Leg Exercises For a Better Workout

Leg Exercises For a Better Workout

There’s a saying in the weightlifting world. “Don’t skip leg day.”

And that’s still great advice.

When most people think of getting "cut" or "lean", they’re typically thinking of big arms, a defined back, and abs. It’s less common for people to think about their legs.

But our legs play a role in virtually everything we do... and training them can play a huge role in the results you earn. That's true no matter if your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, improve performance, or just live an active and healthy lifestyle.

So in this short article, we’ll talk about our legs and what you can do to take full advantage of your leg day workout or leg training. 

What Are The Muscle Groups In Your Legs?

When we’re talking about leg muscles, we’re really talking about four main muscle groups.

The four big muscle groups found in our legs are:

Hamstrings – Our hamstrings are the muscle found on the back of our upper leg.

It consists of three large muscles. They’re primarily used for bending your knee which is a major part in how we move in day-to-day life, sports, and workout! Your hamstrings also perform hip extension.

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Quadriceps – Located on the front of the upper leg ... the quadriceps work as a counterbalance to the hamstrings. The "quads" are used for pushing.

Calves – Your calves are found on the back of your lower leg. Your calf muscles are what let you pull your heels up and move forward. Without calves, you essentially don’t have the capacity for efficient forward motion.

Glutes – Chances are you've heard of "glutes" before. They’re the muscles around your butt.

We can make butt jokes all day long, but in reality, your glutes are incredibly important. They contribute greatly to your overall body strength, as well as helping support a range of different compound motions.

When it comes to the term "leg day", it can vary from person to person on what that means.

Some people dedicate a day to only training legs … others will split up some key leg movements into different days (for example, a squat day and a deadlift day) … while others still will do CrossFit or group fitness classes that incorporate some legs as part of almost every workout.

But to keep this simple, I will be talking about a leg day in the traditional sense of spending the 30 to 60 minutes in the gym to primarily focus on training your legs.

When doing so, it's a good idea to make sure that you hit each of these four muscle groups in your legs. This will both help to maximize the effectiveness of your workout, help prevent imbalances, and also help you maximize the end result of months and months of hard work.

If you are not doing a traditional leg day routine, you may want to work these exercises in whenever you can, as they are highly effective for strengthening, building, and conditioning your legs!

Great Leg Day Workout Exercises

If you want to make the most out of your leg day, it would be a good idea to focus on doing the most effective leg day exercises. Here are five leg day exercises that can be great additions to your leg workout, and could really benefit your next leg day workout.


Squats are fantastic for the entire body. In fact, it's actually a great exercise to incorporate for full-body workouts as well.

Personally, it's my favorite movement to do, and there are many variations to do.

Squats work your thighs, hips, glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings, but they also help improve your core as well. That’s because you utilize many muscles when doing squats properly.

If you want your squats to help your quads a bit more, you can do high-bar or front squats. If you want to focus on your hamstrings a bit more you can do low bar squats.

Also, don’t underestimate the effectiveness of air squats, especially for your at-home workouts or when you don’t have access to the gym. Just count your reps!


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A deadlift is like a squat in that it’s a full-body workout. Deadlifts are great for your back, glutes, hamstrings, and the rest of your leg. Adding deadlifts to your leg day workout can be a great idea! 

As you will hear us say time and time again though, proper form is key.

Using good form while activating and stimulating the correct muscles is more important than the actual weight you're using when doing deadlifts (this is true of any lift).

In other words, leave your ego at the door, and focus on your technique. This will not only help prevent injury, but also help you ultimately lift more if that is your goal.

Walking Lunges

Walking lunges are a great way of working out your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

The key to good lunges is proper form. When done properly, you should be engaging all of the major muscle groups in your legs. This can help with overall strength, growth (if you are eating enough to grow), and burn more calories.

You can add weight to your walking lunges by wearing a weight vest, carrying dumbbells, or if space allows … using a barbell to really turn up the intensity.

Calf Raises

Calf raises are a great way to focus specifically on your calves.

People often forget to exercise their calves during leg day. For most people, growing our calves can be difficult. This means, implementing a variety of different calf raises to hit the muscles in different ways may be beneficial, as doing so can help us figure out which movements our calves respond to the best.

Leg Press

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Leg presses are great for your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. It might not be a full-body workout, but it’s definitely a full-leg workout.

Leg Press is also good for beginners to get used to the movement and range of motion … they're good for doing a “burnout” set more safely than with a barbell … and depending on foot placement can target your legs differently to stimulate different muscles more effectively.

Note: Placing your feet higher on the platform can help to activate more glutes and hamstrings, while placing feet lower on the platform can help add more tension to the quads.

Reverse Lunges

Reverse lunges are a fantastic addition to your leg day routine. They are excellent for targeting the stubborn quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

What sets them apart from regular lunges is the step backward. Maybe it's my personal opinion, but I think it offers more stability as opposed to a traditional lunge.

