The importance of leg muscle workouts
We’ve all seen the memes. It’s a no-brainer that to get an all-rounded aesthetic look you need to factor in a leg day to your workout routine. If you’re into sports like football, soccer, tennis or running – where bursts of speed are essential – building stronger legs can be a game changer.
Not only will it improve your athletic performance, but stronger leg muscles can also help you burn more fat. Your legs contain some of the biggest muscle groups in your body, so building these up can boost your metabolic rate, helping you burn more.
How often should I do legs day?
To achieve that fully rounded aesthetic you need to be working your legs at least once a week. For maximum results, aim to fit two leg-centric workouts in every week, leaving a couple of days between each session for recovery.
For all-over muscle, try to fit in exercises for each of the muscles in your legs so you don’t miss any areas. Compound exercises like squats are excellent for recruiting a huge range of leg muscles into just one movement.
To really get your legs working, we’ve identified some excellent isolated exercises that will drill down to the specific muscles you want to build.
Workout for hamstrings
Your hamstrings are the three big muscles that run from your pelvis, along the back of your thighs to the top of the bones in your lower leg. They allow you to bend your knee and move your hips backwards. But without a workout, they can shorten very easily making any leg workout harder (source).
Working your hamstrings helps achieve all-round strength in your legs. And if you need to sprint in short, powerful bursts, strengthening this muscle can help you run faster and reduce the risk of injury.
Your hamstring exercise:
Romanian deadlift. Also known as the ‘stiff leg deadlift’, this is a great one to really feel the burn in the back of your legs and build stronger hamstrings.
- Pick a barbell and hold it with straight arms
- Break slightly at the knees so your legs are slightly bent
- Begin to move your hips back and slide the bar down your thighs, keeping your back flat and strong
- Stop the movement when the bar goes just below your knees. You should really feel the burn in your hamstrings at this point
- Reverse the downwards motion by slowly standing, moving your hips forward again and keeping your back tight. Do not bend at your back as you stand
- Repeat the exercise eight times for three sets, adjusting the weight so it’s challenging and you can feel your hamstrings working
Workout for adductors
Your adductors are a collection of muscles in your inner thigh. They help you stabilize when walking and are something you should train if you’re going for a big event like a marathon or football game.
Your adductor exercise:
Seated hip adduction. Every good gym will have a seated hip adductor machine. It’s the perfect way to really isolate these muscles for an effective workout.
- Adjust the machine to suit your body
- Select a weight that will challenge you
- Pull your knees together in a smooth motion
- Slowly move your legs back to the start position, providing resistance so your legs don’t swing back
- Repeat at a challenging weight for three sets of 10 reps
Workout for quadriceps
Your quads are the big muscle at the front of your thigh. It’s one of the largest and strongest muscle groups and is key to achieving a well-rounded physique. Its function is to allow you to straighten your leg out at the knee, making it essential in walking and running activities.
Your quadriceps exercise:
Leg extension. The isolated leg extension is one of the best quadriceps exercises you can do. Combine this with your squat routine and you’ll be on your way to bigger, more impressive quads in no time.
- Adjust the leg extension machine to your leg length
- Select a weight that’s right for you
- Lift your legs up, taking the weight of the machine
- Slowly move your legs back down to the starting position, resisting the urge to let them drop
- Opt for a heavy weight and repeat this exercise for eight reps over four sets
Top tip: Get your quads working to their maximum with drop sets. Do a heavy set of six reps, then immediately half the weight and finish with as many reps as possible until failure. Then rest for a minute or two before repeating these steps twice more.
Workout for gastrocnemius and soleus
The gastrocnemius muscle group forms the top, thicker half of your calves. The soleus lies beneath this muscle, running from the knee to your ankle. These muscles help you bend your leg and allow you to flex your toes. If you’re a dancer or a swimmer, they can be very important.
Your gastrocnemius and soleus exercises:
Calf press. To build stronger, more toned calves a calf press is the perfect option. It works all of the muscles in the area and allows you to add weight to up the intensity over time.
- Adjust the calf press machine to suit your height
- Choose your weight
- Break slightly at the legs, but do not bend them
- Begin with your foot at a 90º angle to your leg
- Push up on the balls of your feet until your foot is fully flexed
- Lower yourself back down until your foot is back at 90º
- Repeat this movement and complete three sets at 10 reps each
If your gym doesn’t have a calf press, you can use a bodyweight gastrocnemius and soleus exercise and go for calf raises.
- Stand on a step. Ensure there is a banister or handrail to hold on to so you can steady yourself. Face the step
- Place the balls of your feet close to the edge so your heels are over the side
- Slowly dip your heels below the level of the step until you feel the tension in your calves
- Push up until your feet are fully flexed and you’re standing on the balls of your feet
- Repeat this for four sets at 10 reps each
Top Tip: Take your bodyweight workout to the next level and hold weights in each hand as you complete this exercise to make it more challenging.
Workout for tibialis anterior
Your tibialis anterior runs down the front of your shin and helps you flex your foot upwards. It contributes to the walking movement, but isn’t the easiest to work in the gym with weights.
Tibialis anterior exercise:
Banded flex. Target this muscle and apply resistance with the help of an elastic band to help you feel the burn.
- Loop the band around the base of a heavy object, like the leg of a large table or sofa
- Loop the other end around your foot, just below the toes
- Face the object and sit on the floor, far enough away to create a small amount of tension in the band
- Flex your foot towards you, keeping your leg straight and on the floor
- Release the tension and return to your start position
- Repeat this exercise on both legs, aiming to complete three set of 10 reps on each foot
With these muscle-by-muscle exercises in your workout plan, you’ll soon be making some serious gains. Make sure you help your muscles grow with our selection of protein products.