Strong legs are crucial if you’re looking to improve your performance in the gym. We’ve compiled a list of 7 best leg workouts that’ll strengthen your core, improve your balance, and get you ready for the summer.
1. Leg Press
When done incorrectly, the leg press can easily result in back pain. Loading the sled with every plate available in the gym might cause your lower back to disengage from the pad during reps. This is absolutely wrong. However, when done the right way, this exercise offers a number of benefits.
One of the biggest upsides of the leg press is that it allows you to target different muscles by simply changing foot placement. If you position the feet wider and higher on the platform, you’ll be targeting the hamstrings and glutes. On the other hand, by positioning the feet closer together and lower, you’ll be working the quads.
Sit on the leg press machine with your feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure your knees are in line with your feet. Keep your lower back pressed into the seat and your chest up. Remove the safeties and start lowering the platform by bending your knees. Once they’re bent ninety degrees, press the weight back up (but don’t lock at the top).
2. Walking Lunge
There are many varieties of the lunge but the walking lunges made our list for several reasons. For one, they allow you to move forward continuously without standing still. They also require substantial muscle recruitment and coordination.
This exercise focuses more on the front part of the leg (hams, glutes, and quads) and is a great wrap-up of your leg day. To maximize the benefits, make sure to step evenly on both sides, keep the knees behind the toes and your upper body straight.
Stand with your feet at hip width, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Step forward with one foot and bend the knees to lower yourself. The rear knee should almost touch the ground, while the front upper leg should be parallel with the ground. Move your rear leg forward to resume standing position. Then, step with the rear leg into a lunge and repeat the whole process.
3. Barbell Squat
The barbell squat is called ‘king of workouts’ and for a good reason. Besides being very effective for the lower body muscles (calves, hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps), this exercise also works your core, chest, and shoulder muscles.
In addition, the barbell squat allows a number of variations. For instance, you can place the bar on your back or position your feet wide or narrow.
Holding a bar across your upper back, stand with the feet at shoulder width. Slightly bend the knees and turn the toes out. Make sure your upper body is straight and your abs are tight. Slowly lower your body by bending the knees. Once your thighs are parallel with the ground, return to starting position by forcefully extending the hips and knees.
4. Front Squat
If the barbell squat is the king, the front squat is definitely a close second. This exercise is great for building huge quads, but it also works the hamstrings, glutes, calves. In addition, the front squad has a positive effect on anabolic metabolism and strengthens your core and back.
Set a barbell on a power rack at about mid-chest height. Position your hands at shoulder width and make sure your elbows are parallel with the ground. Grab the bar with an overhand grip. Remove the bar from the rack and let it rest on your fingertips. Take a step backward and position your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your hips and knees to squat down as low as possible, ideally until your thighs become parallel with the ground. Then, press your hips to return to the starting position and repeat.
5. Hack Squat
This leg workout has a barbell version which is performed by placing the barbell behind you. However, we choose the machine version because it’s much safer even when you dare to go a bit heavier.
The exercise targets primarily the glutes and quads, but it also works the hamstrings. Experts say that the hack squat is ideal as a mid-training workout, serving as a link between the squats and other leg workouts such as the lunge and leg press.
Step inside a hack squat machine and place your back and shoulders against the pads. Position the feet at the platform at about shoulder width and make sure to keep them flat during the workout. Remove the safeties, then lower yourself slowly. Once your thighs are nearly parallel with the platform, press back up to starting position.
6. Bulgarian Split Squat
The favorite exercise of Bulgarian strength athletes targets the glutes allowing you to focus on each leg separately. To reap all the benefits of this leg workout, make sure to start with your weaker leg. It’s best to work on the weaker spots while you’re still fresh.
Holding dumbbells in each hand, stand forward in front of an elevated platform or a bench. Rest the top of your rear foot on the bench behind you. Lower yourself by bending the front knee. Once your rear knee almost touches the ground, reverse the movement to return to starting position making sure not to lock out the knee.
7. Step Up
Another unilateral exercise which allows you to target each leg individually. The beauty of this leg workout is that it comes in a number of variations and can be adapted to both advanced lifters and beginners. You can also use dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell for resistance (either at shoulder height or at your sides).
Stand in front of a platform or bench holding dumbbells in each hand. Position your feet at shoulder width and step forward with one foot onto the bench. Push your body forward driving through the thigh of the raised leg. Move the rear leg up and stand on the bench. Then, return to the ground by stepping back. You can either alternate the legs or repeat with the same leg for all reps before switching to the other.
The leg workouts described above will only lead to results if you put your best effort in.
To build great legs, it’s also crucial that you pay attention to proper nutrition. Intense leg training causes micro-damage in the muscles, so it’s paramount that your diet and supplements contain all the necessary nutrients to facilitate the muscle repair process.