You’re also working your core during these leg exercises, so it’s like getting a full-body workout in one exercise!

Hack Squat

Hack squats are a phenomenal leg exercise for your quads. On top of that, they make for a great alternative to traditional squats.

They can also either be done with a hack squat machine or a barbell, making them fairly accessible. Overall, this exercise can help you make some serious progress with your lower body strength.

Bulgarian Split Squat

In a Bulgarian split squat, you step back and elevate one foot behind you on a bench or platform, then lower your body into a deep lunge.

This split stance allows for more muscle engagement in your working leg, making it great for building strength and stability. Plus, Bulgarian split squats can be great for building strength and muscle in your legs.

Another incredible benefit of this exercise is it can help train muscular proportion between both legs since you are training them individually.

Goblet Squat

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Goblet squats are a beginner-friendly squat variation. This is especially true because all you need is a dumbbell or kettlebell.

Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell close to your chest, with your elbows pointed toward the ground. From here, all you have to do is perform a squat while keeping your chest upright. This exercise works the quads, hamstrings, and glutes while also engaging your core.

Beyond building leg strength and muscle definition, goblet squats also contribute to improved balance, flexibility, and functional strength. This makes them a well-rounded leg day exercise that can help you achieve your fitness goals.

Good Mornings

Good mornings can be a valuable addition to any leg day routine. This is an exercise that primarily targets the lower back, hamstrings, and glutes. For this reason, they are a great movement to compliment any quad-focused exercises like leg extensions.

Normally, this exercise is done with a barbell on your back. While keeping your upper body straight, hinge forward at your hips, stretching your hamstrings. When you can't stretch your hamstrings further, squeeze your glutes and hamstrings to bring your body upright.

Romanian Deadlifts

Similar to good mornings, Romanian deadlifts focus on your hamstrings and glutes.

Unlike a conventional deadlift though, you do not want to bring the barbell to the floor. Instead, you'll keep a slight bend in your knees and bring the weight to roughly shin height.

As opposed to a normal deadlift, Romanian deadlifts can also help reduce the strain placed on your low back.

Side Lunges

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Side lunges are another awesome exercise to spice things up with your leg day workouts. While holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in both hands, step out to one side and sink into your hip to squat on one leg. You can repeat this for a set number of reps on each leg or even alternate.

This exercise can help improve leg strength, hip mobility, and stability.

Box Jumps

Box jumps are an explosive leg day exercise that can boost power, agility, and overall lower body strength. This movement is exactly as it sounds too. All you have to do is find a sturdy box or platform to jump onto.

Box jumps engage most of the muscles in your legs, while also encouraging improved coordination. For this reason, box jumps are an excellent exercise for athletes or anybody who wants to train look like an athlete!

Sumo Squat

Sumo squats are a leg exercise that targets the inner thighs, quadriceps, and glutes. They also happen to be a great alternative to squats if you have limited equipment.

For sumo squats, all you need is a dumbbell or kettlebell to hold at your waist with both hands. You'll also want to set up in a wide stance with your toes rotated outward.

With your arms hanging in front of you to support the weight, keep your chest upright as you descend into your hips. When the weight hits the ground, push through your legs to stand upright, squeezing your glutes at the top.

If you do enough of these, you will feel the burn!

Barbell Hip Thrusts

Full Body Barbell Workouts

This leg day exercise primarily focuses on your glutes and hamstrings. Before you get started, you'll need a loaded barbell and a bench.

Sit on the floor with your upper back rested against a bench. Roll the barbell over your hips, then push through your hips and squeeze your glutes to form a bridge with your legs and lower body. Barbell hip thrusts are arguably one of the best exercises for building bigger and stronger glute muscles.

Pro Tip: If the barbell digs into your hips and bothers you, try wrapping the barbell with a towel or yoga mat for some extra padding/comfort.

Lying Side Leg Raises

Lying side leg raises target your hip abductors and outer thigh muscles. Since these muscles typically don't get as much attention as the bigger muscle groups in your legs, this is a great exercise to add to your leg days.

Plus, this movement can help strengthen your lateral hip muscles to promote better hip stability and balance.

Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell swings are an exercise that is both awesome and dreadful at the same time ... or at least I think so. They are an excellent way to work your hamstrings, glutes, and really your entire posterior chain (backside).

Grab a kettlebell by the handle with both hands and stand upright. Keep your arms straight, allowing the kettlebell to rest in front of your body. Keep a tight grip on the kettlebell as you explode through your hips to bring the kettlebell overhead. Allow gravity to allow the kettlebell to swing back in front of your body and through your legs slightly behind you.

Throughout the movement, you'll want to keep your core nice and tight. You can really work up a good sweat after as little as 10 to 20 reps!

