50 Best Leg Exercises of All Time to Build Muscle

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When you think of leg exercises, odds are high your mind goes straight to squats, deadlifts, and variations thereof. However, lower-body moves enlist more than just your quads and hamstrings. With these moves, you’re not just hitting the major muscles. You also work your core, improve your balance, and hone things like grip strength, which pays dividends in the long run.

A strong lower body is crucial to performance—whether you’re looking to improve sport-specific skills, gym work, or just daily functional fitness. Yes, you heard that right, we said “strong lower body.” When you do leg workouts, you should hit the entire posterior chain: calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, lats, and the muscles along the spine.

For the sake of your physique and training results, here are 50 of the best leg exercises to ensure you’re building three-dimensional muscle.

Working out at home? Many leg workouts can be done with standard home gym equipment like dumbbells and kettlebells (e.g. single leg deadlift, goblet squat, walking lunges, single leg Romanian deadlift, and calf raises).

Mix and match these exercises to create endless leg workouts. Not sure how many reps to go with? Use our rep range guide. We highlight the benefits and arguments for using high reps (15+), low reps (5 or less), and moderate reps (8-12) depending on your goals.

50 Best Leg Exercises of All Time

How to do it:

  1. Set a barbell on a power rack at about shoulder height.
  2. Grab the power with an overhand grip at shoulder width and raise your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
  3. Take the bar out of the rack and let it rest on your fingertips.
  4. Your elbows should be all the way up throughout the movement.
  5. Step back and set your feet at shoulder width with toes turned out slightly.
  6. Squat as low as you can without losing the arch in your lower back.

How to do it:

  1. Stand lunge-length in front of a bench.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest the top of your left foot on the bench behind you.
  3. 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.

How to do it:

  1. A killer deadlift variation, hold a barbell with a shoulder-width grip and stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend your hips back as far as you can.
  3. Allow your knees to bend as needed while you lower the bar along your shins until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
  4. Keep your lower back in its natural arched position throughout.

How to do it:

  1. In a squat rack or cage, grasp the bar as far apart as is comfortable and step under it.
  2. Place it on your lower traps, squeeze your shoulder blades together, push your elbows up and nudge the bar out of the rack.
  3. Take a step or two back and stand with your feet at shoulder width and your toes turned slightly out.
  4. 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.
  5. Push your knees out as you descend.
  6. Drive vertically with your hips to come back up, continuing to push your knees out.

How to do it:

  1. Stand behind a bench or another elevated surface that will put your thigh parallel to the floor when you step your foot onto it.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and step onto the bench, but leave your trailing leg hanging off.

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight up with feet hip-width apart and shins one inch away from the bar.
  2. Grip the bar with a double pronated or reverse grip, bend knees and push them into your straight arms.
  3. 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.
  4. Once you’ve got that right you can try these 4 ways to break your deadlift record.

How to do it:

  1. Brace your abs with heels on a stability ball.
  2. Raise your hips into the air, but keep your knees straight.
  3. From there, bend your knees and roll the ball back toward you.
  4. Keep your hips elevated throughout the set. Check out more Swiss-Ball leg exercises.

How to do it:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in one hand and stand on the opposite leg.
  2. Bend your hips back and lower your torso until you feel your lower back is about to lose its arch.
  3. Squeeze your glutes and extend your hips to come up.

How to do it:

  1. Adjust the seat of the machine so that you can sit comfortably with your hips beneath your knees and your knees in line with your feet.
  2. Remove the safeties and lower your knees toward your chest until they’re bent 90 degrees and then press back up.
  3. Be careful not to go too low or you risk your lower back coming off the seat (which can cause injury).

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your toes on the block and hold onto something sturdy for support.
  2. Raise your heels to come up on the balls of your feet, and then lower your heels until you feel a stretch in your calves.
  3. This is just one way to get stronger, bigger calves

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet hip width, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Step forward with one leg and lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor.
  3. Step forward with your rear leg to perform the next rep.

