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The Best Lower Body Workout For Building Strong Legs

Set your workouts up with an lower body split for optimal muscle development, flexibility, and efficient use of time. When tackling the lower body workout, you’ll get the best results from a combination of exercises that work all of your musculature, including glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. This gives you the best, well-rounded results. Built With Science founder Jeremy Ethier has developed a lower body workout program based on research and body mechanics. It’s simple, effective, and great for both beginners and seasoned lifters. Use this in association with an upper body workout on alternate days, and you’ll be showing off strength and muscle mass gains in no time!

Weekly Routine

One of the simplest ways to organize your workouts is with an upper/lower split. It’s an effective method to ensure balanced training, with adequate rest and recovery for your muscles. While the general suggestion is two sessions each of upper and lower body exercises, with a rest between two consecutive days, the plan is easily adaptable to both your schedule and skill levels.

Monday – Upper
Tuesday – Lower
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Upper
Friday – Lower
Saturday – Rest
Sunday – Rest

Lower Body Exercises

The best lower body workout will focus on building strength and mass in your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. This will give you proportional growth in all areas and help prevent injuries from muscle imbalances or weakness. A combination of moves that will hit all of these areas is ideal. With an upper and lower body split, you can also switch things up between your day one and day two sessions with similar exercises, so your body doesn’t get used to the same thing. Check out the A and B alternatives for your different sets. Another significant aspect of this program is that both beginners and experienced lifters can use it. Start with the lower end of the suggested sets and reps if you’re new. However, if you’re an old hand, the higher end is perfect with a progressive overload scheme.

lower body workout

1a. Barbell Squats

A barbell squat is one of the most fundamental moves you can utilize in the gym. Thanks to its high quadriceps activation, it’s one of the greatest exercises you can choose for developing the lower body. It also heavily involves the glutes for a firm and toned butt. Another great feature of squats is that you can easily and efficiently overload the exercise with increased weight for continuously improved results. A classic barbell squat is an ideal addition to your Tuesday routine; however, alternate this with a front chest squat on Fridays for more well-rounded thigh development. lower body workout

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Execution:

  • Center the bar across the back of your shoulders, using an overhand grip that’s slightly wider than shoulder-width. lower body workout
  • Unrack the bar and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with toes pointing slightly out.
  • As your lower your body, shift your hips backward, keeping your knees in line with your toes. The weight should remain on your heels. lower body workout
  • Keep your spine and lower back neutral, and avoid collapsing your knees inwards.
  • Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor, or if you have the mobility until your hips are just lower than your knees. lower body workout
  • Drive back up through your heels, keeping your knees and toes in line until you’re back to the starting position.

 

Sets: 3-5
Reps: 6-8
Rest: 2-3 minutes

Barbell Squat
Barbell Squat

1b. Front Chest Squat

The mechanics of a front chest squat are very similar to a regular barbell squat and offer a roughly equal quad activation. However, shifting the weight to the front has been shown to emphasize specific muscles, such as the vastus lateralis and rectus lateralis, more so than back squats. As such, if you’re serious about building strength and size, it’s a good idea to alternate between the two on your different lower body workout days. Again, these are also easy to overload with weight, and you get progressively stronger. Add these to your Friday routine.

 

Execution:

  • Position the bar across the top of your chest and shoulders, with an underhand grip slightly wider than your shoulders and elbows high. lower body workout
  • The weight should be supported by your chest, not your hands or fingers – they should only be there to stop the bar from rolling forward. lower body workout
  • As you unrack the bar, stand with your toes pointed out slightly and feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Sink into a squat, keep your spine neutral, hips under the weight, and stop when your hips are just lower than your knees. lower body workout
  • Try to keep the weight centered through your whole foot, not on the balls of your feet.
  • Push back up, driving through the ground into a standing position. lower body workout
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Sets: 3-5
Reps: 6-8
Rest: 2-3 minutes

Front Chest Squat
Front Chest Squat

2a. Romanian Deadlift

Romanian deadlifts (along with glute ham raises) are among the best exercises for focussing on the hamstrings and glutes, thanks to the slightly straighter position of the legs. Adding these to your lower body workout will strengthen your posterior chain and is ideal for progressively overloading the weight as you get stronger. This exercise is an excellent option for Tuesdays, with a conventional deadlift an alternative for Friday.

 

Execution:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and lift the bar to the starting position in front of your thighs using an overhand grip that’s slightly wider than shoulder-width. lower body workout
  • Slowly lower the weight to just in front of your shins, using a hinging movement to push your hips back, so your upper body becomes more parallel to the ground. Keep your head, back, and hips aligned.
  • As you descend, keep your knees relatively straight; however, this will vary based on your hamstring flexibility.
  • To return to the starting position, contract your hamstrings and glutes to push your hips forward, so you’re upright again.

 

Sets: 2-4
Reps: 8-10
Rest: 2 minutes

Romanian Deadlift
Romanian Deadlift

2b. Conventional Deadlift

A conventional deadlift is an excellent alternative to the Romanian deadlift to mix things up in your routine. Its a compound exercise that works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, lats, traps, and lower back. Your focus while performing this movement should be on the lower body muscles, driving with your hips. This will help prevent overusing or extending your back, which can lead to injury. lower body workout

 

Execution:

  • Stand in front of your barbell with feet hip-width apart, with the bar positioned over your mid-foot.
  • Hold the bar in an overhand grip, with your hands positioned just outside your knees and the bar sitting in line with your scapula. lower body workout
  • Your knees should be bent with hips pushed back, sitting between your head and knees – not too high or too low. lower body workout
  • As you pick the bar up, drive into the floor, squeezing with your glutes and hamstrings to push your hips forward. Keep your spine straight with your head, hips, and back aligned so your spine doesn’t round.
  • The bar should move up in a vertical line, and at the top of the move, it should rest in front of your thighs with your arms straight. lower body workout
  • To lower back down, shift your hips backward as you bend your knees back to the starting position with the weight on the ground. lower body workout
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Sets: 2-4
Reps: 8-10
Rest: 2 minutes

Barbell Deadlift
Barbell Deadlift

3a. Bulgarian Split Squats

Feel the burn in your quads, hamstrings, and glutes with some Bulgarian split squats in your Tuesday session. This is an excellent exercise that hits all the major leg muscles, emphasizing the posterior chain. It’s a perfect complementary move to use in combination with regular squats, as it utilizes the glutes and hamstrings more. Plus, being a unilateral move, it can also prevent muscle imbalances by working each side individually, so one can’t compensate for the other when there’s weakness. Finally, foot placement can also change this move. A longer step, so your shin is vertical, makes it hip dominant, emphasizing the glutes and hamstrings, while a shorter step is knee dominant with a focus on the quads. What you choose will depend on your goals and mobility.

 

Execution:

  • Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with one foot behind you on a bench or elevated platform.
  • To focus on your hamstrings and glutes, your front foot should be further out, so your shin remains vertical when dipped. Alternatively, position your front foot closer to the bench for a quad-dominant move.
  • Lower yourself down, bending your front knee and dropping your back knee towards the ground. Don’t lean forward excessively.
  • Stop once your front thigh is parallel or just lower than parallel to the floor (depending on your mobility/balance).
  • Push back up, using the muscles in your front leg, keeping your knee in the same direction as your toes and a neutral spine.

 

Sets: 2-4
Reps: 6-10
Rest: 2 minutes

Bulgarian Split Squats
Bulgarian Split Squats

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