Build Your Legs with These 5 Movements

Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, having strong, well-balanced leg muscles is key to having a healthy and functional body. It is important to build your legs for not only strength but for stability. Strong, stable legs can help prevent lower-body injuries such as ankle strains, knee injuries, and hips problems. Strength training can be used to both prevent and manage all of these conditions, but done improperly can be a cause of injury itself.

Glute Activation Warm-Up

The best leg workouts begin with glute activation. By taking time to warm up your glutes before a workout, you will be able to establish that mind-muscle connection with your glutes which will be transferred into the rest of your workout. After proper glute activation, your body will be able to engage the glutes easier and maintain that same level of activation throughout the entire workout.

Banded Monster Walks

  1. Step both legs through the band. (Band can be around knees, ankles, or feet depending on the resistance of your band)
  2. Get into a quarter squat position bending slightly at the hips and the knees and drive your knees/ankles out and into the band.
  3. Stay on your heels and keep the toes pointing forward. Maintain a quarter squat position and start walking. Take little steps so as not to lose your positioning. Walk to the left and to the right for 10-12 steps in each direction. Lift and control the trail leg and maintain pressure on the band. Control the torso/core position.

Banded Fire-Hydrant to Donkey Kick-Backs

  1. Place loop band above knees onto thighs. Begin in a kneeling plank position.
  2. Start the movement by lifting one bent knee to the side, be sure to keep your hips in line and core engaged.
  3. Then with your knee still elevated circle around and kick your foot up and backward to end in a donkey kick position.

Reverse Butterfly

  1. Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your feet planted flat on the ground, wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Being by internally rotating your right knee down and towards the center of your body. Continue rotating until your knee is as close to the ground as it feels comfortable.
  3. Bring the right knee back up to starting position and repeat the movement on the left leg. 

Primary Movements

Once the activation movements are completed and your glutes are warmed up, it's time to move on to your primary movements of the workout. The basic lower body movements should comprise the majority of your programming. These movements will focus on the major muscle groups of the legs (glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves). The focus should be on mastering these primary movements first. 

Back Squats

Targets: glutes & core

  1. Place barbell over your traps and shoulders, make sure hands are even on each side of the bar
  2. Keeping your feet shoulder-width apart, brace your midline, and keep your chest up
  3. Bend knees and down into the bottom squat position
  4. Exhale as you push up out of the bottom back squat position

Romanian Deadlifts

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Targets: hamstrings

  1. Stand with the bar or weight in your hands as opposed to the floor.
  2. Slowly lower the weight with a slight bend in your knees, bending at the hips and keeping your back straight.
  3. Lower until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings – usually when the weight has just passed your knees.
  4. Drive your hips forwards and use your hamstrings to power back up to standing.

Hip Thrusts

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Targets: glutes & hamstrings

  1. Lie with your upper back supported on a bench, and your feet planted on the floor in front of you. Hold a barbell across your hips.
  2. Lower your hips down so your glutes almost come in contact with the floor.
  3. Pressing through your heels and squeezing your glutes, return the barbell to the start position.

Hack Squats

Hack Squat High Res Stock Images | Shutterstock

Targets: quads

  1. Step into the machine, placing your feet shoulder-width apart and your shoulders and back against the pads.
  2. Release the safety handles and lower down, bending your knees until they reach a 90-degree angle.
  3. Pause here, then push up through the back of your feet to extend your legs back to the starting position.

Walking Lunges

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Targets: glute, hamstrings & quads

  1. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Slightly lean forward, taking a step with your right leg. Put all your weight into your right heel.
  3. Bend your right knee at a 90-degree angle, lowering down into a lunge position, staying on your left leg’s toes.
  4. Without moving your right leg, repeat the same movement with your left leg and pause in that parallel lunge position.
  5. Alternate legs as you walk forward.

Keep it Fresh!

Once those movements are mastered, you can keep your workout routine fun and fresh by mixing it up. All of the primary movements can be modified to do variations of the movements (single-leg, increasing weight, adding bands, time under tension, etc.).

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