Combine the Best Lower-Body Exercises for an Intense Leg Workout

Learn the best leg exercises and combine them for an intense lower-body workout designed to build strength and power.

Leg Workout

Observe catchers squatting for nine or more innings, linebackers before the snap of the football and sprinters lining up with their knees bent before races, and you will appreciate just how much athletes rely on their leg and hip strength. Being physically capable in these areas allows you to apply power to explosively push out of the squat position and move effectively in all directions.

So, when you get to the weight room, choose multi-joint leg and hip strengthening exercises that mimic sports movements. These build more lean muscle in less time than single-joint exercises such as Leg Extensions and Leg Curls.

Intense Leg Workout

1. Barbell or Dumbbell Squats, Wall Squats, Single-Leg Squats, Jump Squats, Squat Thrusts

Moderately heavy Barbell Squats and Deadlifts are the two best exercises for muscle building, because they engage so many muscle groups. Dumbbell Squats, Wall Squats and Single-Leg Squats are not only powerful lower body exercises, they also strengthen the upper body when the dumbbells are held on the shoulders. Single-Leg Squats are a terrific balance-boosting exercise for engaging the stabilizer muscles.

As with Barbell Squats, the feet position for both Wall  Squats and Dumbbell Squats determines whether you focus more on the outer or inner thigh muscles or the hip muscles. Bodyweight Jump Squats also build those powerful hip and leg muscles, so important when jumping to block a punt or a field goal, deflect or intercept a pass, or leap over hurdles during a track meet. Jumping on and off a two-foot box efficiently substitutes for Jump Squats.

Squat Thrusts are another wonderful multi-joint leg and hip muscle-building and sport-specific exercise—particularly for rising fast from the ground or from the athletic position to chase after a ball or an opponent. Combine Squat Thrusts with Push-Ups for a dynamic lower- and upper-body superset.

2. Leg Presses

Like Squats, multi-joint Leg Presses using maximal resistance effectively add size to the thighs and glutes. As with Squats, foot positioning dictates whether inner or outer thighs or hip muscles are primarily engaged. Also, if you use your toes to push the weight instead of your heels and the balls of your feet, you will really work your calf muscles!

3. Step-Ups

Step-Ups are great for muscular endurance as well as for strengthening the legs and hips.

4. Forward, Side, Diagonal and Reverse Lunges

Weighted Lunges strengthen the legs, hips and upper body.

Try these three full-body, multi-joint leg workouts on non-consecutive days, allowing for adequate recovery.

Leg Workout 1 (Heavy Day - 5 x 5 of 1RM)

Leg Workout 2 (Moderately Heavy Day - 4 x 8-10 of 1RM)

Leg Workout 3 (Muscular Endurance Day - 3 x 12-15

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