11 Powerful Leg Exercises
What is the genuine sign of an extraordinary body? Is it extensive, topped biceps? Is it dangerously sharp abs? Is it knocking down some pins ball shoulders or a wide thick back? None of those are right. The genuine answer is, symmetry. A “Symmetrical Physique” is one in which all body parts stream into one another. Nobody body part or side of the body is greater than the other.
1 – Front Squat
Set a barbell on a power rack at about shoulder height. Grab the power with an overhand grip at shoulder width and raise your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Take the bar out of the rack and let it rest on your fingertips. Your elbows should be all the way up throughout the movement. Step back and set your feet at shoulder width with toes turned out slightly. Squat as low as you can without losing the arch in your lower back.
This movement generally requires some pretty serious upper-back and core strength to maintain a neutral spine and keep you from missing weights. Don’t be surprised if adding these into your workout routine beefs up your back as well! Also, with a front squat, you naturally maintain a much more vertical position, which may decrease the risk of low-back injury.
Workout: This exercise should typically replace the squat in your workout; do it first, when your energy levels are highest. You can hold the bar in the front rack position (also referred to as a clean grip) or with arms crossed. Do multiple sets of 6-10 reps, favoring the lower end if you’re looking to build strength.
2 – Bulgarian Split Squat
Stand lunge-length in front of a bench. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest the top of your left foot on the bench behind you. Lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Single-leg training can yield serious strength gains Opens a New Window.
3 – Romanian Deadlift
A killer deadlift variation, hold a barbell with a shoulder-width grip and stand with feet hip-width apart. Bend your hips back as far as you can. Allow your knees to bend as needed while you lower the bar along your shins until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Keep your lower back in its natural arched position throughout.
4 – Squat
Take a step or two back and stand with your feet at shoulder width and your toes turned slightly out. Take a deep breath and bend your hips back, then bend your knees to lower your body as far as you can without losing the arch in your lower back. Push your knees out as you descend. Drive vertically with your hips to come back up, continuing to push your knees out.
5 – Deadlift
Stand straight up with feet hip-width apart and shins one inch away from the bar. Grip the bar with a double pronated or reverse grip, bend knees and push them into your straight arms. Bring your chest up as much as possible and look straight ahead. Keeping your back flat, extend your hips to stand up, pulling the bar up along your legs to lockout.
6 – Dumbbell Lunge
Why it’s on the list: Like all the movements listed thus far, multijoint lunges require hip and knee extension, which gives you the stimulus for the thighs and glutes. They can be done standing in place, or stepping forward or backward—decide for yourself which subtle variation you prefer. You can also choose between a barbell and dumbbells.
We slightly prefer the latter because of the ease of getting into and out of the start position and the decreased likelihood of knocking something down when doing the walking version down the weight-room floor.
Workout: Do 3 sets of 8-20 reps per side, going higher the further back it is in your routine. As you reach muscle failure, jettison the dumbbells, and do a few more reps without them, like you would in a dropset.
7 – Squat (High And Low Bar)
Why it’s on the list: Squats are king because they’re simply the most challenging leg movement you can do, especially when loaded appropriately. They work all the lower-body musculature (we’re counting glutes), and have been shown to spike muscle-building hormone release. In fact, we even know that squatting before doing curls has been shown to significantly improve arm strength!
Squats are king because they’re simply the most challenging leg movement you can do, especially when loaded appropriately. They work all the lower-body musculature (we’re counting glutes), and have been shown to spike muscle-building hormone release.
Biomechanically, these two versions are completely different animals. With the high bar squat, the torso stays more vertical and increases the knee movement away from the center of gravity. This places a greater load on the quads. The low bar squat has a greater torso lean and increases the hip movement away from the center of gravity, thus placing a greater stress on the glutes.
In all variations, the depth of squat is determined by your ability to maintain a neutral spine, as well as tightness in your hip flexors and tightness in your calves. If you round your back before reaching 90 degrees in your hips, stop at that point and reverse direction. Rounding your lower back can injure the discs, especially if you’re using a heavy weight.
