15+ muscle building leg exercises (complete overview)

Author: Joep Rooijmans, date: 21 apr. 2019         Updated: 13 jan. 2020


It’s the most common and biggest mistake made by a lot of men in the gym: neglecting their leg muscles!

 

And over time you’ll see that their body is completely out of balance and their legs underdeveloped.

 

But training your legs activates muscle building throughout your entire body. The leg muscle is the biggest muscle group. It generates more growth-hormone and testosterone than any other muscle group.

 

There are lots of amazing leg exercises that boost overall muscle building and strength. This is a complete overview of every leg exercise that you can perform in the gym.

 

Each leg exercise targets a specific part your legs. The focus areas that you can distinguish are:

  • Upper leg, front: quadriceps
  • Upper leg, back: hamstring
  • Lower leg: calf muscle
  • Buttocks: gluten

Check out the complete overview of 15+ muscle building leg exercises below!

 

 


Leg exercises

squat

leg exercises squat

Place your legs at shoulder-width. Let the barbell rest on the back of your neck. Tilt your pelvis and lower your butt as you bend your knees. Keep your back straight and squat as deep as possible to fully work your leg muscles. Make sure that your knees do not cross your toes while performing the squat. Stretch your legs and come back to starting position.

Target muscle(s): Hamstring, quadriceps & gluten

 

front squat


leg exercises front squat

Place your legs at hip width. Let the barbell rest in front of you on your chest and arms. Tilt your pelvis and lower your butt as you bend your knees. Keep your back straight and squat as deep as possible to fully load your leg muscles. Make sure that your knees do not cross your toes while performing the squat. Stretch your legs and come back to starting position.

Target muscle(s): hamstring, quadriceps & gluten

 

 


standing calf raises

legs exercises standing calf raises

Stand upright and place your forefeet on a step. Let a weight, such as a barbell or a weight bag, rest on the back of your neck. Hinge on your forefeet by stretching your toes and lowering them again.

Target muscle(s): calves

 


hip thrust

leg exercises hip thrust

For this exercise you use a bench. Sit on the floor in front of the bench. Place your upper back on the bench while your feet remain flat on the floor. Your legs are at a 90 degree angle; your lower legs are straight and your upper legs are horizontal in line with your upper body. Your body has two contact points: your feet on the ground and your upper back on the bench. Place a barbell or a weight disc on your lower abdomen/hips. Lower your butt to the ground and then bring the weight up again by raising your hips.

Target muscle(s): gluten

 


leg press

leg exercises leg press

Sit down on the leg press with your back against the backrest. Put your feet on shoulder width against the foot rest. Stretch your legs. Make sure you never overstretch your legs, your knees always stay slightly bent. Then slowly lower yourself by bending your legs and bringing your butt as close as you can towards the foot rest. Make sure that your knees stay straight, don’t let them stick in or out. Squat as deep as possible and stretch your legs again to come back to starting position.

Target muscle(s): hamstring, quadriceps & gluten

 


leg extension

leg exercises leg extension

Sit down on the machine with your back against the backrest. Place your feet under the foot support. Use the handles on the side of the seat to hold on to for extra grip. Bring the weight up by raising your legs and pushing the foot support in the air. When your legs are fully stretched you should be able to feel pressure on your quadriceps. Then slowly let your legs come down again back to starting position.

Target muscle(s): quadriceps

 


leg curl

leg exercises leg curl

Sit down on the machine with your back against the backrest. Secure your legs by locking them between the two support bars in front of you. Place your heels behind the lowest bar and place your knees under the highest support bar. Bend your legs backwards by bringing your heels to your butt. When your legs are fully bend you should be able to feel pressure on your hamstrings. Then slowly let your legs come down again back to starting position.

Target muscle(s): hamstring

 


abductor

leg exercises abductor

Sit down on the abductor machine with your back against the backrest. Place your legs against each other in front of you with the leg rests on the outside of your upper legs. Move your legs apart while pushing the leg rests out. Then slowly let your legs come back to starting position.

Target muscle(s): outside upper legs

 


adductor

leg exercises adductor

Sit down on the adductor machine with your back against the backrest. Place your legs as far apart as possible with the leg rests on the inside of your upper legs. Then bring your legs together by pushing the leg rests in. Then slowly let your legs come back to starting position.

Target muscle(s): inside upper legs

 


1-leg machine kickback

leg exercise machine kickback

Step into the machine, place your foot on the foot rest behind you and grab the handles that are in front of you. Your chest is resting against the chest rest. Kick your leg backwards as far as possible so that you feel the tension on your hamstring. Then let your leg return to the starting position.

Target muscle(s): hamstring & gluten

 

 


1-leg cable kickback

leg exercise cable kickback

This exercise is performed at a cable station. Stand in front of the cable station facing the machine. Place your foot in the loop that’s attached at the end of the cable. Hold the cable station in order to keep your balance. Kick your leg backwards as far as possible so that you feel the tension on your hamstring. Then let your leg return to the starting position.

Target muscle(s): hamstring & gluten

 


calf machine

leg exercise calf machine

Sit down on the calf machine with your back against the backrest. Put your forefeet on the foot rest in front of you. Stretch your toes in order to push the footrest away. By doing so you will feel your calf muscle stretching. You can hold on to the handles next to the seat for extra support. Slowly let your forefoot come back to starting position.

Target muscle(s): calves

 


dumbbell squat

leg exercises dumbbell squat

Place your legs at hip width. Tilt your pelvis and lower your butt as you bend your knees. Keep your back straight and squat as deep as possible to fully load your muscles. Make sure that your knees do not cross your toes while performing the squat. Stretch your legs and come back to starting position.

Target muscle(s): hamstring, quadriceps & gluten

 


lunges

leg exercises lunges

Stand upright holding additional weight such as dumbbells in your hand. Step out with one leg. This leg should be in a 90 degree angle, your knee does not cross your toes. Bend through your back leg, bringing your knee to the floor. Then bring both legs up again and step back with your front leg into starting position.

Target muscle(s): hamstring, quadriceps & gluten

 


walking lunges

leg exercises walking lunges

Stand upright holding additional weights such as dumbbells in your hand. Step out with one leg. This leg should be in a 90 degree angle, your knee does not cross your toes. Bend through your back leg, bringing your knee to the floor. Then continue the movement by bringing your back leg next to your front leg. You are now back in starting position.

Target muscle(s): hamstring, quadriceps & gluten

 


dumbbell step up

leg exercises dumbbell step up

Stand in front of the step with your legs next to each other. Hold additional weights such as dumbbells in your hand. Step with one leg on the step, bring the other leg on the step as well and then step of again. You can increase the difficulty of this exercise by increasing the speed of with  which you perform this exercise or by brining your knees up as high as possible when stepping up.

Target muscle(s): quadriceps & gluten

 


kettlebell swing

leg exercises kettlebell swing

Place your feet on hip width. Slightly bend your knees, tilt your pelvis and place your butt backwards. Hold the kettlebell between your legs. Then swing the kettlebell forward using the strength in your legs and by stretching your arms out forward. The kettlebell should at least reach shoulder height. Let the kettlebell fall down again through your legs and swing it back to the front. The strength comes from your legs and shoulders, keep your back during this exercise straight.

Target muscle(s): hamstring, quadriceps & gluten

 


Comments: 0

Exercises per muscle group:

upper leg muscle group exercises
lower leg muscle group exercises
chest muscle group exercises

Chest

 

back muscle group exercises

Back

 


biceps muscle group exercises
triceps muscle group exercises
shoulders muscle group exercises
abs abdominals muscle group exercises