Leg Exercises - Get those thighs of thunder and calves of steel with these basic exercises
Many who are new to strength and weight training avoid leg training. They prefer instead to train those “show” muscles like chest and arms. But strong legs provide balance and symmetry and a strong base for your body. Train and grow your hamstrings and quads and calves!
Your legs are made up of several large muscle groups including the quadriceps or “quads” the four thigh muscles located on the front of the leg. Your hamstrings are the three muscles located at the back of your thighs. A basic rule of leg training is never to work the front of your leg and ignore the back part. Exercise both your hamstrings and quads for bigger, more defined, and stronger legs. Below the back of your knee, the calf muscles include the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, and should also be exercised when you train your legs. After all, we all want those rock hard calves!
Warm up for at least five minutes by rope jumping, jogging, riding a stationary bike, walking on the treadmill, or calisthenics. An adequate warm up and stretching your leg muscles will increase the circulation and healthy blood flow to the muscles in addition to preventing injury.
Start with squats. Learn and practice the proper technique of squatting by using bodyweight squats. After you become comfortable with the movement, use an empty bar. Once you become proficient, add plates to your barbell and begin squatting with heavier weights. The squat will strengthen and build your quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. Heavy squats have also been shown to increase the production and release of testosterone. As a general rule, perform 10-15 reps for your leg exercises with one set as a warm up set, then perform 2-3 additional “heavy” sets once your legs can handle the heavier weights because the heavy weights will stimulate more strength and growth.
After you squat, deadlift. Deadlifts will add size and strength to your hamstrings. Start with stiff-legged or Romanian deadlifts as they are compound exercises and the best mass building exercises for the hamstrings. Like the squat, practice your deadlifts with an empty bar until you learn proper form and correct movement. Practice moving your hips back as you lower the bar as far down as you are comfortable.
Lunges. After you complete your squats and deadlifts, perform 2-3 sets of lunges for your glutes, thighs and hamstrings. With a dumbbell in each hand, a barbell on your shoulders or using only your own body weight, start with your feet together and take a large step forward until your knee is directly above your forward foot. Lower your body until your back knee is just above the floor. Push yourself back up to the starting position. Alternate your legs so that you complete 10-12 lunges per leg.
Calf raises. Standing calf raises can be performed with a dumbbell in each hand, a barbell on your shoulders or using only your own body weight, raise up on the balls of your feet and stretch and hold at the top of the movement. To increase the difficulty stand with your toes on a board or weight plate.
Skip those “isolation” exercises until later in your training. If you are interested in adding mass to your legs, skip the leg extensions, leg curls, and leg presses and use them as you advance in your training for sculpting the muscle you will build with squats and deadlifts. If you have the energy for any of these exercises, then chances are you did not put in maximal effort into your squats, deadlifts, and lunges and should restart this routine.