Best leg exercises: do NOT neglect leg day, use this leg workout for bigger or more toned legs

T3 provides the gear, while personal trainer, nutritionist and Love Island star Frankie Foster makes you a leg legend

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Want to get big legs? Well maybe not, but you're after the best leg exercises to build and tone your thighs, calves and glutes.

If you're reading this, you are probably on a mission to get in shape, bulk up, get ripped, get shredded or turn some of that superfluous tub into powerful muscle that's both functional and, dare we say it, attractive (to some people, at least).

The problem is, many folk tend to rush to a local gym and start frantically curling dumbbells, incorrectly benching foolishly heavy weights and endlessly ab crunching in pursuit of a dream body.

We hate to break it to you, but it's a little more complicated than that and rewards will be reaped if you embark on a well-rounded workout programme that's supported by good nutritional information and a solid grasp of how to perform exercises safely and efficiently.

You can have a look through some of our other workout guides from top personal trainers should you want a better idea of where to start, or specialise in a particular body part.  

"A quick scroll through the social media channels reveals that the days of big chests and bulging biceps might be over, as people want to develop a more natural, athletic look," explains personal trainer and nutritionist Frankie Foster.

"Having a powerful lower body is a display of athleticism. Take a look at any professional sports player and you will see they are no stranger to training their legs."

"But a solid set of leg exercises doesn’t come easy; it requires serious mental toughness," explains the Love Island star.

External links: Follow Frankie Foster on Instagramfor more shirtless pics and workout guides.

The monster leg workout: before you start

It's wise to invest in a foam roller

Don't go steaming into a new leg routine (or any new routine, for that matter) like a 'roid-raging bull in a protein shop, because you'll only hate the workout, or sustain an injury and put the programme off track.

Introduce yourself to this workout gently and begin with very light weights until you've mastered the exercise in question and can confidently perform 8-10 reps without breaking a sweat.

Also, legs are complicated beasts and are essentially made up of lots of large and small muscle groups. For this reason, they tend to ache after exercise far more than any other body part.

Delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS if you're into gym-speak) can range from a slight ache hours after a routine, to "ouch, don't touch my damn thighs" pain two or three days after you've worked out.

Don't panic, it's normal, and you can reduce the sensation with ice packs, stretching, rest and massage. Or invest in a decent foam roller that helps work tightness out of the affected area.  

"Leg training is not for the faint hearted," Frankie explains. "For optimal results, you will need to gradually crank up the intensity using resistance training, and for that reason, I suggest you get yourself a membership to a gym with a good spread of free weights," he adds.

If you'd rather skip the membership and build a muscle-scaping man-cave at home, check out our guides to the best fitness equipment below.

Protein is your friend 

A word on nutrition

"Growing any muscle group requires adequate stimulus plus adequate calories and protein," Frankie explains.

"To build muscle, your body needs to be in a calorie surplus, this means eating more calories than you burn. The average man needs around 2,500 calories per day to maintain the same weight, so you want to be in a calorie surplus of around 250 calories per day if training hard," he adds.

You'll also hear a lot said about protein, because it is essential to repairing and building muscle mass, so you'll need to inject more of this into your diet.

Introducing protein-rich healthy foods to the diet is the best way, but you can also supplement this with protein powders and we have a selection of the best here

"Where protein is concerned, you want to aim for two grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight," says Frankie.

"For example, I weigh 90kg, and therefore I aim to eat 180g of protein per day. But also try and time your carbohydrate intake around training. Leg training requires a lot of energy, so you don’t want to be doing your heavy sets with depleted carb stores," he adds.

Frankie Foster knows the way to impressive legs

Frankie Foster's monster legs workout

Do you even lift bro?

Before we get going on the workout, there are three things you should never forget when aiming to build muscle:

Intensity: you need to be working hard.

Volume: you need to be performing adequate sets and reps per session.

Frequency: you need to be training that muscle group at least twice a week.

Ease yourself into legs training gently, but when you are familiar with the manoeuvres, aim to start adding more weight each week.

This workout features few reps, so make sure the weight is enough make you work hard.

1. Back Squat

5 sets of 5 reps: 120 seconds rest between sets

This is the Holy Grail of leg exercises and the high sets/low reps help build size and strength. But this only works if you push the weight each week. 

Set the barbell across your upper back and pull it into your body, engaging your upper back muscles. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and toes turned slightly out with a strong posture. Engage your core. 

Initiate the movement by breaking at the hip, and squat down until your hip crease is below the top of knee in a controlled fashion, keeping your back flat at all times. Do not round your back, otherwise it can cause injury.

Return to the starting position in an explosive manner and that, sir, is one rep. Just four more and you've completed a set.  

Learn to deadlift for solid gains

2. Romanian Deadlift

4 sets of 8 reps: 90 seconds rest between sets

Once mastered, this is a great compound movement that allows you to lift a lot of weight and load up your hamstrings.

Begin by holding a barbell at waist height, knuckles facing out and your feet directly below your hips, also facing forwards.

With slightly bent legs, initiate the movement by breaking at the hip. Imagine you are trying to tap your bum on a wall behind you but keep the back flat and chest high.

Ensuring your back stays flat throughout the motion, lower the barbell until you feel it in the back of your legs, and then return to start position. 

As with many exercises, this one is all about correct form, so ask a qualified personal trainer for advice or check out the many video tutorials online for help.


3. Leg Press 

3 sets of 12 reps: 90 seconds rest in between sets

You will need a leg press machine for this one, which typically means joining your local gym, but it's one of the best pieces of equipment for developing big quad muscles.

Start with feet just outside of hip-width and lower the machine slowly towards the body. Once knees are bent and pressure builds on the quads, fire back to the starting position in an explosive move. 

Remember to keep your lower back pushed in to the back rest at all times and never fully lock out your legs when returning to the starting position. 

Grab the Swiss Ball to target the hamstrings

4. Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl

3 sets of 12 reps: 90 seconds rest in between sets

This exercise targets the hamstrings but requires very little in the way of equipment or weights. Invest in a Swiss Ball and get ready to feel the burn the next day with this one. 

Lie on your back and place your feet on a Swiss Ball. Make a bridge by lifting your hips and then pull the ball towards your body, digging your heels into the ball.

Return the ball to its starting position in a controlled manner without dropping your hips and that completes one rep. 


5. Bodyweight Lunge 

100 reps in as few sets as possible

This is the ultimate workout finisher and typically requires a favoured playlist or some pumping tunes to get you through the burn.

It's super simple: you are going to perform 100 controlled lunges in as few sets as possible.

To perform a lunge, simply step forward with one leg and drop the opposite knee until the shinbone is parallel with the floor. 

That's one rep, so return to the starting position and swap legs until you've completed 100. This will hurt. 

Want workouts for the rest of you?

Don't worry, T3 will boast a catalogue of workouts that target the rest of your body with a series of features on ways to get fitter using tech (and just a teensy bit of sweat and effort).