Leg muscles are the basis of bodybuilding training. This muscle group makes up more than half of the body’s skeletal muscle weight.
If you are just starting out your path in bodybuilding and want to increase the muscle mass and weight of your entire body, it is best to do it through training of such large muscle groups like back and legs, in the first place.
That is why I want to tell you that if you want to see a significant increase in muscle mass of your body, you will want to necessarily train your legs with the help of the best leg exercises for men.
The muscle mass of the legs largely depends on the innate data, many have naturally developed muscles, while others, on the contrary, have legs that are small in volumes and are very difficult to train.
Performing heavy squats with a barbell (as well as other compound exercises) activate the production of testosterone in men, positively affecting not only the growth of the legs but also the increase in muscle mass of the whole body.
Not everybody likes the leg workout simply because it is one of the largest groups of muscles that require a maximum effort during workouts.
At the same time, the legs are the most important stimulant of anabolic processes, their intensive training makes the body experience maximum stress.
How do you think, what is the best indicator of a good leg workout?
That’s right! It is pain.
If you feel pain in your leg muscles after some time of the end of your workout, it means that you have given the legs a sufficient load that will allow them to grow/lose weight / become stronger, whatever your goal is.
Recommendations For a Proper Leg Workout That Will Make Your Muscles Burn
Anatomy of the muscles of the legs is the interweaving of dozens of large, medium and small groups.
The legs are the most complex and interconnected muscle system in the body, intertwined with the abs and lower back.
Even relatively small calves consist of a series of small muscles lying at various depths. That is why it is better to perform leg training based on the principle of a regular rotation of exercise types.
Unlike the back and chest muscles, our legs muscles work almost constantly, therefore, they are usually more developed and that is why, in order to make them grow, they require a special approach to training for growth.
Don’t Neglect The Stretching Warm-up Exercises
Muscles don’t like working in cold, on the opposite, they love to work out in warm that is why before proceeding with strength training it is best to perform warm-up stretching exercises of your hip and knee joints.
It is especially important because you are going to apply heavyweights and if you will not do a proper warm-up before you proceed with your heavyweight leg training, chances are that you will experience traumas in your joints which you definitely don’t want!
Unlike the muscles of the back or chest, the set of exercises for the legs should include exercises that are fundamentally different in their mechanics.
It is necessary to work out the front of the legs and the back of the hips separately and give special attention to the calves.
Perform a Small Number of Reps Applying Maximum Weight
Remember, the legs are used to a lot of repetitions due to our necessity in every day walking.
Also, if you have been practicing before sports that involve in the most part leg muscles (for example, football-playing), it will take you a lot more effort to work out your legs.
That is why, for the growth of leg muscles, it is best to perform a small number of repetitions with maximum weight.
Pay Attention to Position of the Socks and Heels
Watch out the position of the socks during your exercise.
If necessary, use wooden planks to emphasize the load. Depending on the position of the heels and socks, the load in the same compound exercise can differ radically.
First – Compound Exercises, Then – Isolation Exercises
There is a rule of leg training that consists of performing first compound exercises, and then isolation exercises.
In most cases, beginners are advised to limit the number of exercises on the leg muscles, using only compound exercises, first of all, squats with a barbell and leg press in the simulator. Thus, for beginners, it is enough to perform 1-2 exercises on the leg muscles.
If your primary task is to increase the muscle mass of the upper half of the body, provided that the condition of the legs suits you, then it is enough to train your legs 3-4 times a month.
A full-fledged “leg day” that includes both compound and isolation exercises is more suitable for advanced athletes.
Training programs for pro bodybuilders will depend on their goals and type of lagging muscle groups: perform 1-2 compound exercises and 1-3 isolation exercise for lagging muscle groups.
The optimal number of repetitions for the muscles of the lower part of your body will differ. For example, the thigh muscles require 8 to 10 repetitions, the calf muscles 10 to 15, choose weights so that the set is completed to failure.
Effective training to increase leg muscle mass involves a combination of heavy and light exercises.
Multi-joint exercises (like squats with a barbell, leg press in the simulator) are performed with a large weight and in the amount of 5-7 repetitions, while isolation exercises on the simulators (flattening and breeding of the legs, bending, lying, various movements on the calves) are done with moderate weight and 10-15 repetitions.
Do One Leg Workout Per Week (On Average)
Because legs are one of the largest muscle groups in the body, it is recommended to train them not more than once in every 72 hours.
In other words, if you performed heavy squats with a barbell on Monday, the next time it is better to train your legs on Thursday or even Friday. However, if you trained exclusively calves or inner thigh muscles, this time could be reduced.
At the same time, the total number of days needed to restore the muscles of the legs depends on the type of your body.
For example, Mesomorphs can train more often (and, ultimately, build muscle faster), while the body of thin Ectomorphs or chubby Endomorphs needs an increased amount of time to replenish energy reserves.
In this case, the body will have enough time both for successful muscle regeneration and for starting the processes of hypertrophy and weight gain.
And, of course, do not forget that it is also important to follow a sports diet for muscle growth.
Make Use of Super Training Techniques
It was found that the leg muscles adapt very quickly to the load.
