Exercises to Build Up Leg Muscles

Physical exercise is one of the best allies when it comes to increasing leg muscles. However, it must be complemented with good nutrition and healthy lifestyle habits.
Exercises to Build Up Leg Muscles
Carlos Fabián Avila

Reviewed and approved by Doctor Carlos Fabián Avila.

Last update: 04 September, 2023

Exercises to build up your leg muscles have aroused the interest of thousands of people around the world. Although their practice is recommended as part of a comprehensive training plan that works all muscle groups, many have decided to focus mainly on this part of the body. So, what should you know about them?

Well, to begin with, as some studies detail, the ability to gain muscle mass is determined, to a large extent, by genetics. However, it’s a fact that habits such as physical exercise can contribute to its development, although not instantaneously.

Therefore, it’s essential to keep in mind that, although some exercises are useful to get bigger and stronger muscles, you must be consistent with their practice to achieve the desired goals. In addition, whatever the routine, it must be complemented with a healthy diet.

How to build up your leg muscles

To increase your leg muscles, it’s advisable to seek guidance from a professional trainer and a nutritionist. The trainer will be able to determine the best type of training according to individual needs. Similarly, the nutritionist will be able to guide you to the right diet to achieve your goal.

In general, to obtain good results, there are several key pillars, such as the following:

  • Be consistent with your workouts.
  • Combine endurance, strength, and cardio exercises.
  • Eat a balanced diet, including protein and healthy fat sources.
  • Get plenty of sleep.

In addition to these recommendations, it’s possible to start incorporating into the training routine a series of exercises that specifically work the leg muscles. So, where to start? In the following space, we’ll tell you how to do them.

We think you may also enjoy reading this article: Discover the Importance of Keeping a Day Off Your Exercise Routine

1. Squats with weights

Squats with weights are a must in the routine to increase the muscles of the legs. As detailed in an article published in the Journal of Applied Biomechanics, it strengthens the muscles of the lower body and also improves flexibility.

  • Start by picking up small dumbbells.
  • Standing with your legs hip-width apart and your back straight, grab a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Keep your arms at the sides of your torso.
  • Then, slowly bend your knees and push your buttocks outward.
  • After 10 seconds, return to the starting position.
  • Perform a minimum of 12 repetitions for a total of three sets.
build up leg muscles
Squats are the most recommended exercise to strengthen the legs.

2. Leg extensions

Leg extensions are usually done on a special machine at the gym. This is a good exercise to strengthen the quadriceps, which are located at the front of the legs.

  • Select a low weight to start, then increase the weight as you gain strength.
  • Sit on the chair bench. Use the weights to raise and lower from the knee down.
  • You can do one leg at a time or both legs at the same time.

3. One-leg curls

This strength exercise is ideal for toning the legs. It’s also performed on a specific machine in the gym, which can be graduated in weight depending on the resistance acquired.

  • Standing with your back straight, rest the roller on your right calf. Your left leg should be very firm.
  • You can hold on to a support for balance.
  • Lift your right leg by bending your knee backwards (like a kick).
  • Do 20 repetitions and move to the left leg.

4. Lying curls

To perform this exercise to strengthen your leg muscles, you need a machine with a bench. You can also use weighted ankle braces.

  • Start with your legs straight and parallel to the floor.
  • Then, raise your feet and try to bring them up until your heels touch your buttocks (or as close as possible).
  • Do 20 repetitions.
leg muscles and curls
This exercise is ideal for shaping and toning the legs.

5. Goblet squats for leg muscles

This is a slightly more difficult version of the common squat. You need a weight to perform it.

  • First, stand up and spread your legs wider than a hip-width apart. The tips of your toes should be facing outward.
  • Hold the barbell with both hands at chest level (as if you were hugging it).
  • Bend your knees and lower your buttocks until they almost touch the floor.
  • The movement should be energetic and not stop for more than 2 seconds per position.

6. Lunges with dumbbells

Lunges have the advantage of working several muscle groups at the same time. Therefore, in addition to strengthening the legs, they also help to tone the buttocks and abdomen. In this case, we suggest increasing their intensity with a pair of dumbbells.

  • First, stand with your back straight and the dumbbells at the sides of your body.
  • Step back with your right leg.
  • Then, bend both knees to lower your trunk and thighs. The idea is to keep the back knee as close to the floor as possible.
  • Return to the starting position and do the same with the left leg.

Like this article? You may also like to read: Don’t Have Time to Go to the Gym? You Can Exercise at Home

Discipline is key

As you can see, there are several useful exercises to increase leg muscles. However, you should be aware that results come with practice and discipline. Also, you can’t ignore the role that nutrition plays. Therefore, it’s always best to seek professional advice from both a trainer and a nutritionist for the best results.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Roth SM. Genetic aspects of skeletal muscle strength and mass with relevance to sarcopenia. Bonekey Rep. 2012;1:58. Published 2012 Apr 4. doi:10.1038/bonekey.2012.58
  • Wirtz N, Zinner C, Doermann U, Kleinoeder H, Mester J. Effects of Loaded Squat Exercise with and without Application of Superimposed EMS on Physical Performance. J Sports Sci Med. 2016;15(1):26–33. Published 2016 Feb 23.
  • Lee TS, Song MY, Kwon YJ. Activation of back and lower limb muscles during squat exercises with different trunk flexion. J Phys Ther Sci. 2016;28(12):3407–3410. doi:10.1589/jpts.28.3407
  • Tipton, K. D., & Ferrando, A. A. (2008). Improving muscle mass: Response of muscle metabolism to exercise, nutrition and anabolic agents. Essays in Biochemistry44, 85–98. https://doi.org/10.1042/BSE0440085
  • Nystoriak MA, Bhatnagar A. Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise. Front Cardiovasc Med. 2018;5:135. Published 2018 Sep 28. doi:10.3389/fcvm.2018.00135

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.