As humans, our legs provide us with the foundation for many of our movements—from walking to running. While running is considered to be the best exercise for your heart, your legs—the muscles you use to propel yourself forward—are also the most prone to injury. So, when it comes to leg exercise, which exercises should you prioritize?
Leg exercises help keep you strong but also keep your body balanced so that you don’t get back pain. Choose the right exercise, and you can stay active and healthy into your old age.
When it comes to the best leg exercises, exercises that focus on the quads and hamstrings often get high marks. These muscle groups carry a lot of weight, and using barbell squats, lunges, or deadlifts is an effective way to work both. But there are other leg exercises that burn calories and build muscle, too. Try these next-to-nothing moves for efficient leg workouts—and have fun!
List for Leg Exercise
While those certainly are valuable exercises, squats are a much more important leg exercise. Squats work the large muscles of the legs and have been shown to be more functional and useful for the average person than leg extensions.
The deadlift is probably as popular as it gets when it comes to leg exercises. Deadlifts, or farmer’s walks, are one of the best leg exercises because they work nearly every muscle group in the lower body. Deadlifts are particularly beneficial because they stimulate both the back and the hamstrings, two muscle groups that can often get neglected.
Split squats are one of the most efficient leg exercises you can do because they work multiple muscles in the lower body all at once. They target your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and more, which makes them great for athletes and anyone looking for full-body exercise.
Glute Ham Raises
The gluteus maximus (or glutes) is a group of muscles located in the upper posterior region of the body on both sides of the pelvis. The gluteus maximus, the largest muscle of the body, is composed of the gluteus membras and gluteus medius and is responsible for most of the movement involved in standing upright, walking, running, and kicking.
Leg exercises are a key component of any training program, yet many fitness enthusiasts tend to neglect their hamstrings and calves in favour of working their quads. But properly executed, both muscle groups are crucial to building your lower body strength and improving your performance. Calf raises help to strengthen the muscles that run along the back of your lower legs, including your gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.
Walking lunges are an incredible exercise to target your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. The exercise is easy to perform and can be done anywhere without worrying about expensive equipment. Best of all, walking lunges burn more calories than jogging and are easier on the knees, making them a highly effective form of exercise for runners.
Reverse lunges are tricky but highly effective. It works your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles. They are compound exercises, meaning they work in more than one muscle group. Compound exercises are more intense than isolation exercises, which work on one muscle group at a time.
The step-up is one of my favourite leg exercises. It targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, and it’s also a great cardio workout. This can be performed at home with a variety of widths and heights. It also helps build your leg strength and balance.
Your glutes are the large muscles at the bottom of your thighs. When you exercise your glutes, you’ll strengthen the area, and over time, it’ll help with many lower body exercises. And, if you’re in need of some extra fitness, these exercises can also strengthen your legs, correct your posture, and increase your flexibility.
The hip thrust is another good exercise for working your glutes and hamstrings, and it’s also one of my favourites. They are the largest joints in the body, and it’s not uncommon for the hips to cause pain in the lower back. However, the hip thrust works the glutes, hamstrings, and quads with less impact on the lower back.
Leg exercises are one of the most basic yet critical components of a well-rounded fitness program. They’re essential because they work multiple muscle groups at once—your quads and hamstrings, your glutes and calves—and they help increase your stamina and endurance. If you’re serious about your fitness, you’ll need to work your legs.