Are leg exercises a regular staple in your workouts? Or, do you avoid them in favor of upper body work (or no strength training work at all)?
If you fall into the latter camp, you’re missing out on a lot of great benefits. Leg exercises are some of the best exercises to incorporate into your training sessions, especially if you’re short on time and or can only workout a couple of times per week.
Read on to learn about five of my favorite leg exercises that I think can benefit just about everybody.
Benefits of Doing Leg Exercises on a Regular Basis
I think some people might be hesitant to place a lot of focus on leg exercises, especially if they’re not really into strength training. They might have concerns about these exercises making them look bulky (update, it’s highly unlikely that they will) or they might be worried that they’ll take away from their other activities like running or cycling.
While you may need to be more strategic about the leg work you do if you’re engaged in these other activities, the benefits of strength training with a specific focus on legs outweigh any drawbacks you might experience.
Here are some of the main reasons why I recommend incorporating leg exercises into your routine at least once a week:
- Reduced injury risk: The stronger your legs are, the less likely you are to injure yourself when participating in other activities or just going about your daily routine.
- Greater calorie burn: The muscles in the legs/glutes are some of the largest in the body, so you working them will help you get your heart rate up and allow you to burn more calories.
- Carryover to other lifts: Strengthening your legs can help you perform other exercises better, too. For example, you’ll be able to bench press more weight if you can produce more power from your legs
- Get more bang for your buck: Many lower body-focused exercises also target other muscle groups. For example, deadlifting strengthens your back muscles in addition to your leg muscles
You also get the added benefit of really nice looking legs ;). If you’re doing lots of cardio but not working on building and strengthening your leg muscles, they might not end up looking as shapely and “toned” as you might like.
Five Leg Exercises Everyone Ought to Try
Without further ado, let’s get into the actual exercises. Here are five leg exercises that I love and that I think can benefit just about anybody:
Squats are one of the “big five” exercises — along with deadlifts, rows, bench presses, and overhead presses. They strengthen so many muscles in the legs, including the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. You can do them with just your bodyweight, a barbell, a dumbbell, a kettlebell, resistance bands…the options are pretty much endless.
Deadlifts are another “big five” exercise. They target every muscle in the posterior chain (the back of your body), including your hamstrings, glutes, and even your calves.
There are lots of variations deadlifts, including conventional barbell deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, kettlebell deadlifts, and single-leg deadlifts. All of these are great to mix into your workout routine, but I think the barbell deadlift is an especially important one to master.
Lunges can be a great alternative to squats for people who find that they hurt their knees (that being said, I also advocate working on your mobility so you can eventually squat without knee pain).
Doing reverse lunges, walking lunges, or even static lunges (sometimes referred to as split squats) can be a good alternative while you’re working on your mobility issues, though.
4. Bulgarian Split Squats
Bulgarian split squats are a challenging exercise, but they’re a good unilateral exercise that you can use to correct imbalances and create a more balanced physique.
You can add weight to them to make them more challenging, but they’re plenty difficult when done with your bodyweight alone.
Step-ups are another unilateral exercise I like adding into my workouts on a regular basis.
They’re a very functional exercise (how often do you step up onto stairs throughout the day) and are easy to switch up by changing the height of the step, the amount of weight (if any) you’re holding, and the tempo (slowing down the eccentric, or lowering, part of the exercise is especially helpful if you want to up the ante).
Don’t Skip Leg Day
Even if you have no interest in incorporating any of these leg exercises into your workout routine, I implore you, please do not skip leg day!
Lower body training offers so many benefits and it can carry over to so many other things. If you’ve been avoiding leg work for any reason, let’s change that!
What’s your favorite leg exercise? If you’ve never tried any of these exercises, which one are you going to add to your routine first? Comment down below and let me know!