Part of why I like leg day so much is that so many others don’t. There’s something about doing what others aren’t willing to do that drives me even harder, showing up the ones who are ”all talk” rather than ”all in” on the bodybuilding lifestyle.
If I’m honest with myself, leg day wasn’t exactly my favorite day of the week either. Yet over time, I came to relish walking out of the gym with my legs trembling involuntarily, just wanting to make it to the car. I’d head home to recover, but mentally I’d be smiling.
I’m living proof you don’t need exotic training techniques to generate massive leg gains. Nothing beats these tried-and-true leg training exercises—they are the ones I focused on during all of my championship runs.
Leg day separates the men from the boys. Some puke, pass out, or quit, so you really have to dig in deep on this day! Here’s a closer look at each exercise:
I like to warm up with leg extensions before moving on to the big compound leg movements. After these 3 sets, I’ll go through my other exercises and then come back to do 2 heavy sets of leg extensions to finalize my leg workout. Make sure you keep your toes pointed straight out and use your quads, not your glutes.
Barbell Back Squat
The squat is the king of exercises for leg development. Keep your head up and your back straight. You want to make sure you feel this exercise in the glutes, front thighs, and maybe even a little bit in the lower back due to the stabilization of the movement.
It’s very important to breathe while performing squats. Make sure you’re using a full range of motion—no partial reps! Squats will show you how bad you really want results. Anyone can stop on the fourth or fifth rep, but not me, and hopefully not you. When you put your mind to it, you can do it.
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Where you position your feet is up to you. I personally keep my feet pretty close together. I also like keeping that constant tension on the muscles. As soon as I hit peak contraction at the top of the movement, I’m coming right back down to start the next rep—no pauses! Explode from the bottom and control the weight on the way down.
Seated Leg Curl
I usually only do two exercises for hamstrings, so I’ll do more sets than usual here—3 warm-up sets and then 5 rock-solid ones. If I’m doing two hamstring exercises that day, I’ll split them up and do 4 sets for each one. Hamstrings are considerably smaller than the quads, so they may need more work and more sets to keep that balance.
Think of your hamstrings during this exercise just like your biceps during a biceps curl movement. Your hamstrings should curl up into a ball as you focus on curling your ankles to your butt. Keep constant tension here—no rest or pause, just up and down.
Standing Calf Raise
For calves, you just have to train them properly and work hard at them. I never had big calves, I worked for mine. It doesn’t matter the order of the exercises on these, just do them!
Seated Calf Raise
When training calves, wear shoes that don’t have a lot of thickness. A basketball shoe is not ideal; something thin that allows you to have a good mind-muscle connection with your legs and calves is best.
The Power of Leg Training: Keep It Simple
Your legs and core produce the majority of your power during big lifts. Imbalanced conditioning, lack of mobility, and weak hamstrings all lead to weaker joints, less stability, and a greater risk for injury. If you’ve ever had an injury, you understand the undeniable importance of a strong and balanced lower half.
Keep exercise choices simple, prioritizing big, compound movements to target all the major muscle groups. Focus on form and mind-muscle connection. Embrace the pain and the strain. Master the basics of these functional-strength exercises and you’ll provide a platform for shocking improvement, fast.
More Than Just Leg Day
Leg day is special beyond eliciting dread in some and motivation in others. The compound moves that make this day brutal use larger muscle groups and help increase testosterone. Your total calorie burn will rocket when you’re lifting using those bigger muscles, too.
After all that work, make sure to down a protein shake or EAAs within 5-10 minutes of your last rep. Eat a lot of food and get a good night’s rest—leg day is very taxing.
How Many Times a Week Should You Train Legs?
I get this question all the time. My preference—and what sets my approach apart—is that I train legs two times a week, about 5 days apart. These big muscle groups can handle the double-duty and you’ll be shocked at how fast you start gaining strength, visible muscle definition, and bulk.
Mindset is everything, along with work ethic and effort. Without consistency, taxing the body all the time, doing the reps, getting the burn, you’re never going to get to where you want to be. I eat, sleep, and breathe bodybuilding. You have to make the most of every day. The challenge is in trying. If you fail to try, you’ll never get there.