Working on your legs is about as appealing as getting a root canal for some people. But trust us, it's essential! Strong legs look good (hello, summer shorts!), but they also help us move through life effortlessly. And that's why it is said, "never skip leg day."
Plus, most of us sit too much during the day, leading to tightness and pain in the hips and lower back. Regularly stretching and strengthening our legs helps counterbalance all that sitting. So if you're looking for one more reason to get off the couch, here it is!
Think about it – our legs are responsible for carrying us around all day long. From the moment we wake up and get out of bed, to walking to the mailbox and back, to chasing after our kids or grandkids at the park – our legs are constantly in motion. And that's not even counting the times we use them during a workout!
Unfortunately, most of us don't give our leg muscles enough attention. We're quick to focus on our arms and abs, but our legs often get neglected. That's why it's so essential to make an effort to work on them, even if it's just a few minutes each day.
Related Article: Tips for Stronger & Defined Legs
Why Not to Miss the Leg Day?
Here are a few good reasons why working on your legs is so important:
Poor circulation can lead to fatigue, cramping, cold feet and hands, varicose veins, and even DVT (deep vein thrombosis). While there are many things you can do to improve your circulation (like quitting smoking and moving more), working your legs is a great place to start.
Strong muscles help protect your joints from injuries. That's why it's essential to focus on leg exercises that work all the major muscle groups, like the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
As we age, our risk of falling increases. But having strong leg muscles can help you maintain your balance and prevent falls. One study found that people who did leg exercises twice a week for six months had significantly improved balance and were less likely to fall than those who didn't exercise.
More Muscle, Less Fat
If you're trying to lose weight, you may be tempted to focus only on cardio. But adding some strength training into the mix is essential too. That's because muscle burns more calories than fat, even when you're at rest. So the more muscle you have, the more calories you'll burn all day.
Tight muscles can lead to poor posture. When your muscles are weak, they can't support your joints properly, which can cause you to slouch or hunch over. Strengthening your leg muscles helps improve your posture and alleviate back pain.
Increases Bone Density
As we age, our bones lose density, which can lead to osteoporosis. But weight-bearing exercises that work the legs can help increase bone density and reduce the risk of fractures.
Related Article: Five At-Home Exercises for Athletes to Build Stronger Legs
Best Resistance Moves to Build Leg Muscle
Weights are the way to go if you hope to shed fat and build strength in your legs. Make sure to pick up the weight that challenges you most while allowing good form. Here are some of the best moves to build leg muscle:
1. Romanian Deadlifts
Romanian deadlifts are a great way to work your posterior chain and build strength in your hamstrings, glutes, and back. Here's why you should make them a part of your workout routine. It is a compound exercise that works for multiple muscle groups simultaneously. This makes it an efficient move for building strength and muscular endurance.
Unlike the traditional deadlift, the Romanian deadlift starts by standing with the barbell in front of your thighs. It is an excellent exercise for targeting the hamstrings and glutes, which are often neglected in traditional weightlifting routines. Stronger hamstrings and glutes can help you run faster, jump higher, and prevent injuries.
In addition to building strength, Romanian deadlifts can also help improve your posture and increase your range of motion. If you sit at a desk all day, Romanian deadlifts can help counteract the effects of sitting by lengthening your hamstrings and strengthening your posterior chain.
Related Article: 10 Amazing Deadlift Variations for Beginners to Improve Your Pulls
How to Do It?
- Start with the barbell on the floor in front of you.
- Bend at the hips and knees, and grip the barbell with an overhand grip, hands just outside your legs.
- Keeping your back straight, lift the barbell off the floor and stand up straight.
- From here, hinge at the hips and lower the barbell back towards the floor, keeping your legs relatively straight, with soft knees and your back flat.
- Repeat for reps.
2. Hip Thrusts
Hip thrusts are a great exercise for building strength and power in your lower body. Hip thrusts are great for people looking for a low-impact workout. You can avoid injuries and strain on your body by doing hip thrusts.
Hip thrusts are perfect for burning fat in the lower body. They should be your go-to move when you are looking forward to getting those sculpted and toned legs. The exercise is also an excellent choice to burn calories and get stronger lower body muscles.
Hip thrusts also improve your squat and deadlift. The exercise targets the glutes, the largest muscle group in the body, so it makes sense that strengthening them would lead to better performance in squats and deadlifts, which require a lot of lower-body strength.
How to Do It?
- Start sitting on the ground with your back against a bench. Your feet should be flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart.
- Place your hands on the ground beside you for support.
