Top 10+ Best Leg Exercises
Your legs are the foundation of your body. They connect you to the ground and are from where you generate your power. When you travel or go on vacation, it is more likely for you to find a universal trainer in the hotel gym than a squat rack. What many people may not realize is there are actually some advantages to doing lower body training using your bodyweight. When you drive more weight as you often do training both legs together, you sometimes emphasize the imbalances of your lower body. When you train each leg individually, you even out your legs.
Among purists, a “top 10” of leg exercises would include only one entry: the classic barbell squat. And why not? The exercise is devastatingly simple and effective. You place a heavy barbell across your back, then bend at the hips and knees to descend as far as you can (as those same purists might tell you, “glutes to grass” if you can stomach it). Then you stand up.
This movement not only rocks your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes but also kick-starts a cavalcade of responses throughout your body as your core and upper body tighten and stabilize while beneficial, growth-promoting hormones are released in response to the major stressor.
In our eyes those who love the squat are 100 percent correct, so we’ll save you the suspense: It’s No. 1 in this ranking. However, we contend that the nine other moves featured here are great in their own right. They’re all proven muscle builders and should be rotated through a proper leg-training program over the course of a training cycle to maximize your development.
How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a kettlebell in front of your chest, elbows pointing toward the floor. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat. Push yourself back to start. That’s one rep.
Banded Lateral Walk
How to do it: Place a mini resistance band underneath your feet, and stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Maintaining a tight core, step your left foot out to the side, followed by your right. Then step back to the left; that’s one rep.
Jump squats are a maximum effort exercise with every repetition. By applying maximum effort from your legs, you engage all of the muscle in your legs to their highest potential.
Bulgarian Split Squat
Why it’s on the list: This one is deceptively difficult, partly because of balance and partly because you’re training one side at a time. The Bulgarian split squat is essentially a split squat, but your rear leg is elevated, which forces the front leg to pick up more of the workload. Try it on a Smith machine if you find it difficult to balance the weight.
Admittedly, you’ll probably feel like an idiot when learning this move. You’ll fall on your can in the bottom position and likely lose your balance repeatedly. You won’t even be able to get all the way down into a full squat at first. We can only urge you, however, to not give up: Those who master this exercise have a tremendous weapon in their leg-training arsenal, and it doesn’t require a lick of equipment.
Holding a kettlebell in your right hand, stand on your left leg with palms towards your thighs. Keep your left leg slightly bent. Lean forward, extending right leg straight behind you, until torso is parallel to the floor, and kettlebell lowers straight down until almost touching the floor. Drive into your left heel to return to the standing position. (For an extra challenge, at the end of this move, lift your right leg until it forms a 90 degree angle, then return to start) That’s one rep.
Holding a kettlebell or (two dumbbells) in your hands, stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Position the kettlebell in front of your thighs, palms facing your body. Keeping your knees slightly bent, press your hips back as you bend at the waist and lower the weights toward the floor. Squeeze your glutes to return to standing. That’s one rep.
You can do stationary lunges in any direction — front, side, backward or any point in between — and have a damn fine exercise on your hands. But walking lunges ultimately made our list because a) they’re slightly more functional since you continually move forward instead of standing still and b) they provide an excellent finisher to any leg workout. No less than eight-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman used to take a loaded barbell outside and lunge through the Metroflex Gym parking lot in the Texas heat to cap his leg day, which with thighs as big as 36 inches around in his heyday was a sight to behold.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands clasped in front of your chest. Take a big step to the side with your right leg, then push your hips back, bend your right knee, and lower your body until your right knee is bent 90 degrees. This should take about two seconds. Push back to start. That’s one rep.
Stand six to eight inches back from a six-inch step Get into an athletic stance with your knees slightly bent and your weight on the balls of your feet. Quickly jump onto the center of the step, then immediately jump back down to start, landing softly on the balls of your feet. That’s one rep.
More Leg Exercises