Without a doubt, leg workouts cover the largest muscle groups in your body. Find leg exercises programs and tips for all your leg muscles including your hamstrings, quads and calve muscles.
One interesting thing about leg workouts in general is that when you work them out doing resistance training, you will indirectly also increase the strength and size of your upper body as well.
The reason for this is because the leg muscles are so big, when stressed they will release a large amount of the hormone testosterone. Since testosterone is an anabolic hormone in the body, the more of it you have circulating through your system the more chances you will grow. If you happened to have done an upper body workout within the last few days, this will encourage growth in this area as well. So never leave this training out!
Far too many men in particular make this mistake and if anyone should be doing exercises for this area, it is them!
The main leg muscles are the quads, the hamstrings, the calves and the glutes. The quad has a few different heads to it, the lateral head (vastus lateralis), the medial head (vastus medialis), and the middle head (vastus intermedius). The hamstring as well has two components, the short and long head. Your glute (bum) is made up of the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and the gluteus maximus) and lastly your calf is made up of the soleus and gastrocnemius.
Keep in mind that any workouts done for this area of the body, since they tend to be more intense in nature, will require slightly more rest afterwards. It would not be a wise idea to do a really hard workout in the weight room and then attempt to run some high intensity sprints a few hours later, for example (and even worse to try doing the sprints right before or after). Make sure you are supplying your body with proper rest after the workout so you can grow back stronger and continue to see results with your program. If you do, you it will be time well spent.
Any good workout program should include at least some exercises for the leg muscles of hamstring quads or calfes. In the body, the leg is home to a number of very powerful muscle groups and is also your base of support whenever you are performing upper body exercises as well. While there are a variety of different ways that you can train your leg muscles, all of them must have a few things in common.
1. Overloading stimulus. In order for your leg muscles of hamstrings quads or calfes to grow back stronger than before, you must apply a stress that will challenge them more than they are used to. If you only continue to place the same workload on them, they will just maintain as they are and you aren’t going to see the results you should be.
2. Rest. Because these are such large muscle groups and will require a great deal of energy whenever you train them, they also require a large amount of rest in order to recover. The recovery process is essential because if you try and train them again before they are recovered, you will just further break them down leaving them weaker than when you started.
3. Proper form. Finally you need to always ensure that you are using proper form whenever you are executing an exercise for this area of the body because knee, hip and ankle injuries are quite common. Knee injuries in particular are something to be aware of if you are doing a lot of squats, lunges or extension exercises. Always be sure to stretch the muscles out afterwards as well to prevent stiffness in the muscles surrounding the joints and to avoid the ligaments from becoming strained.
If trained properly, you can really develop quite powerful muscles in this part of the body that will not only aid you when it comes to performing any sports you wish to participate in but also help in your regular activities such as walking up the stairs, carrying heavy objects or sitting down and getting up. Never neglect your training sessions for while they may be difficult to get through, they will most definitely help you in the long run.
As a general rule, all workout programs should include some leg exercise. Far too often this type of movement is left out either because it is so intense that individuals simply do not want to do it or because they are so obsessed with getting their upper bodies looking good that they don’t have any time left to do leg exercise.
One of the best leg exercise movements is the squat. If there is one strength training move you want to do, this is it. You will virtually work every muscle in the lower body with this as well as your whole core region. Make sure when you are doing it that your knees are tracking over top of your toes in order to prevent injury.
The second leg exercise to perform is a Romanian deadlift. This will help to develop your quad and hamstring muscles along with targeting your lower back. Both these and squats combined would really be all you need if you were looking to do a minimum amount of lower body work. This would add about 10 minutes to your workout, twice per week and is really not all that much to ask for when you think about how many benefits you will receive.
If you want additional movements, throw in some lungesas these target the glutes perfectly and will really help to firm up your back side and then also add in a leg extension and hamstring curl. These are both isolation movements that will really focus in on your quad and hamstring muscles. Finally, add in a calf raise of some sort, whether it is using a machine, a sanding calf raise or a seated calf raise.
