In most cases, people interested in bodybuilding engage in excessive upper body strength training while ignoring the lower body which ultimately results in huge arms and shoulder and skinny legs. Legs are an important aspect of overall training because well-developed legs not only makes you look good but also helps you to excel in any sport because it helps to enhance explosive power. Training and developing the Quadriceps and Hamstrings is as important as training the Biceps and Triceps in order to bring symmetry in bodybuilding.
14 Best Leg Exercises for Stronger Glutes, Hamstrings, Thighs, and Calves
Improving the strength and power of the leg muscles is necessary for athletes, sprinters and persons engaged in strenuous sports activities. Here are 14 power-packed exercises to boost strength and muscle development in the legs.
Strength training for the lower body can never be complete without the inclusion of squats into the regime. This is by far the best exercise for legs that helps to improve stability and strength while preventing injury at the same time. The squat hold is a powerful isolation exercise that helps to energize and strengthen the leg muscles. Begin in standing position with your feet placed hip-width apart.
Raise your arms up towards the ceiling by drawing the shoulder blades together. Now, squat down by bending the knees and pushing the hips back till the thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute while maintaining correct form. Aim for 15 to 20 repetitions without any gap.
The split squat is an advanced variation of the classic squat and an effective leg exercise for strengthening the quads, calves, hamstrings and butt muscles. This compound exercise requires absolutely no equipment, and it is the fastest way to burn fat and tone the leg muscles.
Stand in front of the chair with hands on hips. Bend the left leg and place the left foot on the chair and squat down bending the right leg at 90 degrees while maintaining the right knee over the right ankle. Follow each full squat with a half squat. Aim for 15 to 20 repetitions with one leg and then switch legs.
No other exercise trains the legs as hard as the pistol squats. This is one of the vital exercises for legs that are included in the training regime of runners and sprinters. The movements involved in this exercise require great strength, balance, and flexibility.
Begin with your feet hip-width apart, elbows bent and palms clenched into fists and held in front of the chest. Now, lift the right foot and stretch it forward and squat down by bending the left knee to 90 degrees. Stay in this stance for a few seconds and come back to the initial position. Try to do 15 to 20 repetitions on one side and then switch sides.
Don’t be fooled by the name, the sissy squat is no game for sissies. It is one of the best exercises for legs that can be included in the warm-up session to strengthen and tone all the major leg muscles – quads, glutes, calves and hamstrings and enhance core strength.
Stand next to a chair with feet placed hip-width apart and the right hand holding the seat back for support. Get up onto your toes with heels off the floor and bend the knees to a 90-degree angle as you lean your torso back 45 degrees. Stay in this posture for 30 seconds and return to the standing position. Target 15 repetitions at one go.
Next is the goblet squat which requires a free-weight like a dumbbell or kettlebell for proper execution. It is a perfect exercise for leg that helps to master the squat technique. It helps to increase lean muscle mass in the legs and works the quads, glutes, inner thighs, hamstrings, butt, core and upper back muscles.
Start in the standing position with feet placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out grabbing a dumbbell or kettlebell with both hands and placed in front of the chest and elbows pointed out to sides. Now, squat down by bending the knees 90 degrees, wait for 2 seconds and rise up pushing through the heels. Aim for 15 to 20 repetitions at a stretch.
Now, it is time to relax and rejuvenate your aching leg muscles after a session of strenuous squat exercise with this low-impact stability ball workout. It is one of the functional leg toning exercises that helps to relax the leg muscles and firm, lift and shape the thighs and butt at the same time. This exercise is easy on the knees and came be done by people with knee injury.
Lie on the back with arms stretched on sides and the heels placed on the ball. Now, lift up the hips and torso off the floor, bend the knees and roll the ball in, wait for a few seconds and then stretch the legs. Aim to 20 repetitions at one go.
This is yet another easy and simple stability ball exercise that helps to energize and strengthen the legs by boosting circulation. It also helps to reduce the risk of developing painful varicose veins, joint pain and stiffness of the knees and ankles. It is one of the effective exercises to strengthen legs.
