First published on June 4, 2018
I’m following up Farewell, Micronamin with leg workouts first. They’re the hardest but important for those looking to improve athletic performance or lose weight. I rarely see gym regulars do squats, lunges, or deadlifts. Maybe I should rewrite my guide for preparing for leg day.
A good lower body workout can leave you walking weird for days but will help you in the long run. It’s a good example of “no pain, no gain”.
As a teen, I read in a Muscle & Fitness magazine that the first exercise in a workout gets the most improvement. Since then, I’ve placed the hardest or most important, usually for APFT improvement or injury recovery, exercise first. Of my preferred leg exercises, the hardest are pistol squats, deadlifts, lunges, and then front squats. Rehabilitation exercises were usually leg curls, shoulder rotations, and other exercises I wish I’d started doing sooner.
Below are my example workouts for specific purposes. Remember, this is all my opinion.
1:R= 1 minute Rest
:30R=30 seconds Rest
Build overall strength and shed fat.
Deadlift (10x1w/1:R of 90% 1RM)
or Rear Lunge (3×6-12w/2:R)
or Squat (3×6-12w/2:R)
Hip thrust (3×10-20w/1:R)
or Romanian Deadlift (3×6-12w/1-2:R)
Leg Curl Machine (3×6-12w/1-2:R)
Abductor/Adductor machine exercises
or Side Lunge (3x10w/1:R)
2-3 Core exercises (5×10-25/w/:30-90R)
– Decline Situp
– Hanging Windshield Wiper
– Lying Hip Raise
– Incline hip thrust
– Leg Raise (hanging, lying)
– Hanging Leg to Bar Raise
– Hollow Body Hold (x:30-Failure)
– 1-side Farmer’s Carry
– More at Exrx.net
Deadlifts work forearms and the posterior chain – back, glutes, and hamstrings. Deep lunges put full focus on the quads and glutes.
Rear lunges on one leg before alternating to the opposite stance helps me keep rhythm and balance (the new R&B?). I tried. Front, or Zercher, squats are easier on the lower back while hitting the quads harder, but the back squat is a top mass builder and fat cutter.
Heavy barbell hip thrusts (>300 pounds) are quieter and take less setup time with a smith machine, bench, and quad-folded yoga mat for padding the groin.
Romanian deadlifts feel safer for my back compared to stiff-legged deadlifts and good mornings. And because of the limited range of motion, the heavier weight makes it a great forearm exercise.
Leg curls, seated or lying, balance thigh strength to improve knee stability.
The “leg-spread” machine was a short addition to my core exercise selection before reading side lunges may be a better alternative.
I like to start or end a workout with core exercises, and many of them work the quads as well. That’s something to keep in mind when doing core exercises before legs. Super-sets of hollow body holds and weighted situps (The Standard Fitness-style) are a favorite of mine. I like hanging leg to bar raises but not after exercises that tire my grip. My back doesn’t like windshield wipers anymore, no matter how much fish oil or glucosamine I have in me regularly.
Calisthenics & Power
You don’t need equipment to have a good leg workout – just your bodyweight.
2-3 Core exercises (5×10-25/w/:30-90R)
or Jumping Squat (3x10w/1:R)
or Squat (3×10-F w/1-2:R)
Forward Lunge (3×20+w/1-3:R)
Side leg (Abductor) Raise with band
or Side Lunge (3×10-20w/1:R)
Wall Sit (3x1min w/1:R)
Forward jumping lunges build lactic acid fast. The stationary version makes balancing easier.
Pistol squats are great for leg strength but require great balance and ankle flexibility (or holding a weight plate straight forward for counter-balance). You can improve flexibility but it’s work.
Forward lunges seem to require more power and speed on the forward leg compared to rear version. It helps to counter-balance with your arms like you’re running to keep a rhythm.
Wall sits improve isometric strength, the ability to hold a position longer, and puts all stress on the quads. Do them with one leg to work towards your first pistol squat.