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10 Best Muscle-Building Leg Exercises

As much as you may have wanted to see them here, leg extensions and curls didn’t make the cut for this list of the 10 best leg exercises.

In fact, while they can be useful toward the end of your workout, they probably aren’t even among the top 20, because single-joint moves just don’t deliver much bang for your training buck.

Across the board, multijoint leg exercises top this list. In addition to recruiting more muscle mass into the movement, multijoint exercises generate a greater release of the muscle-building hormones testosterone and growth hormone.

The amount of muscle called into play is critical on leg day because there are so many large muscle groups involved: the glutes (three muscles), quads (four muscles), hamstrings (three muscles), and calves (two muscles).

And that list doesn’t even include stabilizer muscles that are also recruited into many multijoint movements!

As with our best-exercise lists for chest and back, we consulted EMG studies to see which exercises work your muscles to the max.

But remember, choosing the right movement is only half the battle; you must also load it correctly and do the requisite number of sets to maximize the training stimulus.

Always start your leg routine with the most challenging exercises that allow you to push the most weight.

This list could easily have included 10 types of squats, so instead, we went with just a few versions.

After all, you’re not going to do a workout that includes just squat variations—unless you’re feeling particularly crazy.

1. Squat (High And Low Bar)

Why it’s on the list: Squats are king because they’re simply the most challenging leg movement you can do, especially when loaded appropriately.

They work all the lower-body musculature (we’re counting glutes) and have been shown to spike muscle-building hormone release. In fact, we even know that squatting before doing curls has been shown to significantly improve arm strength.

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