Training legs is often neglected by a high number of gym goers who instead focus on the mirror muscles, such as arms and chest. You may look good from the waist up, but neglecting legs will lead to an out of proportion physique and could even increase your risk of injury.
So how can you build big legs?
Exercises To Build Big Legs
This is the go-to exercise to put mass on your legs. The important thing when performing squats to maximize the benefit of the exercise is to focus on your form. It can be very easy to let your ego take control and pile plate after plate on the bar, but overloading the weight will lead to poor form and increase your risk of injury.
So how do you perform a squat with correct form?
The main thing to do before you start piling the weight on is to warm up with just the bar. Focus on performing each rep with perfect form to warm your legs up and get the blood flowing to your muscles. Place the weight behind your neck, so it is resting across your traps. When lowering the weight you should focus on keeping your back straight. The best way to do this is to focus on sticking your chest out, which will stop your back from bending.
You may well have heard the phrase, ‘Ass to grass’, when discussing correct squat form. This is essentially true. You should be lowering your bum just below your knees before you rise back up again. This will give your squats a full range of motion and maximize muscle fiber breakdown, and consequently growth.
The Working Set
After warming up properly you can begin your working set. A great way to build your leg strength is to do a Pyramid Set. This involves starting with a weight you can manage for 12 reps, then increase the weight by 20 pounds (10 kg) and perform 10 reps, then increase the weight by another 20 pounds and perform 8 reps, then add another 20 pounds and perform 6 reps.
The next set is the peak of your pyramid. You should add another 20 pounds, meaning you’ve increased your weight from your first set of 12 by a total of 80 pounds (35 kg). On this set you should be looking to perform between 2-4 reps. This will and should be difficult, but remember to maintain your form. After you’ve performed this set it is time to come back down our metaphorical pyramid, so remove 20 pounds and try to hit 6 reps, then remove another 20 pounds and perform 8 reps, and keep removing the weight until your back down to your start point and try to perform 12 reps.
On your last set your legs should be burning because you’ve worked your leg muscles to fatigue. It may take some experimenting with the weight, but when you find out what you can do at the peak of your pyramid you will be in a better position to decide what weight you can start on to complete the set.
Your legs are now definitely warmed up, slightly fatigued and ready for the next working set!
Warm up, then 9 working sets
#2 Hack Squats
Your quads should be burning already, but now it’s time to really get them feeling on fire. The main focus on this exercise is not ‘how much weight’, but TUT (time under tension). You should use a weight that you could get 15 reps with.
The aim then is to get 12 reps with a 4 second decline. Each decline movement should be very controlled, keeping the tension on the muscles. The incline rep should be explosive, but be careful not to completely lock out your knees, as this can lead to jarring and injury.
If performed correctly you will be putting your leg muscles through some serious pain, but focus and keep the tension. The most important thing with this exercise to maximize the benefit is form.
4 sets, 12 reps, 4 second decline
#3 Seated Hamstring Curls/Lying Hamstring Curls
For making your legs look big training your hamstrings is very important, but often neglected as people choose to focus on more quad intensive leg exercises.
There should be a hamstring curl machine in your gym, either seated or lying down. With this exercise we are going to be performing a drop set. Choose a starting weight which you can perform 12 reps of and then for the drop set half the weight and perform 12 reps again.
Again, it is important to focus on TUT, as this will work your hamstrings to fatigue.
4 sets, 12 reps, drop set
#4 Seated Leg Extensions
Another exercise requiring a gym machine. The idea behind this exercise is very similar to seated hamstring curls. We are again going to perform a drop set. Choose a weight which you can perform 12 reps on, and then on finishing that set half it and perform another 12 reps. By now your legs will be tiring, so if you can’t get 12 reps then go until total failure. Even performing half reps towards the end of the set will still be more beneficial than giving up completely.
4 sets, 12 reps, drop set
#5 Static Lunges
This exercise works as a finisher, to completely fatigue your leg muscles. Take a dumbbell in either hand and lunge forward with your right leg, then return to the start position. Then lunge forward with your left leg and return to the start position. The aim here is to perform as many reps as you can before failure, alternating between your right and left leg. Your legs should be really burning by the end of this.
Remember to maintain good form and keep your back straight on each rep. If you’re performing more than 20 reps overall (so 10 on each leg) then increase the weight of the dumbbells. Each rep should be a real struggle. The aim is to work your legs to total fatigue, so they can’t take anymore punishment.
3 sets, reps until failure
Take Home Message
There you have it. 5 exercises to help you put on some serious mass on your legs. If you don’t train legs regularly then this is a great routine to start off with. If you start to train your legs regularly you will see significant improvements quickly. The main things to focus on are form and TUT to see maximum results.