Leg Training 101


Building huge legs is by no means easy. While some people have genetically large quads and calves, others are not as fortunate and commonly don’t train them because as people in a lot of gym’s say, “It’s not fun to train legs!” That’s when you look at them and ask them if they know that squats cause your body release growth hormone, helping other body parts that they’re working 5 days a week grow. Then you will probably get the, “well I heard squats were bad for your knees. Isn’t that true?” question and you then realise its time to laugh.

This article is written to discuss the largest muscle group and one of the most vital muscle groups that bodybuilders train. “How do I grow tree trunks for legs?” you may now be asking. Well not to worry since Bodybuilding-Archive.com is here to help those wheels grow. We will first give the important exercises for quadriceps, hamstring, and calf hypertrophy while providing insights and important links for how to do them and then will give some good sample routines and advanced techniques commonly used.

Other names include thighs and quads. There are four heads, the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, and the vastus medialis. It is located on the front of your upper leg above the knee.
Main Exercises

Barbell Squat-This is the king of all leg exercises, hell possibly all exercises period. Squats are essential for leg growth. If you aren’t squatting you’re seriously impairing your potential leg growth. There are many types of squats you can do including hack squats and front squats, but the one most commonly used and best for gains is definitely the conventional barbell squat. For proper technique for a different squat variations look below.

Some tips for squatting

1) Keep the bar aligned with your heels throughout the movement

2) Push up with your heels, not with your toes

3) Don’t let your knees travel past your toes, pretend like you’re sitting in a chair almost

4) For greater emphasis in the outer quads use a narrower stance. To place more emphasis on the inner quads use a wider, sumo-like stance

Leg Press

Many people try to compare this to the squat and use it as a substitute which is wrong since squatting is much more important. However, the leg press is definitely a great exercise to use in your routine after squats to really blast those quadriceps. On this exercise to place greater emphasis on the quads, position your feet about shoulder width apart on the lower portion of the sled you are pushing. For greater emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes position your feet higher up with your legs farther apart.


Another great exercise that works the entire upper legs (quads, hamstrings, and glutes), but mostly the quads is the lunge. Be careful not to let your knees go past your toes on this exercise for safety. Note that you can do lunges with a barbell or dumbbells.

Leg Extension

Some people like to use this isolation exercise to burn out their quads at the end of their workouts. This is a very good exercise to do, We wouldn’t recommend going too heavy though since they place a lot of pressure on the knees. For an extra challenge, try doing leg extensions with one leg.

These are located on the upper leg in the back opposite of the quadriceps. There are four heads of the hamstring, the biceps femoris long head, the biceps femoris short head, the semitendinosus, and the semimembranosus.

Main Exercises

Stiff Legged Deadlift

This is a great compound movement to really hit your hamstrings hard. You can do these with a mixed grip or regular grip, whichever you prefer and be sure to keep the bar close to your legs for the entire movement. Also, keep your head up for the the entire exercise.

Leg Curl

The leg curl is a favorite exercise among many people because it really targets the hamstrings well unlike the stiff legged deadlift which people feel in other muscles as well.

The calf muscles are located under your knee on the back of your legs. Some people are genetically born with huge calves, these are the “gifted ones”, while other people have a lot of trouble training them. Many people like to train calves with lighter weight and higher reps, but it’s all up to you and what works best for you personally. The calves are pretty much divided up into two parts, the larger part is the gastrocnemius and the smaller outer part is the soleus.

Main Exercises

Standing Calf Raises

This is the most popular calf exercise among bodybuilders since it’s relatively simple. You can do these with dumbbells in your hands as well if you don’t have access to a lever machine, but try doing them on a step for greater range of motion with the dumbbells. Go slow and concentrate on working those calves. You can also do these with one leg.

Calf Press on Leg Press Machine

This one is another popular exercise you will see many people in your gym doing. Be sure not to bend your knees so you’re completely pressing with your toes, working those calf muscles.

Donkey Calf Raises

These are not as popular as the first two but will definitely give your calves one heck of a workout.

Keep in mind you can alter some of the exercises based on your convenience, but here are some good ones. Also, you can alter the amount of sets and reps you do based on what works best for you. Only train your legs once per week on a split routine and if possible train them alone so you can divert all your energy to your leg workout.

Squats 4×6-12
Leg Press 3×6-10
Stiff Legged Deadlifts 3×6-10
Standing Calf Raises 3×8-15

Squats 3×6-12
Front Squats 2×6-10
Leg Curls 3×6-10
Leg Extension 2×6-10
Donkey Calf Raises 3×8-15

Squats 4×6-12
Hack Squats 3×6-12
Lunges 2×6-12
Leg Press Calf Presses 3×8-15

Here are some advanced techniques you can try once you’ve hit a plateau.

Supersetting-This is working two muscles opposite each other in a row to try to stimulate growth. The main example on legs would be quads and hamstrings, you would do a set of leg extensions immediately followed by a set of leg curls. Then rest and repeat for the desired number of sets.

Drop Sets-Drop sets are when you do a regular intense set with your regular weight and reps, but once you’ve completed your set, you immediately lighten the load significantly and pump out as many reps as you can with the lighter load. This works well on machines such as leg extensions and leg curls where you can quickly adjust the weight you’re using.

Pre-Exhaustion-Pre exhaustion is where you do an isolation exercise before your compound exercise so your can gas out that muscle before using it in the compound movement. You do the isolation exercise then immediately start the compound movement. A great example would be doing a set of leg extensions before a set of squats.

20 Rep Squats-Just as the name says it’s doing a set of squats for twenty reps with weight heavy enough that you’ll be dead on your last rep. This should only be used for one, at the most two sets of your workout and should only be done once a month or so.

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