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The 17 Best Leg Exercises

Best Leg Exercises

Leg day is a staple of any good workout routine, whether you like it or not. Make sure to include these 17 exercises into your leg workout to get the most out of it.

  • Barbell Squat
  • Barbell Front Squat
  • Overhead Squat
  • Pistol Squat
  • Goblet Squat
  • Kneeling Squat
  • Split Squat
  • Lunge
  • Cossack Squat
  • Bulgarian Split Squat
  • Romanian Deadlift
  • Stiff Leg Deadlift
  • Sumo Deadlift
  • Barbell Hip Thrust
  • Nordic Ham Curl
  • Standing Calf Raises
  • Cable Pull Through

1. Barbell Squat

Quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes are all on the list of barbell squat’s targeted muscles. Additionally, the joints of the knee and hip, as well as the ligaments and tendons, are strengthened. As the title says, you’ll need a barbell to practice the movement.


The barbell squat is a powerful compound exercise. It saves your efforts and time because you can train most legs’ muscles doing one workout. Strengthening the ligaments, tendons, and joints surrounding the knees and the hips is also the merit of exercise.

A considerable amount of ankle stability is required for the back squat to push through the heels. The movement also teaches your core to be stable throughout the whole workout. Traps activation and better shoulder mobility are pleasant consequences of regular barbell squat practice. All the mentioned skills can boost your overall performance in many other gym activities.

How to do a barbell squat:

  • Keep your back in the center as you lower yourself under the barbell.
  • Raise the bar with your back resting on it. Make sure your elbows don’t move back too far.
  • A squatting position that is comfortable for you should be maintained at all times.
  • Squat down slowly and deliberately, experiencing the strain in the muscles you’re working on.
  • It’s time to go back to the beginning. Using low weights initially will help your body adjust to the technique and do it properly.

2. Barbell Front Squat

The exercise is similar to the previous one. When doing front squats, you simultaneously target your hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes. The primary distinctive feature is that the technique implies upper body work.  


Barbell front squat is beneficial not just for strengthening your core but also for improving your posture. In addition, the barbell front squat is a good exercise for those who want to enhance their mobility and endurance.

The move makes many muscle groups work simultaneously, which results in the effective burning of calories. If you want to get in shape in the shortest time possible, this exercise is just what the doctor ordered.

How to do a barbell front squat:

  • Put your arms out before you and bring the bar up to your clavicles to get into the proper beginning posture. Place your feet hip-width apart.
  • Afterward, grasp the bar with your thumbs firmly tucked in. You may also cross your hands on the chest.
  • Squat down, keeping your torso upright.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.

3. Overhead Squat

You will work on your triceps, deltoids, hamstrings, adductors, quadriceps, and lower back muscles during an overhead squat. This exercise is a tool that many athletes use to gauge and develop their level of general mobility.


The movement offers an important stimulation, essential for developing the muscles and supporting the upper body. It strengthens and controls the triceps and upper back for enhanced health and performance.

Maintaining stability in essential postures, such as the hips or the shoulders, is important for well-being. Stability is crucial for safe workouts without injury risks. You can get that due to overhead squat practice.

How to do an overhead squat:

  • To begin, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and pull the bar off the rack. 
  • Once you’ve gotten the barbell over your head, be careful to keep the shoulders and ankles aligned.
  • The knees should glide forward and flex out somewhat as you lower your body.
  • Go back to the beginning and maintain your torso erect the whole time. 

4. Pistol Squat

This variation of the squat is often called the king of lower body exercises because it’s challenging and very effective. The activity calls for a high level of balance and coordination on your part. Those who do not have access to heavyweights will find it to their liking.


Develop control over your hips, particularly the deep hip external rotators. If you do this technique daily, your balance will gradually improve, giving you the necessary power, stability, and control.

The pistol squat is a great exercise if you’ve been overcompensating on one of your legs. By practicing the movement, you may eliminate any unbalances and strengthen your muscles.

