The 5 Best Leg Exercises You Need To Include On Your Leg Day Workout

Leg day has gone from the least liked and most neglected, to the most popular day in your workout training split. But growing those quads and glutes, and claiming that your thick thighs save lives, doesn’t just happen overnight with a few glute band exercises and HIIT classes. If you want to be built for speed and comfort, you’ll need to target your legs with proven functional compound movements. We’re going to talk about the best leg exercises you need for your leg day workout to build strong powerful legs.

Leg Day Exercises – Compound Functional Movements

Leg day doesn’t have to be complicated. With so many accessory leg exercises to choose from, you really only need to include a few key leg day exercises, to get the most benefit. Compound movements, or movements that recruit multiple muscle groups and joints concurrently like the squat and deadlift, will ultimately create more functional strength and better aesthetics while also improving mobility, posture, and core strength. Of course, switching things up and incorporating different accessory movements, will help keep you more engaged.

If you're worried about the weight, you don’t need to use a heavy barbell for these exercises. You can always change the training implement, and use kettlebells, dumbbells, or just bodyweight, as well as adjust the intensity, volume, weight, and tempo to keep things interesting.

The 5 Best Leg Exercises For Your Leg Day Workout

1. Bulgarian Split-Squat

The Bulgarian-split squat is a single-leg squat variation. Compared to a traditional barbell squat, it removes all the pressure and load from your lower back, and places it directly into your legs. The stabilizing leg of the Bulgarian split-squat is elevated behind you, which allows greater range of motion and depth, to achieve greater muscle hypertrophy, and strength gains in your glutes and quadriceps. Bulgarian split squats are key for not only building a bigger barbell back squat, but for building quadriceps and glutes, midline stability, and it offers an awesome range of motion movement for the hip flexors. 

RELATED ARTICLE Bulgarian Split Squats: 4 Proven Benefits And How To Perform Bulgarian Split Squats

Bulgarian Split Squat Benefits

  1. Build more strength
  2. Improve Balance and coordination
  3. Improves Mobility
  4. Burns More Body Fat

How To Bulgarian Split Squat

  • Start with your feet hip-width apart. with the right foot forward and the left foot placed back behind the body on a bench or box that is about knee-height, or just below knee height.
  • Keeping your shoulders stacked directly above your forward-facing hips, begin to descend into a lunging position. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in both hands in a vertical position hanging on each side of your body.
  • Keep your back straight while lowering your left knee towards the floor
  • Go as low as you can while still ensuring your chest is staying open and the front knee is not protruding out in front of your toes.
  • When your left knee lowers, press your right foot into the ground, pull back on the right knee, and push the top of the left foot into the box to return to standing.

2. Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

The Romanian deadlift is slightly different than the traditional deadlift. Although both movements will increase strength and muscle hypertrophy in the posterior chain muscles, Romanian deadlifts emphasize and target the hamstrings, as opposed to the glutes [R]. Electromyography (EMG) studies show that conventional deadlifts target and recruit the gluteus and rectus femoris muscles more so than the RDL, due to the biomechanical differences in exercise technique as the conventional deadlift starts and finishes more in a sitting position than the RDL with significantly more knee and hip flexion. RDL’s are one of the best leg day accessory strength movements, to hep build more power and strength.

RELATED ARTICLE Romanian Deadlifts (RDL): 4 Proven Benefits And How To Perform Romanian Deadlifts

Romanian Deadlift (RDL) Benefits

  1. Increases Posterior Chain Strength
  2. Build More Muscle Mass
  3. Burn More Body Fat
  4. Reduce The Risk For Injury

How To Romanian Deadlift

It’s important to remember that the Romanian deadlift is different than the traditional deadlift. RDLs put more emphasis on the hamstrings, therefore it’s important to pay close attention to positioning and form.

  • Stand tall with your feet shoulder width apart. Grab a loaded barbell, stand it up pushing your hips back and hold it directly in front of your thighs, with your hands set slightly wider than your thighs.
  • Start with knees slightly bent at 15 degrees and slowly lower the weight, keeping the barbell close to your legs as you descend, hinging at the hips and keeping your back straight. Keep your core engaged and tight as you keep your torso straight.
  • Lower the weight until you feel a slight stretch in the hamstrings, normally just past the knees. Keep your torso upright, arms straight and shoulders rounded drawing your shoulder blades back towards your spine.
  • Drive your hips forward, and use your hamstrings to push the weight back up to standing position and repeat.

3. Squat

The back squat is a bilateral structural movement that helps build full-body strength. Squats demand a strong posterior chain , hamstrings, quads, and a relative amount of midline stability as well as ankle mobility. Oh and let's not forget impeccable form in order to reap the biggest benefits. Back squat are one of the most effective full body exercises you can include on your leg day training split. The squat provides huge benefits, for strength, mobility, core stabilization, and posture, allowing you to improve all around athletic performance.

