Leg Muscle Building Exercises

07 December, 2018
For best results, these toning exercises for your leg muscles and lower body should be combined with high-intensity cardiovascular exercise.

Having over developed arms and back muscles, which are bigger than thighs and gluts,  is a common problem for weightlifters. Below you can find a few exercises to build your leg muscles whether you’re a bodybuilder or just want to look better.

Building leg muscles

If you have skinny legs, do these exercises to increase their muscular growth. Remember the diet is a key factor to get the best results possible. It’s recommended to eat more calories in order to compensate for the ones  you burn. A leg muscle-building routine should include the following exercises:

1. Weighted squats

Weighted squats

You’re probably already familiar with squats. It’s one of the best exercises for bulking up thigh muscles due to using all muscle fibers in that area. Start out with light dumbbells and do at least 12 reps.

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, back straight, with a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Keep arms hanging on the side of your body.
  • Slowly bend your knees and push your gluts back.
  • Hold for 10 seconds and return to starting position.

Also read:

The Best Exercises for Toning Your Legs

2. Leg extensions

Do this specific machine exercise at the gym (most gyms have the machine).

  • Choose a lighter weight to begin with and increase gradually.
  • While seated, extend and return your legs to the starting position.
  • You can do one leg or both legs at a time.

3. Single-leg curl

Single-leg curl

You’ll also need a gym machine (with the heaviest load you can lift) for this exercise or you can use ankle weights.

  • Stand with your back straight, with the lever over your right calf. The left leg should remain still.
  • Grab onto the handles to maintain balance.
  • Lift your right leg, bending the knee backwards (as if kicking).
  • Do 20 reps then switch to the left leg.

4. Inclined leg curls

This exercise uses a different position to increase your leg muscles. You’ll need a weight bench. You can also use ankle weights.

  • Begin with legs extended, parallel to the floor.
  • Lift your feet and try to touch your gluts with your heels (or as close as possible).
  • Do 20 repetitions.

5. Weight lifting

Weight lifting

This exercise works outs your upper and lower body. Start with a barbell with light weights, and increase the weight gradually.

  • Put your legs hip-width apart.
  • Pick up the weight from the ground while keeping your knees bent.
  • To lift it up, push your gluts back and slowly stretch out your legs.
  • Don`t bend your back to prevent injuries.

6. Goblet squat

This version is a little harder than a normal squat. You’ll need a weight (for example, a kettlebell) to do it.

  • Stand with feet  spread more than hip-width apart.
  • Your feet should be pointing outwards.
  • Hold the weight with both hands at chest height (as if hugging it).
  • Bend your knees and lower your gluts until they almost touch the ground.

This movement should be powerful; you shouldn’t stay in a position longer than 2 seconds.

7. Dumbbell lunges

Goblet squat

You’ll need two dumbbells with as much weight as you can lift.

  • Stand with your back straight with the dumbbells on the side of your body.
  • Step back with your right leg and bend both knees, lowering your body and thighs. Bring the right knee as close to the floor as possible.
  • Return to starting position and repeat on the left leg.

Read also:

How to Make a Firming Oil for Your Legs

8. Sumo squat

This squat is similar to the goblet squat. You can use a dumbbell or a kettlebell.

  • Spread your legs wide apart and keep your back straight.
  • Bring the weight up with both hands in front of your pelvis.
  • Bend the knees and push your gluts back. Bring the weight as close to the floor as possible.

9. Bulgarian squat

Bulgarian squat

This leg-building exercise can be done at home or at the gym, since you only need a bench or chair to support yourself.

  • Put the arch of your right foot on the chair.
  • Bend the left knee and lower your body while lowering your right knee as far as possible (until almost touching the floor).
  • Do 5 reps and repeat on the other leg.

10. Cardio exercises with weights

To finish the routine or before starting your workout, we recommend that you use the cardio machines at the gym. On top of improving your cardio-respiratory health, they help tone muscles. Choose a machine with enough weight (as much as you can handle). For some people, it’s useful for building lower body muscle.

  • Try doing 10 minutes on an exercise bike, 10 minutes on the elliptical, and 10 minutes on the stair stepper on the hardest setting.


  • 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