Leg Exercises

Leg exercises are an important part of every workout routine. To have a body that looks fit and balanced, you must work every part of it, including legs. For women, working your legs/butt is important for achieving the hourglass figure that many women want.

I recommend finding a weight that allows you to do 3 sets of 6-10 reps. Just find what you’re comfortable with so that you do not feel like you’re injuring yourself, and also something that challenges you.

(Image source: bodybuilding.com)

All underlined exercises hyperlink to the exercise as it appears in the bodybuilding.com Exercise Database

Stiff Legged Deadlift

(Hamstrings/Glutes)

  1. Grasp a straight barbell on the floor using an overhand grip. Stand with your torso straight and a shoulder-width stance. The knees should be slightly bent. This is your starting position.
  2. Keeping the knees stationary, lower the barbell to over the top of your feet by bending at the waist while keeping your back arched.
  3. Continue to the bottom of your hip flexibility without ever compensating through your lumbar to extend the range of motion. Pause at the bottom and return to the starting position. (1)

Note: It may take some time to get used to the movement of this one. I recommend watching a few YouTube videos if possible to get an idea of good form.

Single leg Dumbbell Straight Deadlift

(Hamstrings)

  1. Hold a dumbbell in one hand. Stand on one leg, on the side of the hand holding the dumbbell. Keeping that knee slightly bent, perform a stiff legged deadlift by bending at the hip, extending your free leg behind you for balance.
  2. Lower the dumbbell until you are parallel to the ground, and then return to the upright position. You should feel this in your hamstrings.

Dumbbell Step Ups

(Quads)

  1. Stand up straight while holding a dumbbell on each hand (palms facing the side of your legs).
  2. Place the right foot on the elevated platform. Step on the platform by extending the hip and the knee of your right leg. Use the heel mainly to lift the rest of your body up and place the foot of the left leg on the platform as well. Breathe out as you execute the force required to come up. Squeeze your glutes when you are at the top of the movement.
  3. Step down with the left leg by flexing the hip and knee of the right leg as you inhale. Return to the original standing position by placing the right foot next to the left foot on the initial position.
  4. Repeat with the right leg for the recommended amount of repetitions and then perform with the left leg.

Note: This is a great exercise for people with lower back problems that are unable to do stiff legged deadlifts. (2)

Barbell Full Squat

  1. This exercise is best performed inside a squat rack for safety purposes. To begin, first set the bar on a rack just above shoulder level. Once the correct height is chosen and the bar is loaded, step under the bar and place the back of your shoulders (slightly below the neck) across it.
  2. Hold on to the bar using both arms at each side and lift it off the rack by first pushing with your legs and at the same time straightening your torso.
  3. Step away from the rack and position your legs using a shoulder-width medium stance with the toes slightly pointed out. Keep your head up at all times and maintain a straight back. This will be your starting position.
  4. Begin to slowly lower the bar by bending the knees and sitting back with your hips as you maintain a straight posture with the head up. Continue down until your hamstrings are on your calves. Inhale as you perform this portion of the movement.
  5. Begin to raise the bar as you exhale by pushing the floor with the heel or middle of your foot as you straighten the legs and extend the hips to go back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

This type of squat allows a greater range of motion, and allows the trunk to maintain a more vertical position than other types of squats, due to foot position and the higher bar position. (3)

Dumbbell Goblet Squats

  1. From a standing position cradle the head of a dumbbell close to your chest with both hands. You should be looking straight forward, with your shoulders back, your spine straight, and your feet just outside of shoulder width. This will be your starting position.
  2. Initiate the movement by descending into a squat, flexing the hips and knees to lower your body. Maintain the angle of your torso, paying close attention to the preservation of your spine. As you descend, push your knees outward and keep your weight on your heels.
  3. Descend until you either reach the full squat position with your hamstrings on your calves or until your back starts to round. At the bottom of the motion pause briefly.
  4. Return to the starting position by driving through your heels, extending the knees and hips to return to the starting position. SQUEEZE YOUR GLUTES when you reach the top. (4)

Leg Press

  1. Using a leg press machine, sit down on the machine and place your legs on the platform directly in front of you at a medium (shoulder width) foot stance. (Note: For the purposes of this discussion we will use the medium stance described above which targets overall development; however, you can choose any of the three stances described in the foot positioning section).
  2. Lower the safety bars holding the weighted platform in place and press the platform all the way up until your legs are fully extended in front of you. Tip: Make sure that you do not lock your knees. Your torso and the legs should make a perfect 90-degree angle. This will be your starting position.
  3. As you inhale, slowly lower the platform until your upper and lower legs make a 90-degree angle.
  4. Pushing mainly with the heels of your feet and using the quadriceps go back to the starting position as you exhale.
  5. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions and ensure to lock the safety pins properly once you are done. You do not want that platform falling on you fully loaded.

Caution: Always check to make sure that when you re-rack the weight the platform is securely locked. (5)

Mid Foot Placement – Targets Quads

High and Wide Food Placement – Targets Glutes

Barbell Hip Thrusts

  1. Begin seated on the ground with a bench directly behind you. Place barbell over your lap.
  2. Roll the bar so that it is directly above your hips, and lean back against the bench so that your shoulder blades are near the top of it.
  3. Begin the movement by driving through your feet, extending your hips vertically through the bar. Your weight should be supported by your shoulder blades and your feet. Extend as far as possible, then reverse the motion to return to the starting position. (6)

Note: You could also try holding a small dumbbell on your lap instead or a very light straight barbell.

Dumbbell Lunges

(Quads)

  1. Stand with your torso upright holding two dumbbells in your hands by your sides. This will be your starting position.
  2. Step forward with your right leg around 2 feet or so from the foot being left stationary behind and lower your upper body down, while keeping the torso upright and maintaining balance. Inhale as you go down. Note: As in the other exercises, do not allow your knee to go forward beyond your toes as you come down, as this will put undue stress on the knee joint. Make sure that you keep your front shin perpendicular to the ground.
  3. Using mainly the heel of your foot, push up and go back to the starting position as you exhale.
  4. Repeat the movement for the recommended amount of repetitions and then perform with the left leg.

Caution: This is a movement that requires a great deal of balance so if you suffer from balance problems you may wish to either avoid it or just use your own bodyweight while holding on to a fixed object. Never perform with a barbell on your back if you suffer from balance issues.

Variations:

  • Alternate each leg. For instance, do one repetition with the right, then the left, then the right and so on.
  • Static lunge where your starting position is with one of your feet already forward. In this case, you just go up and down from that starting position until you are done with the recommended amount of repetitions. Then you switch legs and do the same.
  • Walking lunges – walk across the room but in a lunging fashion. For walking lunges the leg being left back has to be brought forward after the lunging action has happened in order to continue moving ahead. This version is reserved for the most advanced athletes. (7)

 

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