How to do it:

View the original article to see embedded media.

  1. Set up in a squat rack or cage.
  2. Grasp the bar as far apart as is comfortable and step under it.
  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and nudge the bar out of the rack.
  4. Step back and stand with your feet at shoulder width and your toes turned out slightly.
  5. Take a deep breath and tuck your hips back, then bend your knees to lower your body as far as you can without losing the arch in your lower back.
  6. Push your knees out as you descend.
  7. Hold the bottom position for two seconds. 

How to do it:

  1. Stand with the dumbbells still in your hands and step back with your right foot.
  2. Lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and your rear knee nearly touches the floor.
  3. Keep your torso upright.
  4. Step forward to return to the starting position.
  5. Complete all reps on one leg, then switch legs. That’s one set.

How to do it:

  1. Hold the weights at shoulder level and stand with feet shoulder-width apart and toes turned slightly out.
  2. Squat down as low as you can without losing the arch in your lower back.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart and the kettlebell on the floor.
  2. Grasp the weight with both hands (palms facing you) and, keeping your lower back flat, extend your hips to raise it off the floor.
  3. From there, take a deep breath and bend your hips back, allowing the weight to swing back between your legs.
  4. Explosively extend your hips and exhale—allowing the momentum to swing the weight up to shoulder level.
  5. Control the descent, but use the momentum to begin the next rep.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and squat down until your thighs are about parallel to the floor but no deeper.
  2. Jump as high as you can.
  3. Land with soft knees and begin the next rep.

How to do it:

  1. Place a block, step, or weight plate on the floor.
  2. Grasp a barbell and hold it on the backs of your shoulders, as in a squat.
  3. Place your toes on the block so your calves are stretched, but make sure you can maintain balance.
  4. Raise your heels to come up onto the balls of your feet.

How to do it:

  1. Kneel down in a lunge position with your right leg in front, and rest your back knee on a towel or mat, if available.
  2. Extend your left hand above your head and let your right hand hang at your side.
  3. Contract your left glute and push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds.

How to do it:

  1. Stand on your right leg and pick your left one up off the floor.
  2. Raise both arms in front of you to act as a counterbalance.
  3. If you have light weights or something similar to help you keep your balance, use it.
  4. Bend your hips and knees and lower your body as low as you can.
  5. Come back up.

How to do it:

  1. Stand tall with feet flat on the floor and jump using only your calves.
  2. Land softly, absorbing the force by dropping into a half squat; also, try to land quietly.

How to do it:

  1. Rest your upper back on a bench and sit on the floor with legs extended.
  2. Roll a loaded barbell up your thighs until the bar sits on your lap (you may want to place a towel or mat on your hips or attach a pad to the bar for comfort).
  3. Brace your abs and drive your heels into the floor to extend your hips, raising them until your thighs and upper body are parallel to the floor. 

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back on the floor and bend your knees so your feet rest on the floor close to your butt.
  2. Brace your abs and drive your heels into the floor to raise your hips into the air. 
  3. From there, walk your feet out in a V shape, taking small steps with your heels forward and away from the midline of your body.
  4. Keep your hips up.
  5. Continue until your legs are extended and then walk them back in. That’s one rep.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back on the floor and bend both knees so that your feet rest on the floor close to your butt.
  2. Brace your abs and raise one leg up and bring the knee toward your chest.
  3. Drive the heel of the other foot into the floor.
  4. Bridge up until your body is in a straight line.

How to do it:

  1. Use a seated calf raise machine, or sit on a bench and rest the balls of your feet on a block or step (and hold dumbbells on your thighs for resistance).
  2. Perform a calf raise as described at left, but with hips and knees bent 90 degrees.

How to do it:

  1. Place the ball against a wall and stand with your back against it, holding it in place.
  2. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and turn your toes out about 15 degrees.
  3. Squat down as low as you can, rolling the ball down the wall as you descend.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor and place your hands on the floor under your shoulders, fingers pointing in front of you.
  2. Place your feet shoulder width and squeeze your glutes.
  3. Push through your heels as you bridge your hips up.
  4. Your body should form a table, with your torso and hips parallel to the floor.
  5. Hold for two seconds.

