Most of those who work out, do not look forward to training their legs. People want to do bicep curls and hit the bench press to try and get the beach body with the chiseled chest and big guns.
But you don’t want to be the guy who is forced to wear parachute pants the rest of their life because of their chicken legs – MC Hammer is no longer a fashion icon (not sure he ever was) and while some fashions are cyclical, I just don’t see that one coming back.
Good news! There is only actually two leg exercises that you ever really need do – include these and watch your legs transform into athletic works of art.
The Best Leg Exercises
You are probably sick of hearing it, but there is a reason that all the experts recommend you do squats; they really are one of the best leg exercises, and in most experts’ opinion, the very best.
While they primary train the glutes (butt), quads hamstrings and calves, they are considered a full body compound exercise as they develop strength in the lower and upper back, abdominals and even the arms and shoulders to some degree.
Throw in the fact that, due to their intensity, they trigger large amounts of testosterone and human growth hormone release throughout the body. This is vital for muscle growth across the body and not just for your legs, so squats benefit all the other areas you subsequently train.
- Bend you knees until your thighs become parallel to the floor. Anything lower is not beneficial.
- Push through your heels, not the balls of your feet, when rising.
- If you find yourself leaning forward at any stage, your core is not up to the task yet and you need to reduce the weight. Form is king.
Sometimes also referred to as a Bulgarian spit squat (which is weird as it didn’t originate in Bulgaria), split squats are a different version of the traditional barbell squat, in that you are only working one leg at a time.
Aren’t these just the same as doing regular squats you say? Sort of, but no.
They have some really good benefits over the traditional bilateral squat. First of all, the will alleviate any right-to-left side imbalances. For anyone that’s ever had any type of knee injury this is huge, as you may not be working both your legs equally without even knowing it!
Split squats also enhance your coordination and stability, as you need to balance on the planted foot.
- Can be performed with the back leg on the floor or slightly raised.
- If you do raise your back leg onto a bench or other object, balance on the top of your foot rather than your toes.
- Lower yourself until you front thigh is parallel to the floor (back knee doesn’t have to touch the floor)
- Like traditional squats, push through your heel when rising.
More Reasons to Include These Best of the Best Leg Exercises
If you are training not just to increase muscle mass but also to perform better in any sport that involves running or jumping to some degree – you are in luck.
As mentioned, one of the primary muscles that squats target are your glutes and they train them better than any other exercise going. Despite popular belief, it is the strength and power of you glutes, not your quads that have the most to do with how fast you can run or how high you can jump.
The Bottom Line
Because these are so effective at working your legs they really are the best and only leg exercises you need to perform to allow yourself to wear shorts without embarrassment.
Traditional squats vs split squats has long been debated as to which provides the most benefits and the truth is that there are strong arguments on both sides of the fence. The rest of the pack is far further back, so it’s really just these two front-runners you need to concern yourself with.
Luckily there is no reason why you cant have your cake and eat it too, which I why its recommended to just include both of these champions in your program. With that load off your mind, you can feel free to focus on curling and benching as much as you heart desires.