There are multiple variations of the various movements as well. Squats for example can be performed with a wider stance, a turn-out stance, using a barbell resting on the front of the shoulders or using a barbell on the back of the shoulders (back squat). Varying the type you perform will help to keep your results coming and your body responding.
So don’t leave this important part of your body out of your training plan ever again.
When developing your leg program, there are a few things you should keep in mind. How you train is really going to dictate the types of results you get so you will need to make sure your leg program is geared towards your individual goal.
First, if you are looking to gain as much mass as possible, you will want to focus in on the more compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts and lunges. These are going to work the largest number of muscle fibres and hence produce the greatest mass gains from your leg program. Couple that with enough rest and calories and new muscle tissue will be yours soon enough.
If your goal on the other hand is muscular definition, then you will need to reduce calories slightly in order to lose some body fat and do some compound lifts but then also include some isolation work to really bring out the definition. This would include things such as quad extensions, hamstring curls and one legged calf raises. You may also wish to get started on some higher intensity interval sprint work as this has been shown to be one of the most effective forms of cardio when it comes to reducing body fat.
Finally if you are actually looking to reduce the size of your lower body (some males who have bulked up no longer wish to carry as much muscle mass or alternatively some females just want to look thinner), then you should perform one or two resistance exercises with heavy weights but then focus more on performing longer duration cardio. This is an odd goal since it is geared more towards muscle breakdown than anything but it can be done if you are training correctly. Still lift heavy enough to try and retain some of your leg strength as this is important. When you couple that with more cardio work though it will inhibit further size gains so you won’t have to worry size increases.
So consider these factors when you are developing your plan and make sure you are going about it in an effective manner.
If your looking to develop your calf workouts then understanding your anatomy will help so you can create stronger more defined muscles.
The bottom portion of your leg is composed largely of your calf muscle which, while it is a small muscle, plays a predominant role in many activities.
Also to create appropriate calf workouts you need to known its movement & function, as one of the most important functions of the calf muscle is to help support and stabilize the ankle joint. If you have very weak calf muscles, you might find that you are more prone to ankle rollovers. Runners in particular should be concerned with developing strong defined calf muscles through their workouts as they can also help to prevent the occurrence of shin splints, which is quite a debilitating condition.
Since you use your calf muscles in almost every movement you make while standing, they are going to be constantly partially tensed and would therefore be classified as more of an ‘endurance’ muscle. Most times when training them you can afford to take your rep ranges slightly higher because of this. However, if muscle strength and size increases are still a main goal, you need to be lifting heavy weights. Doing hundreds of raises without any weight may increase their resistance to fatigue but it isn’t going to do a whole lot in terms of maximum levels of strength.
This muscle also can become tight quite easily so be sure to stretch it out thoroughly both before and after any running activities. You can perform a stretch by simply placing your ankle up against a wall so that the pad of your foot is raised and you are feeling the stretch in the back of the leg. Alternatively you can also stand off a step so that your body weight falls off the back of your heal such that the muscle is lengthened and stretched that way.
So be sure to include exercises for this muscle regularly. It is one that is too commonly overlooked, which would be considered a major workout error. Individuals should always include some form of calf exercise in their workout program if they plan to be doing any type of activity that involves running in the near future. Calf exercise works one of the smallest muscles in the leg and does not take very long to do provided you understand correct technique. When performing a calf exercise, you must make sure the feet are positioned right or else you may not receive the full benefits you are hoping to achieve.
Furthermore there are many different variations that you can do when performing this type of workout. You can do one set where the feet are facing directly forwards. This will really help to strengthen the muscles that will directly translate over to your running performance. Typically this is the position you use while running so it will be what is most beneficial to you.