Lie on your back with knees bent, holding a stability ball between the ankles. Now, raise the legs up into the air and rotate the legs and the ball to the right by lowering the right leg, wait for a second and then rotate the legs and the ball to the left by lowering the left leg and raising the right one. Repeat this twisting movement for 1 minute without any gap.
The lunge is a power-packed strength-training exercise that helps to work the quads, inner thighs, and hamstrings and helps to improve balance, posture, and stability. The three-way lunge is an amazing lunge variation that targets the leg muscles from different angles.
Stand with your feet placed hip-width apart and hands clasped together in front of the chest. Lunge forward with the left leg with the knee bent 90 degrees and return to the starting position. Now lunge to the left side bending the left knee 90 degrees and return to the starting position. Lastly, lunge backward with the left leg to finish 1 repetition. Target 15 repetitions with each leg.
Single Leg Dead Lift:
The single leg deadlift is a corrective unilateral exercise that not only helps to correct strength imbalances, but also increases strength of the hamstrings, glutes and hip extensors which are strongly involved in sprinting, running, jumping and walking.
Begin in a standing position with the legs placed hip-width apart, grabbing a dumbbell in each hand and palms facing the body. Now, bend forward from the hips lifting and extending the left leg behind you so that the body becomes parallel to the floor from head to left heel and arms hanging down towards the floor. Maintain your entire body weight on your right leg; hold the posture for 10 to 15 seconds and return to start. Aim for 15 repetitions on one side and then switch sides.
The hamstring is by far the most important muscle group of the leg that consists of 3 main muscles – biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus and it is vital to train these muscles in order to enhance explosive power which in turn helps to run faster and jump higher.
Lie on the floor with arms resting on the sides, knees bent and heels pressing into a folded towel. Now, lift the butt and torso off the floor while pulling the heels inside until the knees are bent 90 degrees. Stay in this posture for 10 seconds and return to the initial position by sliding the legs forward. Target 15 repetitions without any gap.
Plank with Leg Raise:
The plank is a full-body workout that helps to tone almost all the major muscles of the body at the same time. It targets the core, shoulders, upper and lower back, arms, and leg muscles like quads, glutes, and hamstrings. The plank with leg raise is a modified version of the classic plank workout which targets the leg muscles more effectively making it one of the powerful exercises for your legs.
Get into a modified push-up position with elbows under shoulders and hands clasped. Now, lift the right leg up to the height of the hips, wait for 10 seconds and return to the center and lift the left leg up to the hip height. Continue to raise the legs alternately for 1 to 2 minutes.
Side Plank with Leg Raise:
This is yet another wonderful variation of the classic plank exercise which helps to work the inner and outer thighs, glute meds, shoulders, waist, abs and back and stabilize the hip joint. It is a full-body workout that helps to work multiple areas of the body at once.
Start in a side plank position on your right hand with the shoulder directly above the wrist. Stack the feet and lift the hips high off the ground. Keep the hips lifted while engaging the core. Raise the left leg up from the right leg and maintain a strong and steady position. Lower back to the side plank position and repeat the movement. Aim for 15 repetitions before switching sides.
This plyometric exercise is considered one of the best workouts to increase athletic strength, build power and enhance rate of force development. It is one of the functional leg exercises at home that works the whole leg and the midsection, and it requires no equipment.
Stand with feet placed hip-width apart. Bend the knees deeply, push hips towards the back and jump off the ground explosively as high as you can and land softly on your feet with chest straight and hips pushed back. Immediately jump off the ground again. Target 10 jumps at one go.
Calf Raise Three Ways
Last but not the least is the calf raise three ways exercise that helps to work the calves – the most neglected part of the leg. Weight lifters and sprinters need to train this body part in order to increase strength and flexibility of the calves.
Stand on the bottom step of a staircase with the heels hanging over the edge and hands placed on the hips. Now, lift the heels high up and then lower them slightly below the level of the edge of the step and then raise them again. Continue this up and down movement with the heels for 30 seconds to 1 minute. You can make this exercise more challenging by doing the exercise with one leg at a time, bending the other leg behind you.
So, include these 15 effective exercises for legs in your lower body training sessions in order to develop explosive strength and perform better at sports and sprinting.