What is the true indication of a great physique? Is it large, peaked biceps? Is it razor-sharp abs? Is it bowling-ball shoulders or a wide thick back? None of those are correct. The real answer is, symmetry. A “Symmetrical Physique” is one in which all body parts flow into each other. No one body part or side of the body is bigger than the other.
too many beginners skip out on leg-training and build a horrible imbalance between the size of their upper and lower body. This completely throws off the symmetry of one’s physique. There is nothing more ridiculous than to see a guy in the gym with a well-developed upper body with toothpick legs.
Directly or indirectly, people end up working on their hamstrings at some point or the other. And why not. Strong and muscular legs are a bonus, Working on your hamstrings not only creates a balanced look but also helps you prevent injuries by strengthening that part of your leg.
The Benefits of Training Your Legs
Leg exercises are an essential component of any serious weight lifting routine for the following reasons:
- Run Faster & Jump Higher. Performing weight lifting exercises for your legs will develop explosive lower body power. Watch your sprinting speed and jumping ability dramatically improve as your weights on the major leg exercises increase. This is an irreplacable advantage for competitive athletes. But even as a non-competitive athlete, I find it fun to be able to jump up and hang on a basketball rim when I’m under 6 feet and over 200 lbs (white men can jump!).
- Big Wheels. Enhanced performance benefits are just the beginning; you can also develop an impressive pair of muscular “wheels.” Although generally underrated, well-developed legs are essential to a symmetrical and aesthetically appealing physique (just ask Arnold). The only downside to bigger and better upper leg muscles is that you’ll have to buy new jeans.
- Gain Muscle Mass…Everywhere! You are essentially working the entire body when performing a set of a compound lower body exercise. Take the squat, leg press or deadlift exercises for example; just think of how many muscles you’re contracting throughout your body, other than your legs. Even if they are only being isometrically contracted (i.e. flexed but not moving), these other muscle groups recievve enough muscle fiber stimulation for enhanced size and strength development.
Now onto the exercises.
Seated Leg Press
You can’t have a list of leg workouts without including the Seated Leg Press. Not only is it extremely convenient to do but are also very proficient in giving your legs, especially your quads, a good workout. In fact, the Seated Leg Press is a stepping stone towards acquiring ripped legs.
Step 1: Position your body on the leg press machine while making sure that your tailbone and spine make contact with the back of the seat and your feet are shoulder width apart.
Step 2: Push forward by straightening your legs while giving your quads a good flex.
Step 3: Lower yourself back down until your legs revert to their original stance.
Important Tip: Begin with 4 sets of 6 reps.
Undoubtedly one of the most proficient exercises, the traditional Deadlift is renowned by fitness enthusiast the world over due to its ability to engage each and every muscle group of the body. Besides being an effective all-round exercise, the Deadlift plays a crucial role in strengthening your legs and is one of the leg workouts you should practice in the gym.
Step 1: Begin by standing with the bar right above the center of your feet while taking care to maintain a narrow stance to give your arms room.
Step 2: Raise the bar overhead, bend your knees until your shins touch the bar while keeping your shoulder blades directly over it.
Step 3: Follow up by pulling while keeping the bar close to your body and roll it over your knees and thighs until your knees and hips are locked firmly in place.
Important Tip: Start off with 4 sets of 6 reps.
In all honesty, the Romanian Deadlift is one of the trickier exercises on this list, but is excellent when it comes to the development of your hamstrings and glute, which is why you must practice it often.
Step 1: Grab a barbell with a shoulder-width grip and position yourself with your feet hip-width apart.
Step 2: Bend your hips back as far as you can and let your knees bend smoothly while you lower the bar along your shins.
Step 3: Make sure your lower back in its natural arched position throughout the exercise.
Important Tip: Begin with 3 sets of 8 reps.
The barbell squat is a compound exercise that targets the quads, hips, glutes, hamstrings and the lower-back muscles.
Step 1: Stand straight with your feet placed shoulder-width apart and secure the barbell with a wide grip. Move it behind the head and place it firmly on the traps.
Step 2: With a stationary torso, lower your body by bending your knees until the thighs are parallel to the floor.
Step 3: Hold the position for a moment and return to the starting position.
Perform the exercise for the recommended number of repetitions.
Important tip: Exercise caution while training with heavy weights. Beginners are advised to work under expert supervision with the help of a spotter.
The biggest benefit to doing sumo squats is that the wider stance offers a unique challenge to the inner thigh muscles
Step 1: Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Let your toes point out. Hold one dumbbell with both hands and let it hang down in front of you. Keep your back straight.
Step 2: Bend your knees, push your butt back and lower your body down to perform a squat. Go down until your butts are lower than your knees.