After that you can also do a set where you turn your feet inwards as far as you can go so you assume a pigeon-toed position. This is really great because it will enable you to really work the lateral portion of the muscle. When you are doing various activities, especially sports that involve a lot of stop and go type of movements, your ankles can really get into awkward positions that you must then propel yourself off of. By having strength trained the muscles from various angles you will be fully prepared to do this. If you aren’t, ankle injuries could result.
Finally, to finish off the combination, try a set with your feet turned out. Many people commonly walk this way due to the natural hip placement on their body so it will also prove to be beneficial.
After performing all of those sets, you could also perform a stretching exercise in the same machine you were just in. Now, rather than raising the body up using the muscles, you want to let it sink further down, aiming to get as close to the ground as possible (assuming you are performing this on a step of some sort). It is very helpful to take the time to do this last step in order to prevent muscle soreness after the workout.
It makes sense to create effective glute workouts as they can really help with getting that firm butt. Comprising a major portion of the back of your body, your glute muscles are mainly involved in activities such as squatting, performing any type of lunge, walking uphill and getting up and down off a chair.
Developing those glute workouts will allow for strong glute muscles as it is beneficial because it will help to take some of the pressure off the quad and knee joints when you are doing these activities thus reducing the risk of knee injuries.
Additionally, when the glute muscles are strong and defined they will give a very nice curved appearance to your bottom side, which is coveted by many women right now. These muscles, when developed, will also help lift the bum up and prevent the dreaded sagging that sometimes occurs as we age.
The mistake many people make when trying to target this muscle group is performing to many exercises that don’t utilize resistance. This would include things such as leg kickbacks, donkey kicks to the side or lateral leg raises. While you may definitely ‘feel the burn’ after doing 20 or more reps of these, in terms of giving a defined and toned appearance, these exercises are really not your best bet.
A better workout idea would be performing a series of heavy lunges, squats and deadlifts. Those will really target in on the muscles and change the way they look much more dramatically.
As with any muscle group, stretching them is also important. A common stretch for this area is lying on a matt and then crossing one leg over the other. After you are in this position simply pull the crossed-leg knee towards your opposite shoulder and across your body. You will likely feel a deep stretch running from the outer thigh to the top of your bum. Hold this for a few seconds and then switch sides.
So if a great lower body is something you are striving for, don’t leave this muscle group out of your programs. One of the most popular requests from females these days is for glute exercise. Almost all gym goers want to firm up their back side. By performing the right type of glute exercise two to three times a week as part of a regular strength training routine this goal can easily be accomplished.
One of the biggest mistakes that individuals often make when it comes to glute exercise is not performing movements that utilize a maximum number of fibres or enough weight. How many times have you seen someone doing donkey kickbacks with a two pound ankle weight strapped to their foot? Probably too often to remember. This is not the best way to go about doing this.
Muscles always respond best to an overloading stimulus so this needs to be the goal. Rather than doing your laying side kicks, incorporate some lunges. Lunges are a great movement and will really help to firm up your upper back leg. To do them, step forward on one foot while simultaneously bending the back and front knee to lower yourself to the ground. You can perform this exercise while walking and moving forward or while remaining in one spot. Just remember to keep your knees following in a line straight over top of your toes.
Another movement to do is one legged split squats. These will really zero in on the bum muscle, even more than a regular squat would. To perform it, stand in front of a flat bench and then place one leg up behind you. It should not be so high as to throw you off balance but high enough so that your knee ends up at about a ninety degree angle. Next, holding either a set of dumbbells at your sides or a barbell against your back, lower yourself as far down to the floor as you can. The knee of the leg that is raised on the bench should approach the floor while you do this.
Once you reach the lower portion, pause and then rise up once again to complete the set. Switch legs and repeat once you are finished.
So step away from all the past movements you are doing in the high rep ranges with little weights and move towards movements that really challenge you and will get you real results.
For effective hamstring workouts we explain the structure of these muscles, and the best movements to strengthen and develop it. The hamstring is the large muscle on the back of the upper leg – its real name is the bicep femoris, and it is primarily used to help to curl the lower leg up towards the upper leg.
