating properly. If you aren’t making progress, you may need to pay more attention to sleep and nutrition.
  5. Be consistent– if you miss more workouts than you complete, you’ll never get the results you want. Commit to training regularly and consistently. If you skip too many workouts, your progress will soon stall, and you may even start to lose muscle and strength.

Chris Bumstead

Your big, brutal leg workout

If your current leg workout is not producing the results you want, or you’ve not been working your legs hard enough lately, it’s time to try something new! Do this workout once or twice a week, on non-consecutive days.

Warm-up before each workout with some light cardio, dynamic stretches, and a couple of light sets of each exercise.

End your session with a few more minutes of cardio, followed by static stretching and foam rolling for your major lower body muscles.

Note: Perform exercises 2a and 2b, and 3a and 3b as supersets. That means you must do them back to back, and without any rest. To clarify, do one set of leg extensions and then immediately do a set of backward lunges. Rest for 90 seconds, and then repeat that pairing. Use the same method for Romanian deadlifts and leg curls.

Paused squats

Regular back squats are one of the best quadriceps, hamstrings, and glute exercises around. Adding a mid-rep pause makes them even more effective because it increases time under tension, which is how long your muscles work per set.

  • In a squat rack, rest and hold a barbell across the fleshy part of your upper back. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned slightly outward.
  • Lift your chest, inhale, and brace your abs. Look straight ahead.
  • Push your hips back and bend your knees. Descend until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor. Hold this position for five seconds.
  • Stand up and then squat down again. This time pause for four seconds.
  • Reduce the length of each pause so that, for your last rep, you only pause for one second.
  • That’s one set; rest and get ready to do it all over again, starting with a five-second pause.

Pause Squat

Leg extensions 21s

21s are commonly associated with biceps training, but they are just as effective when combined with leg extensions. Prepare for your quads to burn crazy!

  • Set up your leg extension so that your knees are aligned with the machine’s pivot point. The leg pad should rest against your lower shin.
  • Extend your legs, so your knees are about halfway straight. Lower the weights and repeat seven times.
  • Next, fully extend your knees and then lower the weight halfway down. Repeat seven times.
  • Finally, do seven full reps. Keep your movements slow and controlled. On completion, move immediately to the next exercise.

Alternating backward lunges

Backward lunges work your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Although, after the leg extension 21s you’ve just done, you’ll feel this exercise mostly in the front of your thighs.

  • Stand with your feet together and your hands by your sides.
  • Take a large step backward and bend your legs. Lower your rear knee to within an inch of the floor.
  • Step back in and return to the starting position. Do another rep but, this time, lead with the opposite leg.
  • Continue alternating legs for the duration of your set.
  • Make this exercise harder by holding dumbbells.

Romanian deadlifts

Romanian deadlifts are a classic hamstring, glute, and lower back k exercise. They take your hammies through a long range of motion, focusing primarily on hip extension. This makes them the ideal companion exercise to leg curls, which are all about knee flexion. 

  • Hold a barbell in front of your thighs and stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly, but then keep them rigid.
  • Push your hips back and lean forward. Lower the bar as far down your legs as you can without rounding your lower back. Get a really good stretch in your hamstrings.
  • Stand back up and repeat. On completion, move immediately to the next exercise.
  • Use dumbbells instead of a barbell if preferred.

Leg curls 21s

Use the same 21s method to hammer your hamstrings into shape.

  • Use a seated or lying leg curl machine as preferred. Starting with your legs straight, bend your legs about halfway. Extend your legs and repeat seven times.
  • Next, fully flex your legs and then extend them about halfway. Repeat seven times.
  • Finally, do seven full reps.

Super slow standing calf raises

Calves are notoriously hard to build. They have a high threshold for weight and pain! This calf-building variation eliminates all momentum and increases time under tension for the ultimate lower leg workout.

  • Place the balls of your feet on the calf raise machine’s step. Put your shoulders beneath the shoulder pads. Stand up with your legs straight, and core braced.
  • Taking five seconds, slowly lower your heels down as far as you can.
  • Next, using the same slow tempo, push up onto your tiptoes.
  • Ignore the burning in your calves and keep going!

Seated calf raises

Done with bent knees, this exercise emphasizes the soleus or lower calf muscle. When fully developed, the soleus can add a lot to your lower leg size and strength.

  • Sit on the seated calf raise machine so that the leg pad is across your lower thighs. Place the balls of your feet on the edge of the machine’s step.
  • Lower your heels down as far as you can, and then push up high onto your tiptoes.
  • This is your last exercise, so give it 100%.

Seated Calf Raise

Leg training wrap-up

Building a strong, muscular lower body takes time and effort, but the rewards are enormous. Not only will your bigger, stronger “wheels” look amazing, but the rest of your body will also grow faster too. Don’t hide your legs under long pant legs; train them hard and build a lower body you are proud to show off.


1- Goldberg, A. L.; Etlinger, J. D.; Goldspink, D. F.; Jablecki, C. (1975). “Mechanism of work-induced hypertrophy of skeletal muscle”. Medicine and Science in Sports. 7 (3): 185–198. ISSN 0025-7990. PMID 128681.

2- Peterson, Mark D.; Rhea, Matthew R.; Alvar, Brent A. (2005-11). “Applications of the dose-response for muscular strength development: a review of meta-analytic efficacy and reliability for designing training prescription”. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 19 (4): 950–958. doi:10.1519/R-16874.1. ISSN 1064-8011. PMID 16287373.