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8 Best Leg Exercises for Building Muscle

Updated: Aug 16

Newcomers frequently focus on their arms, shoulders, or chest while ignoring their lower body.

Sure, a well-built upper body makes you look good, but a stick-thin lower and a buff upper body make you appear comical.

Furthermore, the lack of a solid lower body foundation can make your other exercises harder to do, less stable, and can even make you weaker.

Legs have the most muscle mass in your body and bear the majority of your body weight. Therefore, they are essential for overall fitness.

Working out your leg muscles helps you burn more calories and improves blood circulation.

Furthermore, muscles such as the hamstrings and quadriceps assist you in maintaining balance while walking on uneven terrain.

Whether you want to lose weight or build muscle, you can't ignore your leg muscles.

To keep your legs looking strong and fit for many years, you should focus your training on the hamstrings, quadriceps, calf, and the smaller muscle groups in the inner and outer thighs.

Fortunately, most gyms now have specialised exercise machines that specifically target different muscle groups in your legs.

These eight best leg exercises for building muscle will do wonders for your lower body on days when you can get to the gym for specialised training.

Table of Contents:

1) Cycling

What is one thing that all Tour de France cyclists have in common? Strong legs.

The rigorous pedalling movement in the high alps works all of the muscles in the legs. Cycling is, therefore, an ideal approach to strengthen your leg muscles.

man cycling

Unfortunately, not everyone has the privilege of cycling outside. You can, however, invest in a nice recumbent exercise bike to work out your legs in the quiet of your own house.

It provides variable resistance that is appropriate for all levels of cyclists, from novices to alpinists.

Recumbent exercise bikes allow you to target your lower body muscles from various angles.

The best thing about recumbent exercise bikes is that they are low-impact compared to most other leg muscle-building activities.

Furthermore, they are quite pleasant to sit on and impose very little strain on your joints, upper body, and lower back.

Related: Comparing Indoor & Outdoor Cycling

2) Squats

man doing a bodyweight squat

The squat is a time-honoured exercise that has been practised since the dawn of civilization.

This exercise, which is mostly done with a barbell, engages nearly all lower-body muscles. On a 'leg day,' bodybuilders usually start with squats.

However, it is advised that novices perform it without weights at first to ensure proper technique.

Free squats assist your leg muscles to get used to the squatting motion and prepare them for weights later on.

You'll be amazed at how much weight your legs can raise as you become stronger. To fully work out your thigh muscles, try various variations of this exercise.

Further Reading: How to Do a Bodyweight Squat (Video Guide)

3) Leg Extensions

woman doing leg extensions

Leg extensions are a great way to shape your quadriceps and thighs.

It increases mass, aids in the formation of the characteristic "teardrop" shape of the muscle right above the knee, and creates muscular striations down the front of the thighs.

For best results, concentrate on and compress your quads during the contraction phase of leg extensions.

4) Leg Curls

woman doing leg curls

Leg curls are similar to leg extensions, except that you will be laying face down to target your hamstrings towards the back of your thighs.

The pad is placed right above your Achilles' tendons, and you will pull the weight back with your hamstrings.

The movement is similar to kicking yourself in the buttocks with your heels while lying face down. This exercise strengthens the hamstrings and should be done as part of your 'leg day.'

5) Romanian Deadlift

The deadlift is weightlifting at its most basic - lifting something and lowering it. The Romanian deadlift is a variant of the traditional deadlift.

woman doing romanian deadlift

  • To begin, place a barbell of your desired weight in front of you, don't go too heavy on this exercise, it's all about contraction and feel.

  • Grip the barbell in an overhand grip, slowly begin to pull it up from the ground.

  • Keep your legs straight with a slight bend at the knee, Your back should be straight all the way through.

  • Then, by pulling your hip back, lower the weight to the ground.

  • Return to the starting posture by placing the weight on the ground.

  • Perform as many repetitions as you can.

This is a full-body workout that will train both your upper and lower body, particularly your hamstrings and erector spinae muscles.

6) Jump Squats

woman doing jump squats

Unlike regular squats, which rely on barbells or dumbbells, jump squats rely on your own body weight.

This exercise employs your body weight and explosive plyometric energy to provide a much-needed cardio workout for your legs.

You can increase the intensity by holding dumbbells in your hands.

  • To perform a jump squat, stand with your legs hip-width apart and your arms out in front of you for improved balance.

  • Next, perform a standard squat, and when your butt is at its lowest point, spring up explosively and land softly.

  • Return to the starting location and repeat as many times as you desire.

You'll receive better benefits if you execute this workout as quickly as possible.

7) Standing Calf Raises

man doing standing calf raises

Calf muscles are very resistant to fatigue. To work up a sweat, they need heavy weights and a lot of reps.

Standing calf rises with no weight engage your calf muscles and ankle before moving on to more rigorous calf exercises.

  • Begin by standing on an elevated platform, your heels dangling over the edge.

  • Begin in this position, with your legs hip-width apart.

  • Lift yourself carefully off the platform, keeping your toes on the platform.

  • Return to starting position after a brief stop at the top of the movement.

Repeat with barbells or dumbbells after a couple of warm-up sets for extra intensity.

8) Glute Bridge

woman doing a glute bridge

This basic workout targets the hamstrings, hips, and core in addition to the glutes.

  • Lie on a mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.

  • Slowly raise your hips until a straight line emerges from your head to your knees.

  • Push your hips up as far as you can until you feel your glutes stretch.

  • Hold the position for a few ticks before releasing it.

  • Repeat for your desired number of repetitions.

Weights can be added to increase the intensity.

Final Say

The workouts listed above are excellent for strengthening the muscles in your legs. To avoid harm, they must, however, be performed only after a suitable warm-up.

Aside from the mandatory cardio warm-up, it is best to do a separate warm-up for each muscle group.

For example, before using weights for squats, perform free squats to stimulate the specific muscle groups. Your legs are naturally powerful. You'll soon be lifting big weights.

If you push yourself and stick to your workout routine, you will see improvements quickly.


The information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other competent professional before following advice or taking any supplement. See our terms and conditions.

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