Best exercises for hamstring workouts, for this area are:
- Leg Curls
For strength and power, you should perform 6 – 12 reps, while for toning, reduce the weight and perform high reps (15 – 20).
The second exercise that should be a part of your routine is lunges. Like squats, these are a great all round movement that can adapted for either strength or toning. Most people do higher rep sets of these (12+) as the action can be quite awkward.
Finally, finish your workout with leg curls. These are an isolation exercise for the backs of the legs, and will leave you feeling drained. For this reason, it is better to drop the weight and not push too hard on these – it’s easy to strain this area.
Since the back leg muscles are directly connected with the glutes, including some hamstring exercise in your workout routine will really help improve your backside. Whether you are aiming to get a curvy figure with a strong definition between the bum and the back of the leg, or simply want to increase your leg strength, both goals are achievable when you perform the right movements.
Another good hamstring exercise is the leg curl. This can be performed either sitting down or standing depending on what type of machine is at your gym. With either one it is important to remember for this movement to keep your bum tucked under so you don’t let your back get too swayed. Since there will be a lot of pressure exerted on the lower vertebrae, if the spine gets out of alignment this could cause various issues.
Finally you must remember that any time you are completing a squat or lunge you will also be indirectly working these muscles as they will be helpers to your quad muscle so if you are doing a lot of reps and sets with these two movements you likely may not need to even add any more specific isolated ones to your routine. You don’t want to overwork the muscles and cause overtraining because then they will not get any stronger at all.
So be sure to evaluate your lower body workout program and figure out where these movements will fit in so you are getting a complete session.
To create those ultimate thigh workouts you are working with potentially one of the biggest muscles in the leg, the thigh is involved in almost all the movements you make with your lower body to some extent and is very important when it comes to avoiding need pain.
Its crucial to get that your thigh workouts balanced as one of the main reasons why individuals suffer from knee pain is because their inner or outer thigh muscle is stronger than the other and this creates an off balance. Whatever side of the thigh is strongest will begin pulling the knee cap in that direction causing it to go off track so much that it may end up grinding against the bone or other ligaments.
The way your knee is built makes it designed to move along a specific movement pattern and when it is not doing this, trouble is abound.
When focusing on hip workouts for this region of the body it is important to really consider working it from a variety of angles so that you can target each of the quad muscles specifically. There are four main heads, the rectus femoris, the vastus lateralis, the vastus intermedius and then finally the vastus medialis. If all you ever performed was, say, simple leg extensions, you would be largely leaving out the vastus lateralis thus not really getting that effective of a workout. By include squats and lunges on the other hand, you would be targeting all areas and would increase leg strength to a much greater extent.
Additionally, you do not always need to use weight in order to improve the condition of this area of the body. Many plyometric exercises will work really well at improving the conditioning such as squat jumps, box jumps and burpees, all of which will not only improve strength but also improve muscular power.
So be sure that you do not leave this body part out of your training, especially if you have suffered from knee injuries in the past. It is critically important that you learn to include a wide variety of exercises as well so that your body keeps responding to the stimulus and so that you are not leaving any aspects of this muscle out.
To get lean, defined legs you should always incorporate some thigh exercise into your program. There are an extraordinary amount of movements you can do to work this muscle from a variety of angles so you should never be at a loss for what to do or let boredom prevent you from having a good workout.
Two of the biggest thigh exercise movements that should be included are the squat and the lunge. These would basically be considered ‘king’ because they utilize the most muscle fibres and are usually the movements where you can use the most weight. Since with strength training you want to be using your time most efficiently, these two movements are perfect.
After those two, a few other thigh exercises you can do are leg extensions, one legged squats, jump squats, split squats, leg press, turned out squats or box jumps. All of these will target in and help improve either strength or explosive power.
