The Best Leg Exercises for Size and Strength
Blow up you legs through these key exercises
When it comes to hitting legs, you probably think of the basic leg day exercises which typically consist of squats, maybe some hack squats, leg curls and extensions, and some Romanian deadlifts. While there are so many leg exercises to choose from, which ones are the best leg exercises for size and strength?
Leg Training Overview
We all want those massive, strong legs, but more often than not skip over some great exercises for them, leaving people with skinny, disproportionate legs compared to their upper body. While people believe that making their legs bigger and stronger just provides a better aesthetic, there is much more in terms of benefits than just appearance.
For one, more size and strength in the lower body makes for a better base which transfers over to other lifts. Think about it, you use your legs even when you are doing something such as bench pressing, which requires leg drive. However, bigger and stronger legs also help complete everyday tasks, such as walking, standing, going up and down stairs, and so on. Stronger legs also help with protection from injury.
Best Leg Exercises for Size and Strength
Now that we have addressed the reason that training legs is so important, let’s discuss which exercises are the best for gaining size and strength.
Pictured: Chloe Butler Squatting
There is no doubt that squats would make it on the list, they are a staple of a good leg day and are recommended by a number of online fitness sources. Whether you are a bodybuilder or powerlifter, or average gym goer, squats bring so many benefits to the table.
The back squat actually activates all of the muscles of the leg. In particular, the squat will hit the quads and glutes as well as the hamstrings. Besides working the legs, you'll also engage your core, as bracing the midsection helps to keep you upright and tight during the movement. Performing back squats will add size and strength to the legs, and back squats also result in more calories burned, higher jumping ability, and a healthier body overall.
Hack squats are another classic exercise, used largely by the bodybuilding community for its ability to isolate and put extensive stress on the quads. Quite honestly, you might take one look at the hack squat and think that it is the same exercise as the back squat or leg press, but it certainly is not. The hack squat is much more of an exercise to focus on the mind muscle connection, as it just about eliminates the lower back activation and strain, and allows you to focus entirely on working the leg muscles and stabilizing muscles to move the load.
The load is still placed at the back of the lifter, typically there will be shoulder pads to place yourself under, and much like a regular back squat the hack squat will force the lifter to brace the core muscles. However, with a hack squat you should be able to lift heavier weights compared to the classic back squat. Use the hack squat if you want to hone in only on the larger leg muscles, especially the quads, as you can alter foot placement easily to adjust where the emphasis will go. For example, famous bodybuilder Tom Platz would place his feet directly below him in a “duck stance” or “sissy squat” stance to really work the quads.
The hack squat is also great if you are trying to come back from an injury. Due to the many different variations and benefits it brings, the hack squat had to make the list of the best leg exercises for strength and size.
No list of leg exercises for strength and size would be complete without the leg press. This piece of equipment is great because it removes the necessity to bear the load on your shoulders, so you are left pressing solely with your leg muscles. Because of this, you'll be able to load up more weight than you would on a barbell back squat or even a hack squat, which can help stimulate new muscle growth.
The leg press is not necessarily a replacement to the squat, you should instead use the leg press as an accessory to the squat. Similar to the hack squat, you won't have to use smaller stabilizing muscles to control the load as much, so you can really concentrate on the mind-muscle connection and stimulate the growth.
Another benefit of the leg press is that it allows for several training modifications in terms of volume, rep ranges, drop sets, and so on, with relative ease and effectiveness. They can be done safely and simply. Also, the leg press is another exercise that can be a good option for those experiencing low back pain or even injuries, as it allows for the legs to be worked without lower back stimulation.
When it comes to the backside of the legs, the Romanian Deadlift, otherwise known as the RDL, is one of the best ways to pack on size and strength. The RDL does not solely isolate the hamstrings, but is rather an overall backside of the leg grower. This exercise to hit the hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae, as well as the core. The RDL made the list of the best leg exercises to pack on size and strength, as it allows you to use heavy weight and really kill the hamstrings and glutes, and even the erectors.
Last but not least on the list of the best leg exercises for size and strength are lunges. Lunges are a perfect multi-muscle exercise that can add some serious size and strength to all of the leg muscles, including: your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. The lunge is a great unilateral exercise, meaning you are technically working one leg at a time, which is ideal for correcting muscular imbalances.
Lunges stretch the hip flexors while requiring a good amount of balance and stability, as well as some serious coordination. We added lunges to the list of best leg exercises for size and strength because it is great for those two things, but is also a super functional movement that will help you move better in your day to day life.
Best Leg Exercises for Size and Strength Wrap Up
Overall, training your legs is essential not only for your overall aesthetic, but to improve functionality and your other lifts. You also need strong legs for everyday tasks.
Do you agree with our list of the best leg exercises for size and strength?