Workout: Do this movement first with several light warm-up sets, pyramiding up in weight, before attempting your heaviest weight for multiple sets. Doing squats later in your workout mean your quads will be prefatigued, so you’ll definitely sacrifice some weight, and good form will be more difficult to maintain.
8 – Olympic Lifts: Snatch And Power Clean
Why it’s on the list: Movements like snatches and power cleans take some serious dedication and technique to master, but they can be unrivaled when you are trying to improve jumping power or squat strength. In fact, one scientific study found a nearly 18-percent greater improvement in squat 1RM after following an Olympic-based program compared to a traditional powerlifting program.
Movements like snatches and power cleans take some serious dedication and technique to master, but they can be unrivaled when you are trying to improve jumping power or squat strength.
Workout: These exercises require absolute concentration on technique and body position. Choose one or the other; this should be your very first exercise of the day. Focus on getting a good triple extension (ankles, knees, and hips), almost as if you were jumping with the bar.
Workout: Stick to reps of 2-3; sets can range from 3-8.
9 – Leg Press
Let’s talk about what many trainers hate about the leg press: It can cause lower-back injury when done incorrectly. And when guys load every last plate in the gym on the sled and try to half-ass a few reps out, with their lower back disengaging from the pad on every rep in part due to woefully inflexible hamstrings and glutes, that’s about as incorrect as you can get. It’s true that it’s one of the most abused exercises in the gym
The target areas are quadriceps (emphasized with feet lower on platform and closer together), glutes and hamstrings (emphasized with feet higher and wider on platform)
The leg press is a closed-kinetic-chain exercise, which simply means your feet are planted rather than free. A closed chain provides for a stronger base of power without as much shearing force on the knee joint as can occur in an open-chain exercise like the knee extension, which didn’t make the list for that very reason.
Workout: Sit squarely in the leg press machine and place your feet shoulder-width apart on the sled. Keeping your chest up and lower back pressed into the pad, carefully unlatch the sled from the safeties. Bend your knees to lower the platform, stopping before your glutes lift off the pad. From there, powerfully extend your knees to press the weight up (but don’t lock them out at the top).
10 – Hack Squat
Why it’s on the list: Machine exercises don’t rank high on our list, because they control the pathway for you, meaning stabilizing muscles take a back seat. In addition, the hormone boost they generate just doesn’t compare to their free-weight brethren. That’s one reason to do them later in your leg-training session, when your thighs are already fatigued.
However, one of the primary benefits of the hack squat is that you can manipulate foot placement. A high placement allows you to descend further, which emphasizes the glutes and hamstrings. A lower placement means the quads take up a greater percentage of the workload. A placement slightly forward of the hips may be the most comfortable.
It’s also easier to spot on machine exercises and use advanced techniques like forced reps and dropsets, because you don’t have to worry about collapsing under a weight.
While you can do reverse hacks on this machine, in which you’re facing toward the apparatus, that version offers very little spinal protection and is not recommended unless you really know what you’re doing.
Workout: Hack squats are typically done after free-weight exercises and before single-joint leg movements. The sweet spot is probably around 3 sets of 8-12 reps. Really control the tempo on these, and avoid locking out your knees at the top to place some serious tension on those quads!
11 – Barbell Squats
Begin with the barbell supported on top of the traps. The chest should be up and the head facing forward. Adopt a hip-width stance with the feet turned out as needed.
Descend by flexing the knees, refraining from moving the hips back as much as possible. This requires that the knees travel forward. Ensure that they stay align with the feet. The goal is to keep the torso as upright as possible.
Continue all the way down, keeping the weight on the front of the heel. At the moment the upper legs contact the lower legs reverse the motion, driving the weight upward.
Workout: Beginners should do these first for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps, using a weight that approaches muscle failure. If done later in your workout, you can allow the reps to drift higher to pump the thighs and glutes.
As with our best-practice records for chest and back, we have concentrated to see which practices work your muscles to the maximum. Yet, recall, picking the correct development is just a large portion of the fight; you should likewise stack it accurately and do the essential number of sets to augment the preparation improvement. Continuously begin your leg routine with the most difficult activities that enable you to push the most weight.