Leg day is quite important in the fitness world. Skipping it means that you miss out on working out your quads, thighs, hamstrings, and calves. So it should go without saying that there is pressure to always show up for leg day, no matter how challenging it may be for you. Nonetheless, just showing up is not enough to reap the rewards. You may visit the gym for leg day after leg day and do the exercises yet not get any help whatsoever.
To get well-shaped and defined legs, you need to specifically only do the best leg exercises. These will help in building your quads, ripping your thighs and toning your leg fat. The problem is that there are several debates regarding what these exercises exactly are. On top of this, leg exercises tend to vary from one fitness instructor to another.
To help you get defined legs, we will evaluate some of the expert-approved best leg exercises. These workouts are designed to help you get the leg mass and the defined legs that make you stand out from a crowd.
Contrary to what you may think, working out your legs is vital. It helps with improving your athletic performance, balance and flexibility. It also helps in supporting your movement, enabling you to perform various daily activities (1).
Hold on, do not jump straight into any leg workout program you find online. You will have to do the following before you start a leg circuit/ regime:
Beginners mostly have to seek advice from a fitness coach about the best leg regime depending on their goals. Do not rely on the little you know but instead get professional advice from an expert.
After getting the go-ahead and knowing your practical circuit, proceed to now stretch before performing the exercises. This will help in loosening your muscles and increasing your range of motion. Consequently, you are less likely to get leg injuries like strains and sprains. Some stretches runners can do before the best leg exercises for runners include:
Follow these steps to stretch by doing the side lunge:
The second practical stretching exercises for runners involves you doing the following:
If you are an athlete, try the following stretching exercises before proceeding to your leg workouts:
Here are the steps of completing a proper forward lunge:
Here is how you should stretch using this exercise:
After stretching, you can now start your leg circuit. If you want to do bodyweight leg exercises, then here are a few you can consider:
The leg press is considered one of the masters of the leg exercises. It is an effective workout that both men and women can try. The exercise targets various parts of your lower body. These include your quads, calves, glutes, and hamstrings (1).
Here is a detailed step-by-step guide on how to do leg presses:
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The second weight leg exercise you can try to build leg mass is the hamstring curl. It is useful in preventing tight hamstrings and the tightness of other leg muscles. So, if you want to strengthen your hamstrings, then this is the exercise you ought to try.
Follow these steps to do the lying hamstring curl:
NOTE: If you have never done this exercise before, then chances are you could make various mistakes. The worst of these mistakes may result in long-term injuries. Therefore, take heed of the following to avoid making these errors:
One of the best leg exercises for men that involves weights is the Romanian deadlift (RDL). It helps in strengthening your spine, glutes, adductors, hamstrings and posterior chain. Before you try this lift, speak to your doctor and gym instructor. Its high intensity may result in various injuries.
Below are the steps you should abide by to do this traditional lift correctly:
One of the best leg exercises for women is the step up. It helps in increasing leg strength and toning your butt. For this exercise, you will need an elevated platform and some dumbbells.
Here is the guideline on how to do a step up correctly:
You do not have to build leg mass at the gym. Here are some great leg exercises you can try from the comfort of your home:
Squats are other masters of the lower body exercises. They strengthen various muscles, which explains why they are effective lower body exercises. A squat targets your quads, buttocks, front and back thighs and hamstrings (3).
The squat variations you can do range depending on your preference and body goals. Beginners are advised to start with the basic squat before they start incorporating weights or other variations. Here is a procedure of how you should do the basic squat:
If you are not squatting correctly, you are highly likely to experience knee pains. It is because you exert too much pressure on your knees instead of your glutes and thigh muscles (3).
You can avoid knee pain by learning how to and implementing a correct squat. If you already have knee pain, then treat it using the R.I.C.E method. This involves:
R (REST): resting your knee and avoiding exerting too much weight on it. You can achieve this by regulating your movement.
I (ICE): You must treat your knee pain with some ice treatment. Wrap an ice pack with your towel and press it on your knee for at least twenty minutes. After this window, let it rest for a few minutes before pressing it again with the ice pack.
C (COMPRESSION): After the ice treatment, you are required to wrap your knee with a bandage or an elastic wrap. This will help in reducing or preventing any swelling.
E (ELEVATION): You need to raise or elevate your leg whenever you do not move it around. It must be higher than your heart.
If this method does not relieve your pain, then seek medical advice immediately. A doctor may suggest getting painkillers such as ibuprofen or other pain management measures. At no point should you self-medicate and decide what is best for your condition (5).
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The other leg exercise you can do from home is the calf raise. As the name suggests, they work the calf muscles located in the back of your legs. These exercises are very effective in preventing tight calves.
Tight calves will make it either difficult or uncomfortable to walk. If severe, tight calves may be accompanied by sudden sharp pains, bruising and swelling. Therefore, you need to do some calf raises to help prevent all these.
Here is how you can do a good calf raise at home:
You can also do aerobic exercises to work out and tone your legs. These types of exercise refer to workouts that increase both your breathing and heart rates. These exercises range from running, swimming, walking, dancing to biking.
The type of aerobic exercise you choose depends on factors such as your age, physical ability, fitness level, and preference. For example, you may decide on walking if you have threatening injuries.
Similarly, you may prefer swimming to running if that is your hobby. No matter what exercise you choose, these exercises are prone to be effective in burning total body fat.
If you are struggling with leg or overall total body fat, consider trying an aerobic exercise. However, you must note that you cannot shed fat from just one part of your body.
Therefore, when you start running, swimming, or aerobic exercise, expect to shed fat evenly throughout your body. One specific aerobic exercise you can try at home as a leg exercise is pedaling.
You may refer to pedaling as biking or vice versa. It is a great leg exercise as it works your calves, hamstrings and quads. All you need for this exercise is a bicycle or stationary bike. You can choose an outdoor bicycle if you prefer doing your work out outside.
However, if you prefer working out from home, purchase the stationary bike. If you want to increase the intensity of this workout program, use toe clips. They add resistance by allowing you to pull the pedal up and push it back down (4).
If not, you can adjust the resistance on your stationary bike to make it more challenging (4). Only go for these extreme measures after consultation with a fitness professional.
If you want to have healthy and well-toned legs, you have to combine the best leg exercises into your workout. Some workouts are better suited for women and others for men. Some of the best leg exercises for men include the Romanian Deadlift, leg presses and barbell hip thrusts.
The best leg exercises for women range from squats, step-ups, calf raises to the hip thrusts. Remember to seek professional guidance before starting your leg workout regime. Similarly, remember to stretch before you begin these exercises. This will help prevent you from sustaining various injuries.
The views in this article are meant for educational purposes only. Seek professional assistance before you start any workout program.