In most gyms, the leg exercise machines are usually the least used because the average gym goer is only concerned about getting bigger arms and well-defined abs. Since a slim waist and bulging biceps are more visible, they get all the attention in the gym, while your legs remain as skinny as they were the day you entered the gym for the first time.
If you’re really interested in increasing your overall strength, there is no way you can ignore your legs, especially since most jobs today are confining people to the desk. Legs also contain the biggest muscles in your body and play a huge role in giving you better posture and increasing your endurance. So here’s a classic leg workout you need to do at least one day a week to get your leg game on.
1. Barbell Squat (4 Sets, 4-6 Reps)
Begin with the barbell supported on top of the traps. The chest should be up and the head facing forward. Adopt a hip-width stance with the feet turned out as needed.
Descend by flexing the knees, refraining from moving the hips back as much as possible. This requires that the knees travel forward.
Ensure that they stay align with the feet. The goal is to keep the torso as upright as possible.
Continue all the way down, keeping the weight on the front of the heel. At the moment the upper legs contact the lower legs reverse the motion, driving the weight upward.
2. Dumbbell Lunges (4 Sets, 12 Reps/Leg)
Stand with your torso upright holding two dumbbells in your hands by your sides. This will be your starting position.
Step forward with your right leg around 2 feet or so from the foot being left stationary behind and lower your upper body down, while keeping the torso upright and maintaining balance. Inhale as you go down. (Tip: Do not allow your knee to go forward beyond your toes as you come down, as this will put undue stress on the knee joint.)
Using mainly the heel of your foot, push up and go back to the starting position as you exhale.
Repeat the movement for the recommended amount of repetitions and then perform with the left leg.
3. Leg Press (3 Sets, 12-15 Reps)
Using a leg press machine, sit down on the machine and place your legs on the platform directly in front of you at a medium (shoulder width) foot stance. (Note: For the purposes of this discussion we will use the medium stance described above which targets overall development; however you can choose any of the three stances described in the foot positioning section).
Lower the safety bars holding the weighted platform in place and press the platform all the way up until your legs are fully extended in front of you. Tip: Make sure that you do not lock your knees. Your torso and the legs should make a perfect 90-degree angle. This will be your starting position.
As you inhale, slowly lower the platform until your upper and lower legs make a 90-degree angle.
Pushing mainly with the heels of your feet and using the quadriceps go back to the starting position as you exhale.
Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions and ensure to lock the safety pins properly once you are done. You do not want that platform falling on you fully loaded.
4. Lying Leg Curls (3 Sets, 12 Reps)
Adjust the machine lever to fit your height and lie face down on the leg curl machine with the pad of the lever on the back of your legs (just a few inches under the calves).
Keeping the torso flat on the bench, ensure your legs are fully stretched and grab the side handles of the machine. Position your toes straight. This will be your starting position.
As you exhale, curl your legs up as far as possible without lifting the upper legs from the pad. Once you hit the fully contracted position, hold it for a second.
As you inhale, bring the legs back to the initial position. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.
5. Leg Extensions (3 Sets, 20 Reps)
For this exercise, you will need to use a leg extension machine. First, choose your weight and sit on the machine with your legs under the pad (feet pointed forward) and the hands holding the side bars. This will be your starting position.
Make sure that your legs form a 90-degree angle between the lower and upper leg. If the angle is less than 90-degrees then that means the knee is over the toes which in turn creates undue stress at the knee joint.
Using your quadriceps, extend your legs to the maximum as you exhale. Ensure that the rest of the body remains stationary on the seat. Pause a second on the contracted position.
Slowly lower the weight back to the original position as you inhale, ensuring that you do not go past the 90-degree angle limit. Repeat for the recommended amount of times.
6. Standing Calf Raises (4 Sets, 12 Reps)
Adjust the padded lever of the calf raise machine to fit your height. Place your shoulders under the pads provided and position your toes facing forward (or using any of the two other positions described at the beginning of the chapter).
The balls of your feet should be secured on top of the calf block with the heels extending off it. Push the lever up by extending your hips and knees until your torso is standing erect.
The knees should be kept with a slight bend; never locked. Toes should be facing forward, outwards or inwards as described at the beginning of the chapter. This will be your starting position.
Raise your heels as you breathe out by extending your ankles as high as possible and flexing your calf. Ensure that the knee is kept stationary at all times. There should be no bending at any time. Hold the contracted position for a second before you start to go back down.
Go back slowly to the starting position as you breathe in by lowering your heels as you bend the ankles until calves are stretched. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.