If your main goal is not to develop a lot of size on your legs than simply don’t perform as many different variations and don’t provide a calorie surplus with your diet. If you aren’t eating enough to grow muscle tissue, there is no way any amount of weight training will make you grow bigger – in fact, if anything it may make you smaller. Still perform the same movements though, squats and lunges, as they will burn the most calories while performing them and actually help aid the weight loss process.
Remember to give yourself a long enough rest period between the activities as well so you can put forth one hundred percent of your strength and power. If you are only giving half your effort during your workouts you are not going to see results nearly as quickly which is why rest is so vital.
To make the the most of your hip workouts this section is designed to understand the movement & structure of this joint. Helping to guide your leg in any movements you make, the muscles and bones surrounding your hip joint are very important to consider when thinking about any effective hip workouts you wish to create for that increased flexion or mobility of movement.
Because this is a ball and socket joint and moves fairly freely, it can also become dislocated if enough force is applied. This dislocation usually results from motor vehicle accidents or falling from a very high level.
Individuals who have had fractures to this joint or other problems associated with it in the past may also be an increased risk for dislocations.
This condition is also extremely painful and if the person is unable to move the leg, there could be nerve damage as a result. If it does occur, it is extremely critical that you get to an emergency room as soon as possible, trying to avoid any movement while doing so.
Including some good strengthening exercises for the muscles is a must if you hope to avoid a dislocation as the stronger the muscles, the more force they will have to hold the bone in place. Also include some weight bearing exercise in your program if you are able to as this should help to strengthen the bones themselves and hopefully reduce any fractures in the future.
One exercise that can be problematic and should potentially be avoided however is hip flexor cable pulleys. Because these place a great deal of strain on the iliopsoas muscle, which is the muscle that connects your hip to your thigh, it is highly probable that if you over-do things there will be pain.
Add to this the fact that most people tend to be generally weak in this muscle and therefore overestimate how much they really should be lifting. They may not feel pain while performing the exercise but the next morning will find they are incredibly sore.
So do not neglect this body part from your training but be smart in how you go about it.
One good way to help prevent lower back and knee pain is to perform hip exercise & hip flexor exercises on a regular basis. Because your body works as a unit rather than separate parts, strengthening this core region will help to transfer many benefits to the rest of the lower body. By performing hip exercise & hip flexor exercises you will help ensure that your knees stay in alignment and that your lower back does not start overcompensating by handling much of the stress because the rest of the muscles are weak.
One very good hip exercise to perform is a cable pull through. To perform this, find the cable machine at your local gym and then attach the lower cable pulley hook. Look for a small rectangular shape wrap with two rings on either end and wrap this around the ankle, hooking the rings through the pulley clasp. Next, standing so that feet are shoulder width apart and there is just enough tension between you and the cable base that the chord is tight, slowly pull the leg closest to the cable across the body. You should feel this working up in the top of the inner thigh muscle. After performing a series of ten to fifteen of these, switch legs, turn around and repeat on the other side.
Next you will want to do the same movement only this time you will face in the other direction so that the foot attached to the cable is now on the outside of the body (so the free foot is closest to the cable base). Perform the movement by raising the leg in the outwards direction so it moves further away from the body. As this is the opposite action, you will now feel the tension of the muscles on the top of the outer thigh working.
Finally, again with the cable attached to the foot, stand so the back as facing the cable. Next you will take one foot and drive the knee upward to the chest while the other leg remains straight helping you maintain balance. This will really work the iliopsoas muscle (leg flexor) and get right to the core of this body area. Be particularly careful with this movement because these muscles tend to be slightly weaker and will not be able to handle as much weight.
After completing all three variations, perform some light stretching to help reduce muscular soreness.
Creating knee workouts is so important as it is one of the joints in the body that is most frequently injured is the knee joint. Because there are so many different muscles and ligaments running through the knee joint, there is an increased chance that if it is not tracking properly you will experience inflammation, potential bone grinding and pain.
