Get the Lower Body of Your Dreams With These 5 Exercises

Let’s say you want to cut to the chase and get a solid lower-body workout in. Perhaps it’s leg day? Or maybe you’re a beginner, simply trying to get your bearings in the gym or fitness center. There’s a lot going on, and the numerous weights, plates, bars, and machines can be intimidating for the uninitiated. But if you want to put together a simple, straightforward leg and lower body workout, here’s where to start.

You’ve probably heard people joking about “skipping leg day,” which refers to many people’s affinity for focusing their workouts on their upper body. Focusing on your chest, arms, and abs is something a lot of us do, mostly because those are the flashier muscles you see on the covers of magazines. Movie stars are showing off their six-pack abs, not their toned glutes and quads, after all.

But, where to start? For simplicity’s sake, focus on the most effective lifts. In order to hit every major muscle group, you can put together a five-exercise regimen that you can do once or twice per week. Here are the exercises you’ll want to incorporate.

1. Squat

a man doing a barbell squat at the gym

Squats are a must. | Phil Walter/Getty Images

If you were on a desert island, squats would be the one exercise you should take with you. While that doesn’t really translate, the meaning remains the same: Squats are the single most important lift you can do. They incorporate your entire body, and really focus the work on your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. If you don’t have access to barbells or a squat rack, make do with what you have, even if its dumbbells, kettlebells, or even just your own body weight.

2. Deadlift

woman performs a deadlift while a trainer watches

Deadlifts are great for the hamstrings. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The second of your major core lifts, deadlifts are as primal as it gets. You’re going to be lifting as much weight as you can — just picking it up, and putting it back down. Form, of course, is of the utmost importance, so as to not hurt yourself. But if you can get someone to check your form, adding deadlifts to your routine will give you some real satisfaction — it’s the lift your caveman DNA thirsts for. Plus, it’ll give your legs and core a hell of a workout.

3. Dumbbell lunge

a man does a dumbbell lunge during a leg workout

Dumbbell lunges are another fantastic exercise. | iStock.com

The perfect exercise to follow up your two core lifts are lunges. Lunges are easy enough, and you can use as little weight as you need to get through your reps and sets — given that you’re probably pretty fatigued from deadlifts and squats. Grab some dumbbells, a barbell, or even hold a plate in your arms, and drop to one knee, as seen above. If you’ve never done lunges before, they’re one of the simplest exercises you can do. But after a couple of sets, you’ll definitely feel the effects.

4. Leg extension

man doing leg extensions in the gym

Leg extensions will really work your quads. | iStock.com

If you have machinery available to you, you’ll want to do some leg extensions to really give your quads a workout. Typically, you can do extensions and curls on the same machine — doing both isn’t a bad idea, but if you have to choose, go for extensions. Deadlifts and squats should have given your glutes and hamstrings enough stress, but extensions will target your quads specifically and make sure you’re hitting the critical fatigue point.

5. Calf raise

a shot of muscular calves

You’ll have major calf muscles from this exercise. | iStock.com

Having covered all of the major muscles and groups up to this point, the last thing you’ll want to do is make sure your calves aren’t forgotten. The easiest and simplest calf exercise you can do is a raise — and you can do it with as much or as little weight as you want. Start out just using gravity and your own body’s weight to get a feel for it. Then, you can either hold dumbbells, kettlebells, or use a barbell. As you progress, add more weight. You should see and feel the difference after a few weeks.