Bodybuilding Exercises That Will Build Muscular Legs

It’s not easy to get into bodybuilding. Not only do you need to spend significant amounts of time in the gym and fitness center, but you need to have your diet locked down and keep your sleep schedule tight. It’s easy to fantasize or envision yourself with the huge muscles that many bodybuilders have, but getting there for yourself is, needless to say, not easy.

Most of us can put together a simple enough workout plan. But if you want to get serious about building muscle — that is, start bodybuilding, or working out like someone who does — you’ll need to put some real consideration into how you’re spending your time at the gym. You’ll need to concentrate specific days on specific parts of your body. And you’ll need to incorporate lifts and exercises that will help you achieve the results you want.

Muscular legs through bodybuilding

A lifter trains during a bodybuilding lifting session

Don’t forget about the lower body. | Phil Walter/Getty Images

While bodybuilding workouts tend to focus on the upper body (your arms, chest, and abs do command a lot of attention, after all), perhaps the most important part of your body to focus on is the lower body. Your legs and midsection are the power house of the body, and most movements originate from your lower extremities. You may feel like the bench press is all about the arms and chest, but try to imagine doing it without your legs or pelvic muscles.

If you want muscular legs like that of a bodybuilder, you’ll need to take leg day seriously. And the following lifts and exercises are exactly what you’ll need to do to reach your goals. There are, of course, numerous other lifts and exercises you can do, but if you want to focus on a handful to get started, these should suffice.

1. Squats

Barbell squat

Squats are very important. | Phil Walter/Getty Images

Almost every workout — especially those focused on the legs — begins with the squat. Squats may be the most important and primal of all lifts and is the primary of the three core lifts. In other words, get used to doing squats, and get your form down early. Squats really incorporate your whole body, but your quads and glutes will be doing the lion’s share of the work. If you were to devise a one-lift leg workout, this is what it should be.

2. Deadlift

A man prepares to deadlift

Deadlifts are great for toning the backs of your legs. | iStock.com

The second of the three primary lifts on our list, the deadlift is (at its base) the simplest lift you can do. You’re basically just picking up something heavy and putting it down again. This is another full-body lift, and it’s extremely important you get your form down to avoid injury. If you’re serious about building leg muscle, the deadlift should become one of your go-to lifts

3. Barbell/dumbbell lunges

weight plates for barbells

Lunges work your quads and glutes. | iStock.com

You’ll learn to love lunges if you really want to get a bodybuilder’s physique. If you have access to a barbell, use it to do lunges — but dumbbells will do the trick as well. It’s a simple lift, and you’ll feel it in your quads and glutes after a set or two. Don’t discount lunges as being too easy or simplistic, either. This lift will help you build a foundation of solid muscle to propel you toward your fitness goals.

4. Leg press

A man works out on the leg press machine

This is one machine that’s actually worth your time. | iStock.com

See if you can get access to a leg press machine, as many gyms may not have one. It’s a pretty simple exercise, as you’re simply pushing weight away from your body up in the air at an angle. The exercise itself is similar to a squat, and you’ll be building the same muscle groups.

5. Calf raise

Man preparing for a calf workout

Don’t forget about your calves. | iStock.com

While most of the exercises and lifts so far have concentrated on your upper legs and quads, you can’t forget about your calves. There are a number of effective exercises that you can employ to build your calf muscles, but if you have to choose just one, stick with the calf raise. It’s easy enough, and you can do it with barbells, dumbbells, or a machineĀ if available.

6. Leg extension

A man does leg extensions at the gym

Get strong quads with leg extensions. | iStock.com

Another machine-based exercise, the leg extension concentrates the work on your quads. You’ll want to make sure you’re using the right amount of weight so you can fully extend your legs, but not so little that you’re not feeling it after you complete your sets. If you want, you can probably do some leg curls on the same machine to get even more out of your gym session.

7. Romanian deadlift

A woman prepares to deadlift

Try out this deadlift variation. | iStock.com

Finally, we’ll end with a deadlift variant. The Romanian deadlift, as it’s called, can be done with either a barbell or dumbbells and focuses the work on your hamstrings and glutes. It’s not much different from your standard deadlift, but the main difference is the Romanian version is more of a single-joint lift, rather than a compound or complex lift like the traditional deadlift.