How To Get Bigger And Stronger Legs
Legs are a body part that are often neglected by a lot of gym goers in favour of the upper body muscles. A big reason why could be that leg training is hard and gruelling and most people would rather do what is easy. I remember 12 years ago when I first started training, no one in the gym at the time knew what a squat was. It wasn’t until one day I saw a guy at the gym doing this exercise that I found out, everyone was in awe at this “foreign” exercise. It was then that I discovered this exercise and gained more knowledge. In this article I will detail how to get bigger and stronger legs.
Foundation Of Getting Bigger And Stronger Legs
The foundation of getting bigger and stronger legs is the barbell back squat. This is one of the best leg exercises and one that I would recommend for any bodybuilder to build a base in the beginning years of their training. You could squat with a low bar position to engage more of the posterior chain or a high bar position. It comes down to your preferences and biomechanics. However, just like the deadlift I don’t think the back squat is an exercise that you want to be doing heavy for many decades. It does carry a higher injury risk as the back is involved a lot and therefore the lower back can be put under stress with very heavy weights. In my case, since the back injury that I got from deadlifting many years ago I can’t do heavy barbell back squats anymore. So I do other leg exercises instead for longevity and to still grow my legs and make them stronger.
Better Leg Exercises For Longevity
Better compound leg exercises in my view for longevity and a lower risk to reward whilst still building and strengthening the legs are the following:
- Barbell Front Squat – Great exercise for building the legs as well as strengthening the upper back and abs, main benefit is there is very little stress on the lower back. When the weight gets very heavy a limiting factor can become core strength.
- Leg Press– Great exercise to build bigger and stronger legs over time. Can go really heavy on this, no stress on the lower back so the legs can do all the work. Eddie Hall credited heavy leg presses as helping him be the first man to deadlift 500kg off the floor. He said the deadlift is basically just a leg press with a bar in your hands.
- Goblet Squats – Fantastic exercise to build bigger legs whilst at the same time being an excellent conditioning exercise when done in high rep ranges. I use this to finish my legs off at the end of a leg session.
- Hack Squats – If you have a hack squat machine in your gym I would recommend adding this exercise into your routine. It hits the quads really hard and is safe when done properly. Be sure to keep your back firmly against the pad for the whole movement. Is a great way to add slabs of muscles to your legs without a high risk of injury.
Programming The Leg Press For Size And Strength
A great way that I like to program the leg press into my training is to do it twice a week. An example of the exact programming that I use for the leg press is as follows. Lets say you hit 100kg both sides of the leg press for 10 reps. The next leg session you will aim to hit that same weight for 12 reps. If you get 12 reps, the following week you will go for 102.5kg for 10 reps. If you hit 10 reps then the next session you will do this weight for 12 reps. The following week you will move to 105kg both sides for 10 reps, and so on.
This is a great way to build a lot of size and strength in your legs over the long haul. The rep range is sufficiently high to induce a lot of hypertrophy. At the same time you are building in a good strength component by applying progressive overload effectively. In this manner you can have the best of both worlds.
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Isolation Exercises For Legs
In addition to compound movements it is important for bodybuilding purposes to do specific isolation exercises for the quads, hamstrings and calves. For me the best isolation exercises for legs are leg extensions, leg curls and calf raises. There are various variants of these exercises but it is important to have these exercises in your training on a regular basis.
Leg extensions are a basic isolation exercise but highly effective at working your quads and inducing serious pumps. High rep sets of leg extensions are notoriously difficult to complete due to the build up of lactic acid in the muscles. However, I wouldn’t recommend going very heavy with this exercise. It is better suited to higher rep ranges and not designed to be a power exercise.
In the same vein leg curls can be used to isolate the hamstrings and induce serious pumps. You can do your leg curl lying or seated. The gym that I go to has a lying leg curl machine but no seated leg curl machines. So I do lying leg curls predominantly. Sometimes I travel to a different gym where they have a seated leg curl machine to try that variation as well. With leg curls I like to do high reps and hold the end range contraction for a few seconds on every rep.
Finally onto calves – it is true that calf size is largely genetic. I have a friend for instance who does no weight training at all. Yet his calves are absolutely massive and defined. Saying this you can still grow your calves bigger by dedicated training for this muscle. There are standing calf raise machines and seated calf raise machines in most gyms. You can even do calf raises using a leg press machine with your feet positioned very low on the pad. Another great finishing exercise for calves is the donkey calf raise. For all calf work I recommend high rep ranges 15-20 and to hold both the stretch at the bottom and the peak contraction at the top for a few seconds.
In this article I have detailed how you can get bigger and stronger legs. The exercises that I use nowadays in my training as a mainstay are the leg press, hack squat, goblet squat, leg extension, leg curl, seated calf raise machine and donkey calf raises. These exercises are all you need to do on a consistent basis with intensity and progressive overload to build big legs.
If you have any questions about anything I have discussed in this article please leave a comment. Let me know as well which leg exercises are a mainstay in your own training. All the best with your training!