Step 3: Pause for a second and push through your heels to get back to the initial position.
Do 2 sets with 15 reps each.
The kettlebell goblet squat not only targets the quads and hamstrings in the lower body but also tones the deltoids found in the shoulders.
Step 1: Stand straight with your feet placed slightly wider than the distance between the shoulders. Hold a kettlebell with a firm grip and place it in front of chest, just below the chin.
Step 2: Slowly lower yourself by bending your knees until the thighs are parallel to the floor.
Step 3: Hold for a second and return to the starting position.
Repeat the exercise for the recommended number of times.
This variation of the simple squat is widely regarded as the staple exercise to build inner thigh muscles. Additionally, the exercise trains the glutes, hamstrings and the quads as well.
Step 1: Stand straight with your feet placed at a distance that is wider than the distance between the shoulders. Bring the hands together and position them in front of the chest while keeping the elbows close to the body.
Step 2: Squat deep to the right until the right thigh is parallel to the ground. The left leg must be fully extended, and the toes must be off the floor and pointing toward the ceiling.
Step 3: Pause for a second and return to the starting position. Perform the same motion on the other side to complete one rep.
Wall sit workout is a good exercise to strengthen your body. The exercises involved in this workout is good for your body as this exercise focuses on your legs which in return will increase your stamina and will strengthen your body and muscles.
Step 1: Get next to a wall. Stand with your back firmly pressed against the wall.
Step 2: Now slowly bend your knees, to the extent that your thighs are parallel to the ground. Hold this position for 30 seconds and get back up.
Do it for 2 minutes.
Important Tip: You can gradually increase the hold periods as well up to 60 seconds. As you can guess, this exercise is much easier to others on here but is effective at the same time.
The kettlebell farmer’s walk is a wonderful lower body exercise that targets the quads, hamstrings, glutes and the calf muscles with unrivaled precision. Moreover, the exercise tones the forearms and the abdominal muscles as well.
Step 1: Stand straight with your feet placed shoulder-width apart and secure the kettlebells in both the hands. Place them on the side, parallel to the body.
Step 2: Briskly walk for 50 feet without swinging the arms. Ensure that the elbows are close to the body throughout the duration of the exercise.
Step 3: Pause for a moment and walk back to the starting position.
Perform the exercise for the recommended number of times.
Important tip: Do not sway your body while performing this exercise.
The unique motion of the transverse lunge works a multitude of muscles in the lower body, including the glutes, inner thighs, hamstrings and the quads
Step 1: Stand straight with your feet positioned shoulder-width apart and hold the dumbbells in both the hands. Position them on the side, parallel to the body.
Step 2: With a stationary left foot, turn to the right and take a step with the right foot. In this position, slightly bend the right knee, while ensuring that the left leg is straight and fully extended. You could move the dumbbells to the right such that they are positioned directly above the knee.
Step 3: Pause for a second and return to the starting position. Repeat the same motion on the other side to complete one rep.
Perform the exercise for the recommended number of times.
Important tip: Beginners must avoid taking a giant stride as it could unbalance their body, also use weights if you want a added challenge.
Also referred to as the split squat, the Bulgarian Lunge is a variation of the traditional lunge, with the only difference being that the tension remains on one leg rather than both while performing the exercise.
Step 1: Hold a dumbbell in each hand and place yourself in a staggered stance with one foot rested on a bench or box.
Step 2: Lower yourself by bending your knee while keeping your spine straight. Keep lowering yourself until your thigh is parallel to the ground.
Step 3: Revert to your original position by pushing yourself up through your heel.
Important Tip: Begin with 2 sets of 8 reps on each leg.
There’s not a whole lot of subtlety to this exercise – you just need a bench or platform. Make sure it isn’t too high; just under knee height is about right.
Step 1: Find a box or a platform that is about 8 to 12 inches tall.
Step 2: Place one foot on it and pull yourself up. Remember to keep your chest up. Slouching is not the way to go about is this case.
Step down and switch. Do about 10 on each leg.
Important Tip: Your calf might pull, but do not give up. In the long run, it will strengthen your calves so motivate yourself and keep going.
The side step-up is a wonderful aerobic exercise that not only improves the endurance but also activates the core and the inner thigh muscles. Also, with its simple motion, the exercise could be performed by beginners and casual trainers as well.
Step 1: Stand beside a raised platform with your feet placed shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on the side, parallel to the body.
Step 2: Step on top of the elevated platform while maintaining a straight torso. Avoid swinging your arms while performing this motion.
Step 3: Pause for a moment and return to the initial position.