How to do it:

  1. Hold the weight close to your chest at shoulder level with both hands on the handle and palms facing each other.
  2. Squat down as deeply as you can, then press the bell straight out in front of you with arms extended.
  3. Bring it back to your chest and repeat for reps while maintaining the squat position.

How to do it:

  1. Rest both feet in the foot cradles of a suspension trainer with legs straight.
  2. Bridge your hips up so your body forms a straight line, then bend your knees, curling your heels toward your butt.
  3. The closer you place your hands to your sides, the more support you’ll get.

How to do it:

View the original article to see embedded media.

  1. Hold the bar overhead and step forward with your left leg.
  2. Lower yourself until your left thigh is parallel to the floor and your rear knee nearly touches the floor.

How to do it:

  1. Use a standing calf raise machine, or stand on a block or step with a dumbbell in one hand while holding on to something for support with the other.
  2. Lower your heels toward the floor until you feel a stretch in your calves.
  3. Drive the balls of your feet into the foot plate and contract your calves, raising your heels as high as possible.
  4. Control the descent on each rep.

How to do it:

  1. Bend at the waist, grabbing underneath your big toes (or touch palms to floor).
  2. Keep your arms straight inside your knees, pull  hips down until they’re between your ankles, and lift your chest.
  3. Tuck your chin and try to straighten your legs, holding on to your toes as you straighten the hips and knees.
  4. This improves flexibility in your hamstrings and is a good indicator of how much room you have to improve.

How to do it:

  1. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell with two hands against your chest.
  2. Squat by sitting hips back and down, keeping your weight in your heels, without lifting the toes.
  3. Maintain contact between the kettlebell and your chest.
  4. Your elbows should touch your knees at the bottom of the movement.
  5. Rise and extend powerfully through your hips to stand.

How to do it:

  1. Stand on your right leg, with your left foot off the ground.
  2. Squat slightly on your right leg and use your leg and glute to jump laterally (to the left).
  3. Land on the opposite leg, maintaining balance.
  4. Hold for three seconds.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

How to do it:

  1. Start in a squat position with back flat, hips back, and a miniband around your ankles.
  2. Taking small steps, walk forward, keeping feet in line with hips.

How to do it:

  1. Press back against a wall, then scooch down until knees are at a 90-degree angle and thighs are parallel to floor.
  2. Hold plate in front of chest (as shown), or extend arms straight out for added shoulder work.
  3. Hold for at least 30 seconds.

How to do it:

  1. As a progression to the pistol squat, stand parallel to a ledge with one foot hanging off.
  2. Extend arms and the free leg out in front of you.
  3. Bend your working knee, hinging at hips, to lower into a squat.
  4. Keeping your back straight and torso upright, as you try to touch your working hamstring to the calf.
  5. Squeeze glutes and drive through heels to stand. Repeat on the other side. When you progress, stand on a flat surface and repeat the above steps.

How to do it:

  1. Stand on one leg, holding one end of a dumbbell with both hands.
  2. Bend back at the hips and then bend your knee and, keeping your chest up, lower your body while reaching slightly to your left side.
  3. Imagine a clock face on the floor and touch the end of the dumbbell at 11 o’clock.
  4. Stand back up and squat down again and touch 12 o’clock. Repeat, and reach to the right to touch 1 o’clock. Each touch is one rep. Repeat on the other leg.

How to do it:

  1. Stand on one leg and squat halfway down.
  2. Place the toe of the opposite foot on the grass behind you for balance.
  3. Explode off the working leg, jumping up and forward, and land on the same leg.
  4. Hold the landing for three seconds and begin your next jump. Be conservative with your distance and height, since the impact will be hard.

How to do it:

  1. Set up 2 boxes, a 20­inch and a 12­inch, 2 feet apart.
  2. Stand between them. Squat, then explode up, landing on the boxes in a split position, one foot on each box.
  3. Most of your weight is in the front foot, on the high box, while the back foot acts to balance you.

