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How to Build Leg Muscle

October 5, 2012 | Joe Luff

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Since the legs are the body's largest muscle group, they have the greatest potential for increasing your whole body mass. But people often make the mistake of skipping leg training because it's metabolically demanding. If you want to maximize your gains and improve your athletic performance, the simplest and most effective way is to build leg muscle.  Check out STACK's Guide for Lower-Body Strength.

To induce an adaptive response and enable muscle growth, you need to activate and fatigue the largest number of motor units within the leg muscle group as you can. Due to their size, it takes a considerable amount of activation of motor units to stimulate the muscle group. The key is to have a high level of volume and time-under-tension with sufficient intensity to activate all possible motor units in the legs.

Perform the following exercises within this program structure, and you will be on your way to building bigger leg muscles.

Leg Training Program

Your sets should range between three and six per exercise, with three to 15 repetitions per set, at 60 to 95 percent of your max, depending on your experience. Beginners, use lower intensity and volume with minimal rest. Vary your program so that one week you focus on higher reps and the next week on lower reps with more weight. This will ensure all motor units are being targeted.

Leg Exercises

Back Squat

  • Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width and toes slightly pointed out
  • Position a barbell along upper trapezius
  • Push chest out and up
  • Descend until thighs are just below parallel to ground, simultaneously flexing ankles, knees and hips while keeping back straight
  • Extend back to starting position in same motion

Romanian Deadlift

  • Stand with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width holding barbell in front of body
  • Bend at hips, keeping back and arms straight, shoulders back and chest out
  • Lower bar until you feel a deep stretch in the hamstrings
  • Return to starting position, maintaining straight back and legs

Calf Raise (standing or seated)

  • Position toes on flat surface leaving heels suspended in air with room to move down
  • Stand up on toes, lifting heels up
  • Lower back down as low as heels can go
  • Repeat

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