Are Squats And Lunges Enough For Legs?

August 12, 2022 0 Comments

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In this article I am going to answer the question “are squats and lunges enough for legs?”. Squats and lunges are both powerful exercises that can be used to build great legs and glutes.

There are many topics which I will talk about as I unpack this question further. By the end of my article you will have a lot more information which you can apply to your own training. 

Are Squats And Lunges Enough For Legs?

The truth is that squats and lunges are enough to build big and powerful legs. Squats are one of the best exercises you can do for the lower body. You can use different squat variations to achieve more complete leg development. 

Lunges are also a very good compound exercise for building up the legs and posterior chain. They work the hamstrings, glutes, quads and calves well. 

Are You A Novice Or Advanced?

If you are just starting out in your lifting journey or have less than a couple years of experience it is best to keep things as simple as possible.

For the legs, just doing squats and lunges and progressing them to higher levels would deliver great results for your leg development. There is no need to overcomplicate things, just do the basics well.

After you move into the intermediate and advanced stages in your training and have already achieved decent leg development, you can look to fill in gaps with machine and isolation exercises.

This can help to put the icing on the cake as it were. You can use the extra machine and isolation exercises to strengthen weak areas and add a bit more size and definition to your legs.


Lunges are a great compound movement to add mass to your legs – they blast the quads, hamstrings and glutes. 

The good thing about lunges is that there are many variables you can manipulate. You can do a set of lunges over a certain distance and this will also improve your overall conditioning.

To improve you can lunge over a longer distance or increase the weight you are using. Lunges can also be performed with kettlebells, dumbbells or a barbell. 

Bar bend has a good article going in depth into lunges and talking about programming suggestions. View his article here

Lunges improve your balance and they are quite functional. Front lunges are the most common but you can also do reverse lunges. Reverse lunges can be very beneficial for athletes like basketball players and rugby players when back pedalling.

To improve muscular hypertrophy Baker [1] suggests using a full range of motion and a more moderate speed of execution than you would typically see with power training. This way you can build up a lot more tension.

Make Use Of Squat Variations 

There are so many variations of squatting that target different areas and can be used in different circumstances. 

If your lower back is sore or you have suffered a lower back strain, the belt squat is a good exercise to allow you to get the same benefits of a regular squat but without putting extra stress on your spine. 

>> View my article on the belt squat here 

The low bar squat variation engages more glutes and hamstrings as you are bent over a bit more. The high bar squat is more upright and works the quads to a greater degree. By incorporating both variations into your routine concurrently you can get better overall leg development. 

The hack squat is also very common in many commercial gyms. It works the quads very well and doesn’t put as much stress on the spine as traditional back squats. Many bodybuilders use hack squats regularly in their training.

Need For Extra Calf Work

Whilst squats and lunges are great and can build fantastic legs, there is an argument to be made for additional calf work being required.

Three really good isolation exercises that can help target your calves well are standing calf raises, seated calf raises and donkey calf raises. I utilise donkey calf raises regularly in my own training and have found them to be very effective in adding size to my calves. 

Leg presses are also a very good exercise for building up the calves indirectly. If you put a bit more weight on your toes you can make the calves do a lot more work. This is something I do as well when doing leg presses. 

Eddie Halls talks about this in the video below. He guides you through his leg workout and gives good advice for how to build up your calves. 

Extra Hamstring Work

I also believe that extra hamstring work can be added to maximise leg development. The best exercises to really fry the hamstrings are romanian deadlifts and 45 degree back extensions on a back extension bench.

From my experience, these movements have aided my hamstring development no end. Romanian deadlifts can be performed with a barbell or dumbbells. I personally prefer dumbbells nowadays on this exercise, but in the past I would perform heavy barbell RDLs. 

45 degree back extensions or “back raises” are also fantastic for working the posterior chain and beefing up the glutes and hamstrings. They also help to bulletproof the lower back and keep it healthy. This exercise should be a staple for every lifter. 

In addition, leg curls are very effective in adding thickness and meat onto the hamstrings. By incorporating leg curls into your routine you will be able to really round off your hamstring development nicely. 

Leg Extensions – Yay Or Nay?

Leg extensions are a controversial exercise. Some people believe that they place a lot of stress on the knees. For me they are a very good isolation exercise for adding size to the quads. 

A bigger muscle has more potential to become a stronger muscle. The key in my view is not to go crazy heavy on leg extensions like some people like to do. The focus should be on keeping tension on the muscle throughout the range of motion.

This will serve you a lot better in terms of hypertrophy. In addition, your knees will actually become more resilient and it can be therapeutic for them with lighter weights.

I perform leg extensions for two sets of 10 to 12 reps generally using light to medium weights. I progress by adding reps first or by adding more tension by performing the exercise in a longer tempo fashion.

I may go from counting 1-2-3 when performing a rep to counting 1-2-3-4. This keeps the muscles under tension for a longer period on each rep and is great for adding slabs of muscle to your quads.

I do believe that leg curls, leg extensions and calf raises deserve a place in your leg training regime if you want to maximise leg development.


Final Thoughts

In this article I have answered the question “are squats and lunges enough for legs?”. They are enough to get very muscular and big legs.

But once you reach the intermediate stages of lifting and beyond you can incorporate extra movements to fill in weak areas and maximise your leg development.

Moves such as leg curls, leg extensions, calf raises, leg presses, RDLs and back raises are all useful and can help you to really round off your leg development really nicely. 

If you have any questions about anything in this article, please leave me a comment below.

As always, stay safe and enjoy your training.

>> RELATED: How to get bigger and stronger legs



[1] Baker, D. Designing, implementing and coaching strength training programs for beginner and intermediate level athletes. Part 1: Designing the program. 1996 National Coaching and Officiating Conference. Brisbane, November 30–December 3, 1996.

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