Repeat the exercise for the recommended number of times. Perform the same motion on the other side to train the other set of the inner thigh muscles.
Important tips: Increase the height of the elevated platform to tone the muscles with greater intensity. Hold dumbbells in both the hands for an increased challenge.
Scissor Leg Plank
The scissor leg plank is an advanced variation of the regular plank that not only targets the core but also activates a host of muscles found in the inner thigh region.
Step 1: Lie on the floor in a prone position and quickly transition yourself into a regular high plank position. The feet should be close to each other while the palms must be placed directly below the shoulders.
Step 2: With a stationary torso, move the legs to the side in an arc motion until you feel a stretch in the thighs. Keep the legs straight and parallel to the body throughout the duration of the exercise.
Step 3: Hold the position for 30 seconds and return to the starting position.
Repeat the exercise for the recommended number of times.
Important tip: Do not let the body sag towards the floor while performing this exercise.
Scissor kicks are an effective abdominal exercise and also helps build strong thighs. It is particularly useful because it can be modified to suit a beginner or expert exerciser and does not require any additional equipment.
Step 1: Lie on the ground and face the ceiling. Keep your arms by your side and extend your legs forward.
Step 2: Slowly, lift your toes in the air without bending your knees.
Step 3: Open your legs and close it quickly but cross your left thigh over your right thigh. Then open your legs again and cross your right thigh over your left thigh. Open your legs and bring them together.
Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise
The seated dumbbell calf raise is a relatively simple exercise and is great for toning the muscles in the calf region. The seated dumbbell calf raise is also effective in improving the overall endurance of the body for cardio exercises.
Step 1: Sit on a flat bench while resting the balls of your feet on a footrest. Ensure that there is enough room to allow for a free movement of the heel. Place a dumbbell on the thigh of the working leg.
Step 2: Raise the dumbbell by contracting your calf muscles and forcing the toes against the footrest.
Step 3: Hold this position for a moment and return to the initial position.
Repeat the exercise for the recommended number of times and then perform the same motion with the other leg.
Important tips: Keep your torso straight while performing the exercise. Move the legs in a gradual motion and do not use momentum to lower the weight. Moreover, do not use heavy weights without proper supervision.
Standing Calf Raise
The standing calf raise exercise develops strength in your calves. It also helps to strengthen the ankle as well.
Step 1: Stand in a shoulder-width stance with your toes flat on the edge of a stair or a similar flat elevated object. Your heels and mid-foot hanging off the edge so you feel a stretch in your calf.
Step 2: Use the wall or a rail as a support to stay balanced.
Step 3: Push your toes into the stair so your heels raise up, pause for a 1-2 seconds.
Step 4: Then lower yourself back to the starting position, being sure to feel a stretch in your calves.
Important Tip: Do four sets of 15-20 reps each. Make sure that you drop your heel as far as possible to achieve the greater efficiency during this exercise and squeeze the calf as you go up.
Nordic Ham Curl
The Nordic ham curl has been examined thoroughly in the scientific literature for good reason – it’s a highly effective hamstring exercise. It can help prevent hamstring injuries due to the eccentric emphasis, which shifts the hamstring’s maximum force potential to longer muscle lengths.
Step 1: Kneel on the ground.
Step 2: Wrap your feet around a pole or put them under something sturdy for some support.
Step 3: Keep your body straight.
Step 4: Slowly, bend your upper body towards the ground, maintaining a straight line from your head to knee. Use your body control to do so.
Step 5: Use your palm to support your body as it falls to the ground.
Step 6: Push your hand in to get back up to the initial position, all the while keeping your posture aligned.
Do this for a minute and a half.
Important Tips: The support from the sturdy object will help you get a form of stability. The fall should be as slow as possible and squeeze your hamstring while you move towards the floor.
Single Leg Pistol Squats
The pistol, or single-leg squat, is a unique exercise that combines strength, flexibility, and grace in a manner unlike many other movements. There are several pieces to the pistol puzzle, and proper execution requires mastery of each element.
Step 1: Get down in the squat position and keep your feet flat on the floor.
Step 2: Take your left leg in front of you and try to balance on the other.
Step 3: Once you are fine with the balance situation, stand back up with your left leg in the air.
Step 4: Slowly get back down in the squat position again, balancing your body weight on your right leg.
Do this exercise 10 times on each leg.
Important Tips: Your back needs to be straight and your hands need to be straight, parallel to the floor for balance. This is a difficult exercise and hence may take time for you to master. Till you work on it, use some support to get used to it. With time you will notice that you can do deeper squats easily. Pros manage to get down all the way to the floor and get back up without any support. Do not worry, you will get there with a little practice.