“Don’t skip leg day.” You’ve probably heard this common refrain jokingly tossed around the gym. Well, there’s no joke about it. If you skip leg day, you may not be achieving your full potential in the gym. Lower body workouts can help add big gains to your total body strength. Tony Horton wants to help you tap into that potential. So, he compiled some of the best leg workouts around to help make your next leg day a fun and effective workout. Just make sure to get your doctor’s approval before giving any new exercise a try.
Why Training Legs Is So Important
Leg strength affects your total body strength, stability, and movement outside of the gym. But, you can’t just build these crucial muscles with simple exercises like running. You need a dedicated day of lower body workouts. This targeted training offers the best path to increased leg strength and the other potential benefits associated with leg workouts.1
Burn More Calories With Leg Day
Your legs have lots of muscles. In fact, the biggest muscle in your whole body is the gluteus maximus. When you work these big muscles out doing barbell squats and other leg exercises, it burns lots of energy. This energy comes from stored calories. So, when you do leg workouts, it burns all those calories to fuel your muscles.2
Build Up Your Total Muscle Mass
Many leg strengthening exercises are compound workouts. That means they work multiple muscle joints at the same time. The extra effort required to move multiple muscles causes your body to release growth hormones. These extra hormones can lead to growth in all the muscles of your body.3
The Best Leg Workouts For Your Exercise Routine
Tony Horton appreciates that leg day can feel like a chore. That’s why he’s created a diverse and engaging set of lower body workouts for you. This variety should make leg day stimulating and fun. Follow along with the best leg workouts for men and women below to get started.
Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise
This is a great routine for strengthening the calf muscles around your shins.4
- Sit on a bench with a plate weight or riser on the ground in front of you. Place your toes on the edge of the plate.
- Put a dumbbell on the knee of the same leg. Lift your toes as high as you can against the weight.
- Hold, then release and lower the weight back down. Repeat for 10 reps.5
This alteration on the traditional deadlift hones in on your glutes and hamstrings.
- Stand with a barbell in front of you on the ground. Bend at the knees to grab it. Your back, shins, and hips should all be straight.
- Use your hips to lift the bar up. Don’t bend your back as you come up.
- From the upright position, push back down through your hips to lower the bar to about shin length. Push back up with your hips into the deadlift position. Repeat for 5-8 reps.6
This is one of the best leg exercises around for your whole leg, and it doesn’t even require any weights.
- In a standing position, hold your hands on your sides. Take a step backward with your left foot.
- In this reverse lunge position, lower your hips down until your right leg is parallel with the floor. Your left knee should point toward the floor.
- Return to the starting position, and repeat with the other leg. Shoot for 15-20 reps.7
This squat variation engages your whole body and gets those abs tight.
- Stand with a kettlebell between your feet. Lift the weight up toward your chest using your leg muscles.
- Push your knees out, and lower into a seated position. Keep your head and back neutral.
- Lift back up to the starting position. Repeat for 5-10 reps.8
Build powerful glutes to help strengthen your back and boost athletic movement, like running.
- Set up an easy curl bar or a small barbell in front of a bench. Sit down, and lean the top of your back against the bench to make a 45-degree angle.
- Grab hold of the barbell, and place it on your lap slightly above your pelvis.
- Drive your hips up, using your glute muscles, until your back is straight and your knees are at a 90-degree angle.
- Return to the starting position. Repeat for 10 reps.9
Single Leg Seated Curl
Hamstring exercises like this can do a lot to help reinforce the muscles around the knees.
- Sit down on the leg curl machine. Keep your back flat on the seat pad.
- Extend your right leg out and place it on top of the padded lever. Hold the handles with your hands in front of you.
- Curl the weight back by contracting your hamstrings and bending your knee. Slowly return your leg to start. Repeat for 10 reps, and then swap legs.10
Single-Leg Deadlift Variation
This deadlift variation is an effective exercise for the glutes and hamstrings. It can also assist with stability and core strength.
- Stand with a set of dumbbells. Raise your left leg behind you. Bend at the hips, and contract your core for balance.
- Lift your leg until your torso is parallel with the ground. The dumbbells should hang straight below your shoulders.
- Return your leg to the start position, and repeat with your right leg for 10 reps.11
Barbell Side Lunge
Firm up those glutes with this solid side lunge variation.
- Stand with a barbell across your shoulders. Pull the bar down slightly, and squeeze your shoulders back together.
- Take a large step to the right. Push your chest out as your step. Your hip should lower toward the ground as you extend out. The left leg should become nearly parallel with the ground.
- Come back to center, and repeat with the left leg. Repeat for 5 reps on each side.12
Box jumps are considered one of the best plyometric exercises around for building total body power and agility.
- Stand about two feet from a plyo box. Swing your arms above your head, and rise onto the balls of your feet as you do.
- Bend your knees, push your hips back, and swing your arms behind you for momentum. As you return your arms forward, jump onto the box.
- Land in a half-squat position with your knees bent and feet flat.
- Step down off the box and repeat for 40 seconds.13
Lower Body Workouts For A Stronger You
You only limit yourself and your fitness goals if you skip out on proper leg training. Lower body workouts can help keep your legs strong, and they also may help build upper body strength and reinforce core stability. Plus, the compound movements involved with many leg exercises release muscle-building hormones that might add to your total body strength.
Take advantage of all that physical goodness with the best leg exercises above. As your leg strength increases, you should feel the benefits across your whole body. In no time, you’ll know exactly why you should never skip leg day. Again, just make sure to first get your doctor’s approval.