Everyone wants to know what the top exercises are for building a specific body part. Not many people take into consideration the top exercises for your legs, or even training your legs for that matter. To be a balanced and well rounded bodybuilder, you will need a nice set of ‘wheels’ to go with the rest of your body. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim of the next “Bro’s don’t let bro’s skip leg day” meme. Here you will find our list of the top 5 leg exercises.
#1. Barbell Squats
This exercise cannot even be debated. Barbell Squats are the best thing you can do for overall leg development. The barbell squat can be uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous to untrained athletes attempting too much weight, but this exercise again is essential. Squatting will work your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, leg sweep, and just about every other muscle in your legs. Doing squats also releases a surplus amount of growth hormone. There are many variations of the barbell squat, but the most standardized squat would be for you to place the bar above your upper back while holding your hands on the bar. Place your feet about shoulder-width apart with your feet slightly facing outward (just find the position that is most natural to you). Squat down to parallel or below parallel to achieve maximum contraction. If you find you’re doing 3-inch squats, then lower the weight as much as you need to really go deep on the squats.
#2: Leg Extensions
Leg extensions are done on the leg extension machine. This exercise is commonly used to pre-exhaust your quadriceps and warm up your knees. Leg extensions isolate your quadriceps, the muscle group most vividly seen from the front. To perform this exercise, sit on the machine, place the desired amount of weight and have the extension bar down as low as it can go. Not lowering the platform as low as possible will actually place more strain on your legs
#3: Straight-legged Deadlifts
The straight-legged deadlift, not to be confused with a normal deadlift, is a great exercise that targets your hamstrings. Your hamstrings are the muscles behind your legs. Working this muscle group will bring out your rear shots and add more mass to your legs. The term straight-legged doesn’t necessarily mean you need to keep your legs completely straight. Perform the exercise just as you would a normal deadlift, but keep your legs straighter and lean back more on the exercise to receive a maximum squeeze on your hamstrings. Wearing a lifting belt may help to take the strain off of your lower back if you’re going to be using this exercise on a leg-only day.
#4: Front Squats
Front squats may be harder and more awkward for many people to perform. The benefits from front squatting include less spinal load on the back, more quadriceps utilization, and some ab contraction as a stabilizing muscle group. To execute the front squat, you will need to rest the bar on your shoulder, close to your neck, but not too close that it’s choking you and not too close to mess up your balance. Squat down in the most natural position available and squat low enough to achieve maximum contraction for better development.
#5: Leg Press
The leg press is an overall mass builder for your entire legs. They offer advantages over the squat by taking away a lot of the core and whole-body stabilization muscles that may hinder direct focus on leg stimulation. There are various types of leg presses, but generally you would perform them all very similarly, with your feet about shoulder width apart and toes slanted slightly outward. Adjusting leg positioning on the leg press may allow you to hit your quadriceps from different angles that balance wouldn’t normally permit with squats.
Don’t Forget: Calf Raises
Developing large calves are great for overall balance with your legs and can assist your other leg movements. Performing calf raises, whether it be standing or seated, give very similar contraction to the calves. Performing high reps with the calves may bring the best results as they are a smaller muscle group, similarly with one’s forearms. Whether standing or sitting, tuck your heels down far to achieve maximal contraction, and squeeze them as you bring the weight up.