This is probably not what you want to hear but … you have to stop skipping leg day! Tough to hear, right?
Sometimes the truth hurts, and so does leg day!
I think the reason why most people neglect leg training is because they don't feel like the juice is worth the squeeze.
I'm here to tell you, they are wrong! Yes, leg days are hard. Plus, nobody likes the muscle soreness they feel for days afterward.
If we're being honest, most people are more concerned with having a strong and lean upper body anyways. However, strengthening your legs can have more benefits than you may know.
If you're reading this, it's likely because you already know that too. Or ... you may be here because you love training legs and you want some great exercises to help strengthen your legs. Well, today I'm going to give you those exercises.
If you want to strengthen your legs, it's going to be a battle.
But, with the right exercises (and the right approach to the rest of your training and nutrition), you will reap the benefits in no time!
Here are 6 exercises that are excellent when it comes to strengthening your legs...
6 Essential Leg Strengthening Exercises
The list of high-value leg exercises can go on and on forever. I decided to narrow it down to my top 6 favorites.
Since you're looking to strengthen your legs, these exercises will all require weighted equipment. The good news is ... you can find this equipment at virtually any gym.
So let's get into it!
1. Back Squat
The king of all exercises — the back squat. A lot of people want to get fancy with their workouts, but the staples are the staples for a reason ... THEY WORK.
If you're looking for an exercise that will not only strengthen your legs, but virtually your entire body as well ... this is it.
If you've never done a back squat, make sure you take the time to master your technique. It's crucial to get the movement down before you start adding a bunch of weight in order to prevent injury.
For this exercise, you'll need a barbell, weight plates, and a squat rack.
How To: Start by setting the barbell at roughly chest height in a squat rack. When racked, begin loading the barbell with the weight you can comfortably squat with. Remember ... start light and work your way up.
When your barbell is ready, grab the bar with an overhand grip, slightly outside of shoulder-width. Maintain your grip on the bar as you bend your knees to step underneath the barbell.
Before unracking the barbell, position it to rest on your traps/upper back while keeping a slight bend in your knees. Take a deep breath and straighten your knees to stand up tall with the barbell on your back. Next, take a few steps away from the squat rack and find your footing.
Position your feet to be right outside shoulder-width apart, and slightly rotate your toes outward. Keep your chest up high, push your hips back, and brace your core as you descend into a squat. Keep descending until your thighs are parallel with the floor.
Once you reach the bottom of your squat, drive through your legs to stand up tall with the weight. Make sure to keep your spine in a neutral position the whole time to avoid hurting your back!
2. Front Squat
The Front Squat is a phenomenal squat variation which can relieve some of the pressure on the lower back. It can also place a greater emphasis on your quadricep muscles.
For those of you with longer limbs, front squats can normally allow for a better range of motion and body position. Either way, front squats are one of the best ways to strengthen and build your legs muscles!
How To: Similar to the back squat, you'll need a barbell, squat rack, and weight plates for this exercise. You'll also want to place the bar at roughly chest height.
This time, instead of grabbing the bar with an overhand grip, we're going to do things differently. Bend your knees slightly, approach the bar and bring your arms underneath the bar. Bring your elbows up and outward, forming a 90-degree angle with your body and upper arms. At the same time, flex your wrists and wrap your fingers underneath the bar.
At this point, the barbell should be supported by your fingers and be rested on the front of your shoulders. Keep your elbows high and stand up as you take a few steps back with the bar.
Position your feet to be right outside shoulder-width, and rotate your toes outward slightly ... just like you would for a back squat. From here, begin to descend into a squat. Make sure to keep your chest high, elbows upward, and core braced. Once your thighs are parallel with the floor, drive through your legs to stand back up with the bar.
3. Romanian Deadlift
Romanian deadlifts are a phenomenal exercise to strengthen your legs. They are especially great at targeting your hamstrings and glutes.
For this exercise, you can use a barbell or a pair of dumbbells. For the sake of keeping it simple, I'll explain how to do this exercise with a pair of dumbbells.
How To: Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them right at your thighs, palms facing toward you. Pull your shoulders down and back, bend your knees slightly, and keep your spine flat and in a neutral position the whole time.
From here, begin to slowly hinge forward at your hips. Allow the dumbbells to lower along the front of your legs as you continue to hinge forward. You'll know you're doing this correctly if you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
When you can't bend forward any further, pause for a second. Next, squeeze your glutes and hamstrings to reverse this movement to a standing position. When you reach the top, squeeze your glutes for a second before repeating these steps.
