A crucial part of every resistance training routine is training your lower body. Your legs are composed of really big muscles, as well as smaller ones, that need a dedicated workout in order to grow and get stronger, so you can have a better fitness life and achieve your strength training goals!
Whether you prefer to keep things simple but effective, or you’re an advanced lifter who likes to get creative at the gym, you can maximize your leg workouts in a variety of different ways, allowing you to exercise safely while still reaping all the benefits of an intense strength training session.
Remember, training your legs isn’t only worth it for the looks, but also for improving your daily life and your workouts at the same time, which is why we’ve put together a list of some of the best tips so you can have the best leg day workout possible!
Add some resistance
If you want to make your leg muscles grow bigger and stronger, your need to add resistance to your workouts - and then keep incrementing it!
This is the principle of progressive overload, in which you push your muscles to the max so that they keep tearing and your body can build new muscle on top, instead of doing the same workout every week and letting your muscles get used to it forever. If you do this, you’ll eventually reach a plateau in which you’re not pushing your muscles anymore and you’ll completely stop making gains.
So, to improve your leg workout routine, log your progress and aim to either increase the reps, sets, or weight in your next session!
Change your foot placement
Sometimes really small changes can go very far, and when it comes to leg workouts, your foot placement is one of those!
Because your feet act as the base of your legs, “correct” foot positioning is needed to hit the right muscles in the right way. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t change it up! By widening or narrowing your stance, or even pointing your feet slightly different during your workouts, you can target the desired muscle from a different angle and even recruit new muscles during the workout!
Let’s say you’re doing a leg press. The regular foot position for this killer leg exercise is shoulder-width apart with toes slightly pointing out at the centerline of the platform, allowing you to give your quads a good burn, as well as your glutes, hamstrings, and calves. If you narrow your stance a little, placing your feet at hip-width distance, it’ll basically turn into an isolated exercise for your quads. Or, you can choose to place your feet higher in the platform so that the movement requires more hip extension, allowing you to activate your hamstrings and glutes a little bit more and your quads a little bit less.
As you can see, you can completely change your workout without even leaving the machine, it all depends on what you want to train at that moment!
Never leave squats behind
You probably already know this, but we’re here to remind you: the squat is the king compound exercise for your lower body gains.
They’re simple yet incredibly effective, giving all your leg muscles a good burn without needing anything else other than your body weight. But of course, like we previously mentioned, adding resistance to your leg workouts will help you take them to the next level - and squats are perfect for this!
That’s the fun thing about squats. There are countless variations that you can try, whether it’s by adding a resistance band to your regular squats, holding a dumbbell in each hand to do Bulgarian split squats, a kettlebell for your goblet squats, a barbell for your barbell squats… You only need to get creative at the squat rack and rise to the challenge. Spice up your workout with a variety of leg exercises, but don’t leave squats out of your routine!
Do flexibility exercises
Any good leg workout will have a variety of movements to train your muscles, but you need to make sure that you’re actually able to go through them with good form to reap all the benefits of the exercise.
This is where flexibility comes in! More specifically, it’s the range of motion and mobility that you’ll want to work on and improve so that you can perform any exercise without struggling with your form. Additionally, with a good range of motion, you’ll be able to take your leg workouts to the next level by going either further or deeper, so it’s definitely something that you’ll want to spend some time on.
We recommend doing some dynamic stretches before your workouts so that you can mimic the movements that you’re about to do without any resistance, letting your muscles get used to the motion and stretching them out as much as you can. This will help you prepare your muscles for the workout as well as improve your range of motion over time!
After your workout, try some static stretches and foam rolling. While they’re usually seen as a way to just cool down and prevent any soreness, taking care of your muscles post-workout will help increase your blood flow and reduce stiffness, allowing you to stay flexible for your next workout.
Split your leg workout
If there’s something that you can do to make sure you’re giving your leg muscles the right level of attention, it’s implementing a training split!
Training splits are designed to help you focus on a specific muscle group (or set of muscles) each day of the week so that you can have a more targeted workout. When it comes to your legs, it’s no secret that they need enough love if you want to make them grow, so implementing a training split that focuses on different leg muscles each day is the best way to go.
Of course, you can always train your whole lower body together, but if you want to see start seeing great results almost right away, try the four-day split! Two days upper body, two days lower body (alternated) - but with a twist. On the first leg day, you can train your glutes and hamstrings, and on the second day your quads and calves. Or, you could just do pulling exercises one day and then pushing exercises on the other, your choice!
Try different variations
The best leg day workout is the one that has more variety. We briefly mentioned exercise variations when talking about squats, but squats aren’t the only exercise that you can do in different ways. From hip thrusts to deadlifts to leg curls, essentially every leg exercise has different variations that you can try!
Why should you try other variations?
Well, your legs are composed of many big and small muscle groups, so training them isn’t as simple as just performing the same movement for 45 minutes and hoping to get results after. You need to hit them from every angle possible, performing a variety of motions (such as pushing and pulling), and making sure you’re not only focusing on the major muscles such as your glutes and quads. One great way to switch things up and zone in on a particular muscle are by doing single-leg variations! Like doing a single-leg hip thrust, single-leg deadlift, or pistol squats. These exercises help place an extra challenge on one side of your body to train it effectively, and it adds a balance and stability challenge which makes you work even harder!
If you particularly enjoy doing lunges, you can try some of the best lunge variations for your lower-body days - but that doesn’t mean you should only do lunges! Yes, changing it up from time to time will help you have a better leg workout, but you need more variety than that to keep your muscles from hitting a plateau. This is why the secret to a good strength training routine is not only doing different exercises but different variations of those exercises!
Use fitness gear for support
Making progress in your strength training journey can be tough or even intimidating, but using the correct fitness gear will help you get through your leg workout routine more easily!
While you shouldn’t depend on fitness gear to perform your exercises, they’re still great to practice progressive overload and help you take it to the next level. For your cable machine leg workouts, such as glute kickbacks and side leg raises, having a padded ankle strap will help you move your legs more comfortably, allowing you to exert maximum force without struggling too much.
Another piece of fitness gear that can be super useful is the lifting belt. When doing barbell squats and deadlifts, you put your back under a lot of stress because you need to be able to stabilize yourself and the weight, and a lifting belt can help reduce that stress. This allows you to put more focus on your legs and go deeper into the squat while preventing injury. It’s especially useful when you’re getting used to a new weight, but remember not to rely on it!
Whether it’s at the gym, at home, or even at your local park, you can have the best leg day by just following these simple tips! Practice proper form and take it to step by step, and you’ll be on your way to getting those toned legs that you dream about.
Need some help structuring your leg day workouts?
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The app features weekly goal-focused workout plans created by Iulia herself to help you get the best results for your strength training journey. You can find a combination of compound and isolation exercises, along with an appropriate training split, the recommended number of sets and reps, rest period, and so much more!
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