Leg Exercise Tips

Now that you have an entire arsenal of new leg exercises to try, I have a few tips for you before you get started. By following these tips, you'll have a more effective leg workout, minimize your risk of injuries, and even earn better results in the long-term.

Here are 5 tips to get you started...

Start With Compound Movements

Compound movements are "multi-jointed" exercises, meaning they use multiple joints at once to perform the movement. This also means that multiple muscle groups are involved in performing the exercise. So, why start with them?

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The reason you should start with these compound exercises is because they require the most effort and energy. In order to do them safely and effectively, it's always best to start with these compound movements. Plus, if you pre-fatigue a muscle involved in one of your compound movements, it can be hard to perform the exercise effectively or as intended.

By starting with these exercises though, you can make sure to reap the full benefits of them. For leg day, this would mean starting with exercises like squats, deadlifts, or hip thrusts, then moving into easier exercises such as leg curls or leg extensions.

Maintain Proper Form

Throughout your leg exercises, always make sure to maintain proper form. It's the best way to ensure your safety and maximize muscle engagement in the exercise.

Even though it may be fun to throw a bunch of weight around ... you could very likely be cutting yourself short of the best results by compromising your form for weight. I always recommend using weights that you can comfortably control.

Trust me when I say, proper execution of the exercise is much more important than how much weight you lift.

Include a Variety of Exercises

Part of having a well-rounded and effective leg day comes down to the exercises you choose to do. By switching it up and picking a wide variety of exercises to engage every muscle group in your legs, you can have a heck of a leg day!

Mix in squats, lunges, leg presses, and isolation exercises like leg curls to keep your routine well-rounded.

Include a Proper Warm-Up

Prioritize a thorough warm-up, including light cardio, dynamic stretches, and mobility drills, to prepare your muscles, joints, and cardiovascular system for the workout ahead. Like I mentioned earlier, doing so can help prevent injury and prime your muscles for the workout.

Stay Well-Hydrated

Proper hydration is essential for optimal performance and recovery. Drink water before, during, and after your leg workout to avoid dehydration and muscle cramps. You will surely thank me!

The Importance Of Nutrition On Leg Day

Your leg muscles are large, powerful muscle groups.

That’s true whether you live a sedentary life, or if you pride yourself in being super active. It takes a lot of work, energy, and time to develop stronger leg muscles...

One of the best things you can do to improve your leg day workout is to fuel properly with nutrition and use the right supplements to aid in performance, and most importantly … recovery after leg day!

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On leg day, it can be helpful to utilize both pre-workout and post-workout supplements. Pre-workout supplements can give your legs and body the initial boost they need to start your workout right and sustain higher levels of output during training.

Proper post-workout supplements will make sure you give your body the nutrients it needs right away when you are done training, so that you can jump start the recovery process as quickly as possible. 

I like to illustrate this by asking how someone feels not 1, but 2 days after leg workouts ... specifically when they try to sit down in a chair and get back up.

I do this because if you are like me, that is when the soreness really catches up to us, and focusing on recovery can help reduce that as much as possible!

How Often Should You Do Leg Exercises?

Someone just starting their fitness journey and someone who has been going to the gym for a long time aren't going to have the same routine for leg day.

How often you train your legs will depend on your fitness level, goals, and recovery. Here's a general guideline to help you determine how often you should be doing leg exercises...

Beginners: If you're new to these challenging leg exercises, start with 1-2 leg workouts per week. This allows your muscles and joints a little more time to recover and adapt to the increased workload.

Intermediate to Advanced: As you progress, 2-3 leg workouts per week can be effective for building strength, muscle, and endurance. This frequency allows you to activate your leg muscles more frequently which could help you achieve more volume.

Recovery: Always give your legs at least 24-48 hours to recover between leg day workouts. Adequate recovery is crucial to prevent overtraining, muscle imbalances, and injury.

1st Phorm Can Get You The Help You Need On Leg Day

In order to get the best results, and get the most out of your leg day ... you'll need a solid training program, a quality nutrition plan, and a few key supplements like a proper post-workout drink.

The great news is, we can help you with all of those!

We help thousands of people each day with their nutrition and workout plans all for free through our customer service lines!

Shoot, on top of that, we help exponentially more people every day with the 1st Phorm App!

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But, as I am sure you know … getting the most out of your leg day workout starts with you putting in the work.

That is step one … because no nutrition, workout, or supplement plan will help you if you are not paying your dues on a consistent basis.

That being said, if you have any questions or need any help at all, please never hesitate to reach out!

We have a fully staffed team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and NASM Certified Nutrition Coaches that will help you for free! They are available every day of the week from 6 AM to 10 PM Central at 1-800-409-9732 or anytime via email at CustomerService@1stPhorm.com!