4. Bulgarian Split Squat
This one is a burner! Really, all split squat variations can be a great addition to any leg strengthening routine. That's why the Bulgarian Split Squat is one of my favorite leg strengthening exercises!
They are great for helping correct any muscle imbalances and challenging your balance, stability, and coordination.
Before you get started, make sure you have a bench and a pair of dumbbells.
How To: Stand on the side of a bench with your back to the bench. Grip a dumbbell in each hand and hold them down to your sides, palms facing you. Make sure you pick a weight that's light to begin with ... this exercise is hard!
Bend your knee to draw one of your legs behind you, like you're trying to kick your butt. Instead of kicking your butt though, rest the top of your foot on the bench behind you. From here, shift your body weight into your front leg.
Sink into your hips as you keep the weight centered on your front leg. When your thigh is parallel with the ground, push through your front leg to return to the starting position. You'll want to repeat this for a set number of reps before you switch to your opposite leg.
Make sure to keep your chest high, and spine neutral throughout the movement!
5. Glute-Ham Raise
When thinking of one of my favorite leg strengthening exercises ... this exercise always comes to mind. It is a phenomenal way to develop both your glutes and your hamstrings.
You can do this exercise on a roman chair, a GHD machine, or even on the floor with your feet anchored. Here's how you do it...
How To: Locate a roman chair or GHD machine. I'll explain how to do it with a GHD machine, because that is the most ideal approach to this exercise.
Position yourself on the machine by resting your quads on the pad and anchoring your feet to the machine. Cross your arms in front of your body, forming an X with your forearms.
When you're fully in position, slowly hinge forward at your hips, lowering your head toward the ground. Similar to the Romanian deadlift, you should feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Bend forward as far as you comfortably can while keeping your core tight and spine neutral.
When you can't bend forward any further without compromising your form, stop. Next, pull through your hamstrings and squeeze your glutes to lift your upper body back to be inline with your legs.
Squeeze your glutes at the top, then repeat this for a set number of reps. If you'd like to make this more difficult, you can add a weight plate. All you have to do is hug the weight plate to your chest for extra resistance.
6. Leg Press
If you have a busy gym, this one might be hard to get around to. A lot of this has to do with how popular this exercise is too!
All you need is a leg press machine, and a good attitude.
How To: Begin by loading the leg press with a good weight for you. Some leg press machines have a pin you can use to adjust the weight, and others require you to load plates on either side. When you set the weight to what you want, seat yourself in the machine. Make sure your back and head stay on the seat and you keep your core braced the entire time.
Place your legs on the platform, spacing your feet apart to what feels most comfortable. Placing your feet higher on the platform will target your glutes and hamstrings more, while placing your feet lower will target your quads more ... just something to keep in mind.
Once you've found your footing, release the safety lever (if there is one) to prepare yourself. Start by drawing your knees into your chest as far as you can comfortably go. When you can't bring them any closer, pause for a second. Next, push through your legs to push the platform away from your body and back to the starting position.
IMPORTANT: At the top of the movement, make sure to never lock out your knees. You want to maintain a slight bend in your knees at all times to avoid a potentially serious injury.
Other Tips to Strengthen Your Legs
Listen ... you can do these exercises and train your legs all you want. However, the truth is, your leg workouts are only a fraction of what it takes to strengthen your legs.
In order for your legs to get bigger and stronger ... you need to get the protein, calories, and essential nutrients your body needs to facilitate growth.
On top of that, getting adequate rest and training volume are also important. If you have questions, need help, or still aren't sure where to start ... we can help.
A great resource we have available to you is the 1st Phorm App! Inside the app, you not only get access to several workout programs and workouts to help strengthen your legs ... you'll also get:
• Instructional videos on how to properly do each exercise
• A place to track and log your nutrition
• Custom macros designed to help you reach your goals
• 1-on-1 messaging with your own personal advisor
• Progress tracking tools
• Daily livestreams and educational content
The 1st Phorm App is quite literally your all-in-one fitness tool.
For any other help you may need though, reach out to us! You can give us a call at 1-800-409-9732 or send us an email at CustomerService@1stPhorm.com. Our team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Nutrition Coaches will help get you on track to earning the results you want in no time!