- Slowly raise your hips off the ground until your thighs and torso are in line with each other. Hold this position for a moment, then lower yourself to the starting position.
- Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
- As you get stronger, you can add weight to your hip thrusts by holding a dumbbell or barbell across your hips.
3. Leg Press
There are a lot of people out there who think that a leg press is pointless. They're just wasting their time, they say. But those people are wrong – a leg press is essential for a well-rounded workout routine. It is an excellent choice if you're looking to target your quads.
A leg press also targets your glutes and hamstrings along with quads, and that's a lot of bang for your buck! The primary advantage of a leg press is that you may perform it without additional equipment other than a weight machine to develop strength in your lower body.
Although a leg press is safer than other exercises, getting hurt is still possible if you don't use the proper form. However, like with any weight-bearing activity, you must follow good technique and form to avoid harm. If you're new to leg presses, start with a relatively lightweight one and increase it gradually as you get stronger.
How to Do It?
- Start by sitting in the machine and placing your feet on the footrests. Make sure that your legs are shoulder-width apart and your knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle.
- Grasp the handles or bars on the machine, not arching your back. This is the starting position.
- Slowly bend your knees, lowering the footpad, keeping your back straight, and your abdominal muscles pull in.
- Lower the weight down to the point in which you can still maintain your lower back against the pad.
- Pause for a moment, then press the weight back to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Lunges are one of the essential exercises that you can do to improve your fitness. Not only do they work your leg muscles, but they also help improve your balance and coordination. Additionally, lunges can help tone your butt and thighs.
There are many different ways to perform a lunge, so you can find one that suits your needs and abilities. If you are new to exercise, start with a basic reverse lunge. Once you have mastered this, you can try other variations, such as side lunges or even walking lunges.
When doing any lunge, make sure that you keep good form. This means keeping your back straight and your core engaged.
How to Do It?
- Start standing with your feet hip-width apart.
- Step backwards with your right foot, landing on your toe, keeping your heel off the ground.
- Bend both knees to 90 degrees, keeping your front foot planted fully.
- Return to standing by pressing through your back foot to straighten both legs.
- Repeat with your left leg.
5. Back Squat
The back squat is one of the essential exercises in powerlifting. It is a compound movement that targets the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. The back squat also helps build core strength and stability. Back squats can help much in activating the lower body muscles.
Back squats work on your lower-body strength effectively. It can help improve your explosive power and speed, which will help you in the longer run. Back squats are also a perfect choice for your overall athleticism.
To become a better powerlifter, you need to make the back squat a regular part of your training routine. It is an essential exercise for developing lower-body strength, improving explosive power, and stabilizing the core.
Related Article: Quad Destroyer Workout Plan: 12 Sets of Squats Workout
How to Do It?
- Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands behind your head.
- Bend at your knees and hips to lower yourself into a squatting position. Keep your back straight and your weight on your heels as you descend.
- Once you reach the bottom of the squat, pause for a moment before driving through your midfoot to return to the starting position.
1. Can I do resistance training every day?
Resistance training every day is not recommended, as your muscles need time to recover and grow between workouts. If you are starting, 1-2 times per week is an excellent place to start. As you become more experienced, you can gradually increase the frequency to 3-4 times per week.
2. How often should I do resistance training to build leg muscle and burn fat?
It depends on your goals, but generally, 2-3 times per week is sufficient. If you are new to resistance training, start with 1-2 times per week and gradually increase the frequency as you become more comfortable with the exercises.
3. What is the best way to warm up before resistance training?
A light 5–10-minute cardiovascular warm-up followed by dynamic stretching is ideal. This will help prepare your muscles for the workout and prevent injury.
4. How many sets and reps should I do?
Again, this depends on your goals, but 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps for general strength and muscle development is a good starting point.
Working on your legs is essential for several reasons. For one, they are the foundation of your body and support everything else. Strong legs can help you move more quickly and prevent injuries. Additionally, leg exercises can help improve your overall balance and coordination.
But beyond all that, developing strong, shapely legs can make you feel more confident and attractive. So, if you want to improve your lower body, these five resistance moves will help you. They target the deepest muscles in your legs and show quick results. If you are a beginner, you can change the exercises, such as replacing barbells with dumbbells.
- CDC. “What Is Venous Thromboembolism? | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Feb. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dvt/facts.html.
- Ishigaki, Erika Y., et al. “Effectiveness of Muscle Strengthening and Description of protocols for Preventing Falls in the Elderly: A Systematic Review.” Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy, vol. 18, no. 2, 2014, pp. 111–18. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1590/S1413-35552012005000148.