How to Build Stronger Leg Muscles
One of the most neglected areas in terms of bodybuilding training is the legs. Why? The answer varies from person to person, but as many bodybuilders have said, “I find leg exercises to be a chore, and I skip leg day more often than not. I prefer focusing on my upper body anyway.” Many people probably feel that the legs are less important than the upper body because they are usually not as easily seen or noticeable. However, in terms of bodybuilding, a symmetrical physique from head to toe is optimal. Scrawny legs are not a great look with a built upper body! Additionally, the legs should be worked out consistently for overall strength and general health.
I don’t mean to brag but I am very proud of my leg muscle development. I actually get complemented on it all the time and get asked about my leg workout. I have been training for 15 years now and here are some of my best tips and bodybuilding workouts to strengthen your legs.
To get the best results from your leg workout, train your legs on their own day of the week. When training your legs, you’re basically working half your body in one session. Training your leg muscles doesn’t only work your lower half; it actually works your entire body, increases your heartbeat and gets your blood flowing to help burn fat and work your cardiovascular system. If you’re working out hard enough, you won’t have any energy left to train any other body parts anyway. The squat is the mother of all leg exercises. If you were to do only one leg exercise, it should be the squat, since it works your entire body. The regular squat is a great exercise in order to build your legs and your overall fitness level.
The calves are one of the primary areas in the legs. They are also probably the most noticeable leg area. The calf muscles can be trained with a variety of exercises. One of our favorite calf exercises is known as the standing calf raise. To do a rep, stand on a block with the front parts of your feet. Make sure that you are positioned properly under the weight bar and lower your heels a few inches. Next, steadily raise your heels back up. If done correctly, this exercise is extremely effective. A few other effective bodybuilding workouts consist of the seated calf raise, leg press calf raise, dumbbell jump squat, and box jump. Here’s an example of a workout:
Standing Calf Raise – 3 sets x 12,12,12 reps
Seated Calf Raise – 3 sets x 12,12,12 reps
Thigh and Hamstring Training
The upper leg is another main area that should be focused on. Like the calf muscles, the upper leg muscles can be trained with many different exercises. Our favorite upper leg exercise is probably one that you are already familiar with, the squat. It is highly effective if properly performed. Other effective bodybuilding exercises that are recommended are the lunge, leg extension, leg press, leg curl, and stiff leg deadlift. Here’s a routine example:
Squats or Leg Press – 4 sets x 12,10,8,6 reps
Leg Extension – 3 sets x 10,8,6 reps
Lying Leg Curls – 3 sets x 12,10,8 reps
Stiff Leg Deadlifts – 3 sets x 12,10,8 reps
Certain cardio exercises also effectively train the leg muscles. For instance, biking up a hill or with resistance is one cardio exercise that we would recommend. Another example that we would suggest is using an elliptical machine or stair master with resistance. The key is to make sure that the cardio involves some resistance against your leg muscles.
To get the best results for your legs from bodybuilding training, you should perform some type of appropriate cardio and a combination of some of the exercises mentioned. Additionally, you should keep a proper bodybuilding diet and use bodybuilding supplements that promote the muscle buildup in the legs. Your duration, amount of weight, sets, and reps depend on if you are just beginning, or at an intermediate or advanced level. As a beginner, remember not to over train the muscles in your legs. Just like other muscles, they need the right amount of recovery time in order to develop!
If you’re wondering what my current leg workout is, here it is:
First I start with either walking lunges or leg extensions. I usually walk around the gym 3 or 4 times while lunging. I find the lunges thoroughly warm up the knees and give me a wicked burn to get me psyched up for the rest of the routine. I immediately follow lunges with leg extension. I do my leg extension very strictly; I lock my legs out at the top for at least a 2 second hold, and I also point my toes up to the ceiling. The negative part of the movement is just as important, and I execute that slowly. I don’t totally relax the quadriceps muscle at the bottom of the movement.
My next exercise is either the hack squat or the smith machine squat. Again, my form is strict and slow. I don’t bounce at the bottom of the movement, and I don’t lock my knees out at the top. Instead of locking out my knees, I squeeze on my leg muscles. My rep range on these is usually 30 reps at 135 pounds (my first set). My other sets I increase in increments of 90 to 100 pounds and I perform between 10 and 15 reps.
My next exercise is are single leg presses on the vertical leg press machine. I do this for shape, not size. I utilize one leg at a time, I try not to go too heavy because I don’t want to injure my knee. Most of the time, I perform this movement with 155 pounds for 20 rep sets. I keep the movement slow and strict; again, I don’t lock out my knees and I squeeze my leg muscles at the top of the movement.
My next to last exercise is a sissy squat. Luckily, the gym where I train has a machine for this exercise. I do this exercise for definition and shape. I perform 20 to 30 reps. I concentrate on squeezing my legs and glutes at the top of the movement, and I don’t lock out my knees. I also squat down slow and deep. My final exercise is the inner thigh machine. I perform this with 140 pounds for 30 rep sets. The key to this exercises to squeeze together with your knees!
I finish off my leg training day with a 30 minute session on the stair master. And I do mean “finish”. I think its important to note that I don’t lift very heavy, which is quite the opposite of how I “look”. I will not sacrifice form for the sake of lifting heavy to impress someone in the gym. Legs are a difficult body part for most people to develop, but I think with patience, and strict training you will see results if you follow these steps too!
The legs are often neglected in bodybuilding training for a variety of reasons. However, they should be trained for overall symmetry and proper health function. To discover more leg exercises to incorporate into your bodybuilding workout, visit the Stacklabs.com Blog.
What leg muscle exercises can you share?