So if your goal is the growth in leg muscle mass, it is best to use super training techniques, like supersets, drop sets, slow negatives, constant strain during a set, peak contraction, forced repetition.
Benefits of Compound Exercises In Leg Muscle Workout
- When you train your legs, your back muscles are also involved in the work; thus, you kill two rabbits with one shot!
- Strength and endurance of the whole body grows (even shoulders are involved, while isolated presses on the leg muscles do not have any effect on the upper body);
- When you perform compound exercises for your leg muscles, you spend a lot of energy, which is good for burning fat.
Best Compound Exercises For Legs
If you have seriously decided to work out the lower part of the body, it is important to know which leg exercises are best to perform.
Let’s see together what are the best and most effective compound exercises for legs!
The largest muscles in the legs are the quadriceps muscles (quadriceps), the gluteal muscles (the buttock), and the muscles of the back of the thighs (including the biceps femoris).
The front thigh muscles are recommended to pump up with squats and leg presses, and the muscles of the buttocks and back of the thigh with lunges.
There are also muscles of the outer and inner thighs that work with flattening and breeding of legs.
Deadlift with the barbell is the most important of the five compound strength exercises.
The benefit of a deadlift is that it works on literally every muscle in the body – from the muscles of the back of the legs, buttocks, lower back, abs and lateral muscles of the press, to the muscles of the shoulders and arms.
In addition, due to heavy loads, deadlift also strengthens the central nervous system.
Unfortunately, most trainees neglect to perform the deadlift with a barbell, considering it too difficult exercise.
Moreover, there is no way to “simplify” the exercise or perform it in the simulator. The only lightweight option is the deadlift with dumbbells, but from a technical point of view, this variation requires more attention to the execution technique than the usual deadlift.
The deadlift technique is essentially simple – you just need to slowly lift the heavy barbell off the floor.
However, the incorrect load distribution not only overloads the spine, causing pain in the lower back and neck but also puts the shoulder and knee joints under attack.
Moreover, the greater the working weight used by the athlete in the exercise, the more even the smallest technical errors can cause serious harm.
Barbell Squats (Barbell on Shoulders)
In weightlifting, one of the best and most effective compound exercises for training your leg muscles is barbell squats.
Squats with a barbell on your shoulders is one of the most effective strength exercises in terms of gaining muscle mass.
This multi-joint exercise, performed with a heavyweight, develops both the strength of the muscles of the lower body and increases the endurance of the whole organism and the level of testosterone in men.
Almost all the muscles of the lower body are included in the work when doing squats with a barbell.
Different types of movement shift the emphasis on different muscle groups. Whatever type of squat you perform, it will involve more than 250 muscles!
The ability to squat correctly is the first thing that starts pumping the leg muscles.
When squatting with a barbell, it is important to feel not only the work of the leg muscles but also the constant involvement of other muscles of the body.
At the starting point of the exercise, the barbell should be placed on the bones of the shoulder blades. The hands should only support it, without undue strain on the wrists.
Movement with the barbell up must be started with the raising of the pelvis (and not of the head) while exhaling and straining the press.
If you cannot consciously strain your abs during squats with a barbell, then the effectiveness of the exercise will decrease significantly.
This, in turn, will not allow you to follow the correct execution technique when working with a heavyweight. In order to learn how to strain the press, you will want to pump it regularly.
Front Squats (Barbell on Chest)
During front squats, quadriceps does more work than during squats with a barbell.
It is possible to alternate between these two exercises, but if you are a beginner, I would suggest to first learn how to properly perform barbell squats.
The execution technique of this exercise is as follows:
- The barbell is placed on the shoulders and chest, is clasped by hands from above crosswise, or with a heavy grip;
- Position of the feet is a little narrower than in squats with a barbell on the shoulders, socks also turned outward;
- The back is held in the most possible vertical position;
The weight for front squats with a barbell on your chest should be less than for squats with a barbell on your shoulders.
When performing frontal squats with a barbell on the chest, the most common grip is crosswise. A heavy grip is more difficult to perform, as it requires good mobility of the shoulder joints and flexibility of the muscles of the shoulders and triceps.
But, having mastered this grip, you can better control the technique of performing frontal squats: the top of the back will not be rounded off and the chest will not lower down.
The split squat is suitable for those who have problems with the spine, as it allows less strain on the back (due to fewer weight weights).
You can also use squats “in scissors” for extra load on the legs, performing them after regular squats with a barbell on the back.
“Scissors” can serve as an excellent alternative to leg press – if you do not want to overload the spine, you can use dumbbells instead of a barbell.
Do not confuse this type of squats with the “pistol” exercise, which is also performed squatting on one leg.
Let’s have a look at the execution technique of this exercise:
- Put the barbell on your shoulders (or take dumbbells);
- Lunge forward with one foot, while the toe of the front leg is slightly turned inward, and the heel of the back foot is turned outward (this will help to further stabilize the body);
- The hind leg is bent at the knee without touching the floor;
- The knee of the front leg does not extend beyond the toe, while the closer the knee is to the toe, the greater the emphasis on the quadriceps, the further away from it – the more gluteal are involved;
- Straighten the legs, the feet remain in place;
- Then bend both legs again, while the body does not move forward, but remains perpendicular to the floor – bending and unbending legs you move it up and down, and not back and forth;
- Repeat the exercise for the other leg.