Developing those knee workouts will help as Usually injuries to the knee occur most in contact sports because even though it is held strongly together by all these ligaments, its articular surfaces do not offer any help in terms of stability. This means that there is no socket for the knee to sit in, so to speak, so anytime there is a horizontal force applied it is really quite easy for the knee to move in a direction it is not supposed to go.
The worst types of injuries will be lateral blows, which will usually result in a tear in the tibial collateral ligament and the medial meniscus that attaches to it. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) may also become affected which plays a predominant role in knee movement.
ACL injuries are some of the most common ones seen and usually occur most frequently when someone is running and then all of a sudden stops and changes direction. As this ligament does not heal that well on its own, usually surgery needs to be performed to insure the injury is treated properly. The surgery is normally done by applying a graft from either the patellar ligament, the Achilles tendon or else the semitendinosus tendon.
So be sure to perform some proper exercises for the muscles surrounding this joint in your program. By strengthening them you can reduce the risk of the cap moving out of alignment and resulting in injury.
Problems with the leg joints are something that many people who do not perform knee exercises deal with on a regular basis. One of the most common reasons why these conditions exist however is because the muscles are not strong enough surrounding the joints to handle all the force that is placed upon them. Then when an overloading stress is placed upon the leg, the joint takes the brute of the force and ligaments, bones or a combination of both start to suffer.
Luckily you can prevent this problem by performing plenty of knee exercises on a regular basis.
The first knee exercise to include in your workout program is a leg extension. These are particularly great because they will really help improve the front quad muscle which, when weak, is definitely a contributor to a painful joint. This muscle helps to ensure that the cap of the joint moves along a correct pathway and without it being strong enough, you can start seeing bone grinding or torn ligaments. Make sure when performing it that you do not start experiencing pain either. Sometimes this movement can cause strain in some people so if that is the case you may want to avoid it. For the rest of the population though it is a great one to strengthen the major leg muscle.
Another movement to include is hip adduction. This will predominately work the inner thigh, which is a muscle that is weak in some individuals. By doing so it will help to balance out the outer quad muscle and ensure that you are not experiencing a muscular imbalance. Imbalances are also another leading reason for the experiencing of pain so it is critical to get this straightened out. When executing this strength activity be sure to do it in a controlled fashion. It is one that you can easily use momentum to aid you if you are not careful. At no point do you want momentum to be doing the work. Rather you should be fully squeezing against the padding with your leg muscles.
So make sure you take the steps necessary today to prevent pain from starting and causing you to require time off from your workout program.
Leg Stretch – Really Important
Anyone who is participating in physical activity should be performing some leg stretch exercises regularly after they finish. This is even more important for runners in particular as they often develop very tight quads, hip flexors and hamstrings after going for a long run or a sprint session.
The first leg stretch to perform is for your quad and should be completed by standing on one leg and then bending the other at the knee and grabbing the ankle with your free hand. Ensuring that your hips are forward (think of squeezing the bum to accomplish this), gently pull the leg in the backwards direction. If you mentally imagine trying to draw a line with your knee, starting from right below your hips backwards you will accomplish the exact movement you are looking for.
The next leg stretch to perform is great for your hamstring muscles and is a simple toe touch. This can be done either sitting on the floor or standing straight up; whichever is your preference. Try and keep the knees straight while doing this, however do not lock them.
Finally, finish up with an exercise that will lengthen the calf muscle. To do this one either stand so you are facing a wall or stand so that your heels are just hanging off a step. If you choose the wall method, you want to prop one of your feet up against the wall and then slowly lean inwards. Hold this position and then relax and repeat again. If you are doing it on the stairs, all you need to do is hang off them so your body weight works with gravity to create a pull on the calf muscle. You can also do this one leg at a time if you prefer.
If you are particularly sore, after doing these exercises you should also consider taking a nice hot bath. Sometimes that is one of the best methods for reducing muscle soreness and fatigue.