RELATED ARTICLE 4 Accessory Movements To Strengthen Your Back Squat

Squat Benefits

  1. Increases Power And Strength
  2. Build More Muscle Mass
  3. Burn More Body Fat
  4. Reduce The Risk For Injury
  5. Improves Posture
  6. Improves Mobility

How To Squat

  • Stance will vary from person to person, however feet should be between hips and shoulder width apart with your toes slightly pointed outward
  • spine nuetral chest open and shoulders back, make sure your heels are firmly planted into the ground as your weight will shift into your heels through the movement progression
  • send your hips back on the descent like you're trying to sit in an invisible chair 
  • bend your knees with your chest open and lifted until parallel with the ground.
  • press through your heels and push straight back up to standing position 

 

4. Deadlift 

Deadlifts have many known full body benefits and are extremely crucial in the development of total-body strength, proper hip function, core strength, and spine stabilization (which can reduce the risk of lower back injuries). Since deadlifts recruit multiple muscle groups, joints, and stabilizing muscles, they also burn more calories and more body fat as compared to other exercise movements. With the proper form, the deadlift can add a ton of performance and health benefits, to your training program. 

RELATED ARTICLE 5 Proven Benefits Of Deadlifts to Improve Power And Strength

Benefits Of Deadlifts

  1. Increases Power
  2. Increases Total Body Strength
  3. Build More Muscle Mass
  4. Burns More Body Fat
  5. Improves Posture
  6. Improves Mobility

How To Deadlift

  • Stand with feet hip-to shoulder-width apart. Rest your shins against the bar.
  • Hinge at the hips and sink back into your glutes while keeping your spine extended and chest lifted up toward the ceiling.
  • Grip the bar with one hand facing palm-up and the other hand facing palm-down. This over-under grip is for safety and can keep the bar from rolling out of your hands.
  • Squeeze the bar with your hands as you sink back into your hips. As you sink into your hips, think about pulling your back and down to engage the lats. This will help keep your low-back stable. 
  • For the pull
  • Push your feet into the floor to straighten your legs and lift your chest as you lift the weight off the floor. As you stand up, think about pulling back on your knees and pushing your hips forward.
  • Finally, for the lockout:
  • At the top of the movement, hold your shoulders back as you keep your spine straight and tall. Pause for a moment before descending into the lowering phase.
  • Slowly push your hips back while keeping your spine long and chest lifted into the air.
  • Use your thigh muscles to resist the downward pull of gravity as the weight lowers back to the floor.
  • At the bottom, pause, reset your hips and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
  • Push your feet into the floor to straighten your legs and lift your chest as you lift the weight off the floor. As you stand up, think about pulling back on your knees and pushing your hips forward.
  • At the top of the movement, hold your shoulders back as you keep your spine straight and tall. Pause for a moment before descending into the lowering phase.
  • Slowly push your hips back while keeping your spine long and chest lifted into the air.
  • Use your thigh muscles to resist the downward pull of gravity as the weight lowers back to the floor.
  • At the bottom, pause, reset your hips and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

5. Overhead Lunge

Lunges are a wonderful exercise that targets the quadriceps, and glutes. However, they also work just about all of the other muscles of your lower body, including your core, hamstrings, and calves. The overhead lunge is one of the most functional and effective full-body strength-building movements you can perform. With minimal equipment needed, you can gain strength, mobility, core strength, and stability.

As an advanced plyometric movement, you can build both upper and lower body strength, increase peak power output, and propulsion from the legs, proprioception (special orientation), as well as improve core stability. When the weight is moved overhead, rather than on the shoulders or at the sides, the stabilizers in the shoulders (both upper and lower trap) are engaged, forcing your core muscles to fully lengthen and contract, thus burning more calories, while improving balance and coordination.

RELATED ARTICLE The 6 Best Overhead Lunge Variations 

Benefits Of Overhead Lunge

  1. Improves Balance And Coordination
  2. Builds More Functional Strength
  3. Build More Muscle Mass
  4. Burns More Body Fat
  5. Improves Posture
  6. Improves Mobility

How To Do Overhead Lunges

  • Grab two dumbbells, or single dumbbell – stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Inhale and raise the dumbbells overhead
  • Keeping the dumbbells directly overhead with your biceps at the ears, center the shoulder joints and engage the muscles, bracing with the core
  • Exhale as you take a step forward with one leg, slowly lowering your body until your front knee is bent at least 90 degrees
  • Don’t allow the weight to carry you forward. Instead, think about dropping your hips straight down as you step forward. Keep your abs tight and chest up.
  • Pause, then push through the front foot to the starting position as quickly as you can
  • Complete the prescribed number of repetitions by either alternating each leg or performing the full set with one leg before switching to the other

Best Leg Exercises You Need For Your Leg Day Workout: Takeaway

Adding serious size and strength to your legs, takes time and effort. Compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and RDLs, are key functional exercises to build strong powerful legs. Training your legs effectively for maximum performance will help build total body strength, improve mobility, and optimize body composition. And for upper body workouts, check out our blog piece on the best arm exercises.


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