Seated Leg Press
The seated leg press is an excellent exercise aimed at working out the muscles of the legs. It can be used both during the period of gaining muscle mass and during drying to give relief and definition to the muscles.
With the help of this exercise, you can perfectly develop the muscles of the legs, without creating excessive axial load on the cervical and thoracic spine.
Depending on the position of the feet on the platform and the amplitude of movement, with the leg press in the simulator, you can work out different muscle groups:
- the inner and back part of the thigh;
- gluteal muscles.
Of course, the leg press in the simulator will not be able to completely replace heavy squats with a barbell, but still, it creates quite serious stress for your muscles.
With the condition of high-quality recovery, proper rest, periodization of loads and proper nutrition, this will lead to muscle hypertrophy and an increase in strength indicators in compound exercises.
Using this exercise, you can locally load any muscle group in the lower body. The narrower we put our feet, the more quadriceps are involved in the workout.
Vertical Leg Press
In addition to the classic leg press at an angle, there is also a vertical leg press. With a vertical leg press, the platform is strictly perpendicular to the position of the athlete.
The movement is carried out in a fairly short amplitude. This allows you to load the lower part of the quadriceps, which will make the leg more voluminous in the lower thigh, closer to the knee.
You can do this exercise in Smith’s simulator. For normal execution, you only need the help of an experienced partner or fitness trainer who will open and close the safety mechanisms.
Horizontal Leg Press
There is also a horizontal variation of this exercise. Working in this simulator, you increase the amplitude of motion by several centimeters.
This is the peculiarity of this simulator: you perform a huge amount of work without using enormous weight. Also, this version of the exercise perfectly works on the lateral head of the quadriceps, making the thigh visually larger and more muscular.
In all these variations, the stabilizers are the abdominal muscles and extensors of the spine. Without strong muscles of the back and abs, it is difficult to perform technically correctly a leg press with a decent amount of weight.
Also, the leg press machine is excellent for working out the calf muscles. The technique of the exercise is exactly the same as in the block simulator for working on calves. There are no special differences between these two exercises, choose the option that is more convenient for you to do.
Best Isolation Exercises For Legs
Isolation exercises are those in which the load, unlike in compound exercises, is strictly local in nature. Thus, when performing isolation exercises on legs, only one muscle group is being loaded (or its separate section), and only one joint is bent/extended.
Such a load is much easier perceived by the body. Performing isolation exercises is easier both physically and psychologically.
These exercises do not cause serious post-training stress, therefore, isolation exercises in their essence don’t bring muscle growth. The meaning of their implementation is somewhat different.
The Role of Isolation Exercises in Training
Isolation exercises are needed for:
- Stronger pumping (blood filling) of the working muscles, if performed at the end of the workout. This is also called “finishing up” the muscle group.
- Improvements in neuromuscular communication and preliminary muscle fatigue, if performed at the beginning of a workout.
- Improvements in relief and muscle proportionality.
- Full training without overloading joints and ligaments as well as the central nervous system, for example, when recovering from injuries or illnesses.
Leg Extension in the Simulator
This exercise is performed to work out the quadriceps locally. It should be done with a small weight, trying to squeeze the muscles to the maximum point.
If performed at the beginning of the training, this exercise can help you prepare your knees for heavy squats and bench presses and if performed at the end of the training session, you can finally “finish” the leg muscles.
Leg Flattening/Breeding in the Simulator
The leg flattening is used to shape the inside of the thigh. For working out the outer part of the thigh and gluteal muscles, leg breedings are performed.
It is recommended to perform them at the end of the workout in a wide range of repetitions (15 and above).
Leg Curls Lying in the Simulator
With these exercises, you can work out the biceps of the thigh. Add to them the deadlift on straight legs as a first exercise and you will get a full workout.
It is important to make a short pause for a second at the point of peak contraction, this helps to further strain the back of the thigh. Also, do not forget about the controlled and slow lowering of the legs.
Leg swings also load the gluteal muscles very well.
These can be performed on the lower block of the crossover or simply on the floor with the help of a dumbbell. In the latter case, the dumbbell can be put on the bend of the working leg.
The Bottom Line
There are many different leg exercises that you can do at the gym or even at home. The above-mentioned exercises are just a few of them and there are also different variations of each of them. But, these are, in my opinion, the best and most effective leg exercises for men.
Your decision about your leg workout most probably is based on your fitness level. If you are an amateur bodybuilder, you will want to train your leg depending on their current development as well as according to the level of development of the other parts of your body.
Pro bodybuilders usually pay more attention to the leg workout and their training is more intense and tough.
In any case, there are very few situations when leg training may be ignored. Otherwise, working out your legs is always a good choice to work your butt to the gym 😉
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article and now, you know better what are the best leg exercises for men.
If you have any questions or thoughts about the above aspects, or you have something to add or share your story, please leave them in the comments section below and I will get back to you asap.
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All the best,