How to do it:

  1. Squat and jump 180 degrees counter-clockwise.
  2. Imagine  there’s a mirror behind you and you want to face the mirror.
  3. Now squat while facing the mirror and jump back the way you came.
  4. Squat again; this time clockwise.
  5. This not only tests your quads but also improves hip stability and mobility.

How to do it:

  1. Start on hands and knees, toes touching a wall.
  2. Slide right knee back toward wall, moving top of foot up wall.
  3. Put your left foot on the floor, and push your torso up.
  4. Adjust your left foot so the knee is square, and place hands on the left knee.
  5. Adjust the back knee so you feel a stretch but pose is not painful.
  6. Breathe, then switch sides.
  7. Alternative: If this bothers your knee, perform a side-lying quad stretch by lying on your side, knees pulled into chest, holding your top ankle with your top hand.
  8. Pull the top leg behind your body to feel a stretch in the front of your thigh and hip.
  9. Hold for two seconds, then return to the starting position.
  10. Do a set of 10 on one side before repeating on the opposite side.

How to do it:

  1. Stand on two legs facing a box.
  2. Bend slightly at the knees to load your hips and swing your arms down and back.
  3. Using momentum, swing arms forward and jump onto the box, holding a stable landing position for two seconds.
  4. Step off the box and repeat.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with the ball between your lower back and a wall.
  2. Straighten left leg and flex foot to start.
  3. With core tight and shoulders engaged for stability, lower hips, allowing the ball to travel up the back, until the left leg is parallel to the floor.
  4. Reverse to start for one rep. Do all reps with the left leg raised, then switch legs.

How to do it:

  1. Place a band around thighs, just above knees, and stand with feet just wider than shoulder-width apart, holding a moderate (30–40 pound) kettlebell in both hands.
  2. Hinge at hips and push butt back as you lower your torso and KB toward the floor, maintaining tension in your hamstrings and glutes.
  3. Push through heels to stand.
  4. After 2 sets of 8 to 10 reps, you can remove the band and load up a barbell.
  5. Doing this warmup consistently will improve your deadlifts.

How to do it:

  1. Sit with knees bent, feet on the floor.
  2. Drape the resistance band over tops of thighs and secure the ends under each foot.
  3. Lie back, squeeze glutes and activate core, then press hips toward ceiling.
  4. Hold for one second, then lower for one rep.

How to do it:

  1. Hold a 10- to 20-pound kettlebell at face height (it acts as a counterbalance).
  2. Standing on one foot, lift the other leg behind you, shin parallel to the floor.
  3. Shift hips back and slowly lower,until shin meets the floor. Press through the standing heel to reverse.

How to do it:

  1. Stand, feet hip-width apart, to start.
  2. Shift weight left, inhale, lift right knee to chest, elbows down at sides, palms facing up near chest.
  3. Exhale, soften left knee, hinge forward, and extend arms, and right leg back.
  4. Reverse to start, then repeat on the right side for 1 rep.

How to do it:

  1. Step forward with your left leg, and lower your body into a lunge.
  2. As you go down, place your right hand on the floor so it’s even with your left foot. Your right knee should remain above the floor—not touching.
  3. Now move your left elbow inside your left foot, and rest it on the floor.
  4. Square your hips so you feel a stretch on both sides, and try to keep your back as flat as possible.
  5. Move your left hand outside your left foot, and twist to reach for the sky.
  6. Try to pull the toes on your left foot up to your shin.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your toes on a line.
  2. Pick a visual in front of you and jump toward that, hammering your arms back quickly as you leap.

How to do it:

  1. Stand holding a dowel rod or broomstick above your head.
  2. Squat back and down until the top of your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  3. Push from your hips back to a standing position.
  4. The dowel encourages proper squatting mechanics and also works the back and shoulders in addition to the quads.



Source
Las Vegas News Magazine

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