The 10 Most Effective Leg Exercises for Building Muscle

10 Most Effective Leg Exercises

If you’re looking to build leg muscle, it’s important you spend your time on exercises that actually work. Here are the 10 most effective leg exercises for building muscle.

Summer is here, and that means everyone’s pulling out their shorts, skirts, and sundresses. Are you ready to bare your legs to the world?

It’s not too late to start putting in the work to get stronger, more shapely legs!

Listed below are 10 of the best leg exercises you can start doing today to get the sculpted, toned legs you’ve always wanted.

1. Barbell Squats

Building muscle in your legs will help give them a more defined shape. You also burn more fat during your other workouts when you have more muscle since muscle increases your metabolism!

One of the best exercises to do if you want to build muscle in your legs is the barbell squat.

This exercise can be intimidating to those who are new to the gym, but it’s too beneficial to skip out on altogether. Start by squatting with just the bar if you’re a beginner and add additional weight over time when you feel more comfortable.

2. Barbell Deadlifts

Barbell deadlifts are another essential exercise for people who want to build muscle and tighten up their legs.

When you’re doing barbell deadlifts, be sure to focus on hinging at your hips — pushing them back and bending from the hip — while keeping the legs straight (a slight bend in the knees is fine).

This will help you stay stable and get the greatest amount of benefits from the exercise.

You’ll also avoid hurting your lower back, which no one wants to deal with.

3. Barbell Hip Thrusts

If you want tight, shapely glutes, barbell hip thrusts are a must. It’s kind of a pain to set up the equipment for this exercise, so many people choose to do variations with a Smith Machine or even a leg extension machine.

Whatever apparatus you choose, be sure to focus on squeezing your glutes and the top of the exercise and avoid arching your back. You’ll also see better results if you keep your chin tucked (like you’re making a double chin) and pressing into your heels as you lift the barbell.

4. Good Mornings

These are a great exercise to do before barbell deadlifts, or on your own if you’re looking for a lighter exercise that will still get your hamstrings firing.

Remember to focus on hip hinging when doing this exercise, and keep your gaze neutral (don’t look up or curve your neck downward).

5. Single-Leg Deadlifts

Single-leg deadlifts (and all single-limb exercises, for that matter) help correct muscle imbalances and promote a more balanced physique. They also challenge your balance, which is great for strengthening your core!

If you’re brand new to this exercise, bodyweight single-leg deadlifts are usually sufficiently difficult. Add a dumbbell or barbell if you want to take things up a notch.

6. Calf Raises

Don’t neglect your calves! Calf raises can be done with just your bodyweight or with dumbbells or a barbell.

When you’re doing these, make sure you’re moving through a full range of motion. That means rising all the way up onto your toes as high as you’re feet and ankles will allow. You can also stand on a step or bench to make this easier

Go slow and squeeze your calves at the top for an extra burn.

7. Abductor Machine

It doesn’t look particularly pleasant, but your gym’s abductor machine is a great tool if you want to give your glutes and outer thighs some extra attention.

There are a few different ways you can use this machine to get a good workout. You can sit on it normally or lift your glutes up off the seat and hold onto the front of the machine. Try out both variations and see which one feels better for you.

8. Adductor Machine

The abductor machine’s counterpart, the adductor machine, is also great for strengthening the inner thighs.

Don’t get your hopes too high — this machine won’t give you a thigh gap. But, it will help tighten up those muscles and provide some much-needed stability for when you’re doing other lower body exercises, such as walking or lateral lunges.

9. Step-Ups

Step-ups are great for people who want to strengthen their quads and glutes while also increasing their heart rate to burn some extra calories.

When you’re doing step-ups, make sure you’re not cheating by pushing off your bottom foot. In a perfect world, your bottom foot (the one not stepping up on the bench or box) won’t bear any weight.

Make sure you’re using a step that is appropriate height — not so high that you’ll hurt yourself and not so low that you don’t get a workout. If you need an extra challenge, hold a pair of dumbbells or a barbell while doing this exercise.

10. Banded Lateral Walks

Banded lateral walks are great to do at the beginning of a workout, especially if you have a hard time feeling certain exercises in your glutes.

Wrap a resistance loop around your thighs, lower yourself into a slight squat, and then walk side to side. You should feel a burning in your outer thighs and glutes almost immediately.

You can also do these at the end of your workout as a burnout exercise.

Where to Find More Leg Exercises

These ten leg exercises are great to start with. But, what happens when you’ve done them all and are looking for something new or more advanced?

Luckily, there are lots of free resources out there that will inspire you to create new and challenging leg workouts. Check out sites like Fitness Crest, or look on YouTube or Pinterest for inspiration.

Are You Looking for More Workout Advice?

In addition to these leg exercises, if you want to get fit and look your best, you’re going to need a plan to tackle your other muscle groups.

Not sure what to do when it comes to working your arms, chest, back, or core? We’re here to help!

Check out our fitness archives today. We’ve got tons of great articles available that will help you create and stick to the perfect workout plan for your goals.