To build bigger and stronger quads, hamstrings and glutes, what you need are multijoint exercises. The list below considers all unsupported movements as the main exercises for legs workout to build stronger muscles. The supported movements (we are talking about leg press, machine squats, seated leg curl, lying leg curl, hack squats) take a back seat as they do not involve the muscles as much as compared to unsupported movements. These are best to do towards the end of your workout when your muscles are already fatigued.
The main criteria to select your exercise should be to involve most of the muscles on legs workout day. Along with correct exercises, the next important thing is selecting the appropriate weight and number of sets to get maximum burn. So, always start your workout with the most challenging exercise and go for max weights.
Remember, the amount of weight lifted and the number of reps and sets performed, also depend upon how well your body is healed from previous workouts. If you had done back workout on previous day, then there are fair chances of not being able to lift max load on legs day, as your lower back is also involved during legs workout. So, plan your workout appropriately to avoid any unnecessary overload on muscles.
The list below covers best muscle building leg exercises –
Squats top the list being the most important and challenging exercise for building leg muscles. This unsupported movement involve all big muscles when performed with appropriate weight and reps, and not to forget with correct form. Go as low as possible without rounding your back to get maximum burn. Keep your toes slightly out, to feel more on your glutes, along with quads.
Start with 2-3 light weight warm-up sets, and then gradually increase the load to max weight. Perform last few sets with max weight and appropriate reps.
For best results – go as low as possible, come up and just when you are about to reach the highest point, go down again for another repetition. Keep the movement going, without coming totally up, you would feel the real burn in your quads.
2. Front squats
They are also a form of squat, but with the bar kept in front of the body instead of back.This movement primarily focuses on quads over hamstrings and glutes. So, if you want to build quads muscles, perform front squats in your workout. Not to mention, select either front or normal squats for a day, don’t go for both together.
This unsupported movement is a great workout for legs, specially focuses on glutes and quads. They can be performed with dumbbells or plates in your hand, which allows easy walking or standing posture. However, for better involvement of muscles, using a bar on shoulder is recommended. With bar on shoulder, even the core abdominal muscles are involved, also the stretch on glutes and quats is better.
Lunges can be done even when the muscles are fatigued. So, better to go for squats first and then start with lunges.
4. Hack Squats
This is also a multijoint leg movement. However, does not involve the muscles as much as compared to free weight squats, for the simple reason that these are supported ones on a machine. They should be done after the free weight exercises, when your muscles are already fatigued.
The position of feet on the machine can make difference to the muscles targeted. Like placing your feet little higher on the machine would help you to descend and hence would work more for glutes and hamstrings. Keeping your feet higher, would involve the quads more.
Ensure that you do not lock your knees while going up, in any case, else you may get injured.
5. Leg Press
This is again a supported movement and hence should be done after the free weight exercises. Again, over here, the muscle mass involved is lesser than free weight squats. However, similar to hack squats, the feet position can help targeting desired muscle. Higher with feet pointing outwards, works more for glutes. A lower feet position would involve quads more.
Ensure that your back is not rounding and your glutes are not off the bench while you come all the way down, else you may injure your back. Maintain appropriate range.
This exercise makes you feel good as you can push more weights in this as compared to squads, however it involves less muscles.
6. Stiff leg deadlift
This is an awesome workout for hamstrings and glutes. Unfortunately, many people do not opt for this. One reason could be to get the correct form for this exercise. It may take you few sessions to get the form correct. Once you get it right, there is no comparison with other machine exercises like seated or lying leg curl that we generally count for hamstrings.
To get the max benefit from this one – keep the movement slow and neat (don’t bend your knees) and go for higher reps. In this one, even less weight and more reps would have good effect when done correctly. Honestly, if this exercise is done properly, you are truly going to feel the burn for next few days, making it difficult for you to sit and get up 🙂
Ensure that you do not descend too much. Come down till the range you feel it on your hamstrings.
Needless to mention – since it focuses on glutes a lot, it is a great workout for females.
7. Hip thrusts
This unsupported movement is another great exercise for glutes. If you aim for perfectly toned glutes, this one is a must on the list.
The bar should be placed in your lap exactly opposite to your glutes starting position, and legs be shoulder width apart with feet on floor. You can lift the toes to be more comfortable. Start the repetition – come up to the range so that your hamstrings are parallel to the floor, squeeze your butt, hold for a sec and slowly come down. Keep your hands locked on the bench to avoid slipping.
Perform 3-4 sets making a minimum of 12 reps in each set.