When it comes to strengthening your legs, there is a fine line between overtraining and not training them enough, with the vast majority of us falling into one of these categories.
First, you have the guy who spends a whole hour doing squats at the smith machine before moving on to the rest of his heavy-hitting, sweat-inducing 90-minute session.
Then you have the person who thinks that a lower-body routine which hardly breaks a sweat is sufficient enough to get the best results.
If you want stronger legs then it is pretty obvious that you should not be avoiding “leg day”. This means that you need to be making an active effort to work those leg muscles.
Tips for Bigger and Stronger Legs
Here are some tips you should use for bigger and stronger legs:
#1: Squat More Often
Unless you have an injury that prevents you from squatting then there is no excuse for not having this part of your leg routine.
There is a reason why most professional bodybuilders and trainers swear by the benefits of the squat.
When you first start squatting you should focus on performing the move using correct form to avoid injury.
You may not be able to lift much to begin, and don’t be embarrassed. It is better that you learn the form to start as an injury to your back will certainly not be much fun, and will certainly derail your bulking efforts.
#2: Use The Full Range Of Motion
You may have heard from a friend or so-called expert that full squats are bad for your knees, well this is not true with science actually showing that it can strengthen your knee instead.
The truth is that bad form will damage your knees, so using my advice above stick to a lighter weight until your form is perfect.
To perform a full squat and to experience the full benefit of this movement then you need to lower yourself slowly to just below parallel position, with your hip crease below the top of your patella.
You should then return to your upright position, with full control of the bar.
#3: Stop Steady-State Cardio
Do you jump on the treadmill at the end of your weight training workout? If so then you are probably damaging your strength and muscle gains.
Walking or jogging for hours can affect your muscle growth so try to avoid that treadmill.
Instead, if you want to increase your endurance but do not want to damage your muscle-building then I would suggest that you look at trying HIIT or High-Intensity Interval Training.
This form of exercise will involve you performing a cardio workout at 100% intensity for short amounts of time.
A HIIT workout will typically only last a few minutes so it won’t harm your gains.
#4: Add Weight To Your Lifts
If you are not adding any weight to your lifts then how will you become stronger and subsequently bigger?
Your muscles will get used to the same lifts each time you visit the gym so your gains will plateau.
The key is to add variety to your workouts to keep your muscles guessing what is coming next.
You could also increase reps, add sets or cut your rest periods to add a little variety.
#5: Consume More Protein
While nutrition is a very broad subject if you are not seeing the muscle gains in your legs that you would expect then perhaps the reason is not that you are not lifting enough, but are perhaps not eating enough protein.
Protein is essential for muscle growth as it helps to repair that damaged muscle tissue you tear while working out.
You should be aiming to consume between 1.5 to 2 grams of protein for every pound you weigh.
#6: Work Your Legs Twice Weekly
If you are splitting your workouts to hit certain muscle groups then you must not forget about your legs.
The aim is to work them thoroughly at least twice a week, and if done correctly you will struggle to walk the next day.
You could choose to work your quads one day with your hamstrings on another day, or you may choose to work them together. Just remember to work them!
#7: Work Both Quads And Hamstrings
You need to think of these 2 muscles as a mirror of each other. That means you need to work them both equally like you would your chest and back for example.
Otherwise, you will find that one will develop more than the other, which is never a good look.
#8: Watch Your Reps
There is no need to go crazy doing multiple exercises and hundreds of reps to give your legs a good workout.
In reality, you should only do between 3-4 different quad exercises with 2-3 exercises for your hamstrings.
The range of reps should be between 4-20 depending on the exercise and your goals.
#9: Make Sure You Warm-Up
To avoid injury you should warm up any muscles before you start lifting heavy.
You may want to do a 5-minute cardio routine to get your blood pumping, or you could do a few reps at a much lighter weight to stretch out your muscles.
#10: Don’t Forget Your Calves
As with your other leg muscles, you should aim to do 2-3 different calve exercises, twice weekly.
You don’t want “chicken legs” do you?
Muscle Building Exercises for Legs
When it comes to achieving the right results and you getting the legs you want, there are several tried and tested exercises that are constantly incorporated in the routines of amateurs and professional competitors alike (don’t forget a bulking regime is a must too).
These are solid leg routines and are centred on multi-joint movements such as lunges, squats and step-ups.
Muscle Building Exercise #1: Squats
Regarded by many as the ultimate leg exercise credited to building and sustaining muscle, squats are loathed and loved in equal measure.
With their proven capabilities of revving up the metabolism, to the compound movement they provide, as well as hitting a multitude of different muscle groups, squats are for everyone.
They are also one of those rare breeds that are doable any time, any place and anywhere.
It’s due to this versatility that we hold squats in such high esteem.
Muscle Building Exercise #2: Lunges
Lunges, just like squats, offer a number of variations in approach and method which make this exercise so efficient.
Lunges can be modified in a multitude of ways, giving you the freedom to choose which muscle groups you place specific emphasis on.
With such simple changes as the width of stance and foot placement presenting a wealth of different muscle stimuli.
It is important to incorporate lunges into any leg routine.
Muscle Building Exercise #3: Leg Press
When it comes to the first initial steps in any leg routine, the leg press is favoured by many for its ease of use and relative simplicity in terms of required movement in comparison to squats and lunges.
Despite the toned-down intensity and comfortability, there are many variations available to the leg press to ensure that you hit the desired muscle groups such as higher positioning of the feet to draw more effort from the hamstrings and wider foot placement with inward-pointing feet, thus tailoring the exercise to rely more on the thighs.
With the comfort, lack of full-body movement and unlimited variations, the leg press is a crucial piece of equipment in any lower body routine.
Muscle Building Exercise #4: Mountain Climbers
This exercise is not only a great way to build muscular legs but is also a great form of cardio that will push your heart and lungs to their limit.
Muscle Building Exercise #5: Kettlebell Swings
Anyone who has ever used a kettlebell will tell you how hard your legs have to work to swing that weight out in front of you.
When you perform the perfect kettlebell swing you will be using all of the muscles along your ‘posterior chain’, which include your hamstrings, glutes and lower back.
Muscle Building Exercise #6: Barbell Deadlift
To grow your legs effectively you will need to perform deadlifts regularly, as they will definitely build and strengthen your entire lower body, although your hamstrings will be performing a lot of the work.
As with the squats, it is best to start with a lighter weight to begin, to avoid serious injury.
To perform a deadlift properly you should stand with your mid-foot under the bar, grab the bar about shoulder-width apart.
You should then bend your knees so that your shins touch the bar. Lift your chest and straighten your back.
Finally, take a big breath and pull the weight up. Making sure to keep your back straight as you stand up.
Final Thoughts For Building Your Leg Muscles
Keeping all of this in mind, the most important thing to remember is that each muscle group should be trained from a variety of angles to maximise muscle-fibre recruitment as well as to reap those health benefits.
This advice becomes even more crucial when it comes to training and improving leg strength.
Naturally, a good dose of core work is involved also, as you can’t build stronger leg muscles with intense workouts without a reliable and sturdy core.
Many athletes are actually weaker in this area then they realise. Yet as the core has a crucial and fundamental role to play in your overall fitness goals you should make an effort to work on it.