There’s a reason why they say, “never skip leg day.” Your legs and glutes are the foundation of a powerful body, ensuring that you build strength from the ground up.
When most people hear “leg day,” however, they immediately think of heavy weights and exercise machines brim with plates. There’s no doubt that heavy weights and leg presses can build strong, muscular legs, but there are better, more effective ways to get your pins in great shape.
Here are the five most effective exercises for sculpting your legs that personal trainers swear by.
1. Squats Or Barbell Squats
You may have guessed it, but squats come in at number one on this lis. The king of lower-body workouts, no leg exercise routine is complete without some kind of full-bodied squat involved. There are several variations of squats including Bulgarian, goblet, frog, and simple bodyweight squats, among many others.
My personal favorite is the barbell squat; it’s the one single squat that practically forces you into the right posture and helps correct any misalignment of the spine. With your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, get under a barbell rack that’s at a convenient shoulder height. Lift the weight off the rack and while ensuring your head and back remain as straight as possible, squat down low, then go back up for one rep.
2. Dead Lifts
Dead lifts aren’t your average gym fare. They’re a solid, full-body exercise, and they’re brutally effective at strengthening and sculpting the legs. My personal preference for dead lifts are barbell dead lifts, but if you don’t have barbells at home, you can equally use dumbbells. Be sure to use heavy weights that don’t put too much of a strain on your lower back. The larger the weights, the more muscle you pack on. Be careful about using too much of your back though in the lift; dead lifts should be done with emphasis on the hips. When lifting the weight up, make sure the lift is done as close to your body as possible. It should almost be as if the bar is rolled up your leg.
3. Leg Curls
Leg curls can either be done on a curl machine or without a machine on a bench and using cables. To do them without a machine, you need to lie face-down on a bench after attaching cables or resistance bands to your ankles; attach the other end to a strong anchor while your legs are stretched out. Curl your heels to your butt area while working with the resistance of the cables. You’ll feel the burn in your hamstrings.
4. Calf Raises
These parts of the legs usually need a little extra TLC, but sadly, many fitness buffs manage to neglect the area. That’s why you see so many hulking guys at the gym with huge upper bodies, but toothpick calves. The perfect remedy for skinny calves are calf raises — all you need are some stairs or a block to stand on. To do the calf raise, stand on the edge of the block or stairs with your heels hanging off the edge. Slowly lift your heels and stand on the balls of your feet until you feel a stretch and hold the position for a few seconds; release the hold and go back to the starting position.
5. Walking Lunges
Walking lunges can be done both with or without free weights, but it’s best to start out without any weights, especially if you’re a beginner. Start the exercise with legs slightly apart and take a step forward while going into a deep lunge; push off the back leg to go back to a starting position. Try to walk from one end of the room to the other six to 10 times in a circuit and repeat.