How to do a pistol squat:

  • Stand feet about hip-width apart.
  • Raise one foot slightly off the floor.
  • Go into a squatting position while extending your arms and the opposite leg forward.
  • Return to the starting stance.
  • You can add some resistance as you become stronger by holding a pair of dumbbells.

5. Goblet Squat 

The goblet squat is distinguished by a unique grip that resembles a goblet. The glutes and quads benefit greatly from the movement. Furthermore, the technique suits people with back issues.


You may utilize a goblet squat as a key compound exercise if you are a novice. Staying at a lower weight and keeping a medium speed would be the greatest decision in such a circumstance. Are you an experienced athlete? The goblet squat fits you too! It may be used for a warm-up or as a finisher exercise.

Powerlifters, bodybuilders, and anybody working their lower body hard would benefit greatly from this workout. The goblet squat is a fantastic exercise for adding variety to your routine. This is a terrific option if you’re looking to bulk up your lower body. Sets of 20 repetitions following a more severe lower bodywork are excellent methods to practice and progress your exercise to a new level.

How to do a goblet squat:

  • Put your feet shoulder-width apart and stand tall.
  • Keep your hands towards the weight’s highest point so that your grip reminds of a goblet shape.
  • Keep your spine in a neutral position during squatting. As if you were sitting in a chair, your hips should be lowered to create an appropriate form.
  • Put yourself back into the starting position, but maintain your legs firmly planted on the ground.

6. Kneeling Squat 

Regarding lower body exercises, the kneeling squat may be the safest. Using the kneeling squat, you may get the desired results without the injury risks expected from conventional standing squats.


A straightforward approach, high effectiveness, and a wide range of variants distinguish this workout. As a result, the kneeling squat may be done with various foot placements, weights, bands, and other equipment.

You can choose your focus yourself. Many fiber types in the quadriceps group may be worked on using varying internal and external rotation levels. Other fibers may be loaded by shifting your foot location. For example, the vastus medialis – the most medial portion of the quadriceps – may be emphasized by placing your ankles outside of your knees.

How to do a kneeling squat:

  • The kneeling squat requires you to be in a kneeling posture to begin. So position yourself in a tall, kneeling stance.
  • Keep the pelvis tucked, and the head elevated. Glance down. Straighten your back to prevent typical exercise blunders.
  • Sit down on your calves.
  • Return to the starting position, keeping your head, feet, and back still.

7. Split Squat 

A splitting stance makes this squat alternative even more effective. The split squat is a great exercise for building volumetric quadriceps and toning your hips and glutes.


The hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes are all worked in the split squat, a complex leg exercise. Split squats, when performed correctly, may correct imbalances and strengthen and stretch the legs.

How to do a split squat:

  • Get into the standing position, take a long step and lunge forward.
  • This requires a slightly lifted heel on your back foot. 
  • Push yourself back up after descending until your back knee is nearly touching the floor.
  • Switch legs when you’ve done all your reps on one leg and restart the workout.

8. Lunge

A lunge is one of the most commonly used bodyweight exercises to build, shape and tone lower body muscles. You don’t need anything apart from a little space and free time to perform this movement.


In most kinds of exercise, flexor muscles are not given the attention they need. Because of this, plus the fact that you lead a sedentary lifestyle, that part of your body has a propensity to get tight. You may improve the flexibility of these areas with the help of lunges.

In contrast to most workouts, which place stress on your spine, lunges allow it a moment of relaxation. Lunges are a great way to keep your spine flexible and pain-free while working out.

Lunges target vast sets of muscles in the lower body. As a result, you’ll be able to burn more calories during the workout and lose more weight. Lunges may be used in a high-intensity circuit training regimen utilizing heavy weights if you’re trying to drop maximum at minimal time.

How to do a lunge:

  • Straighten your spine and maintain an upright posture with your arms by your sides.
  • Lower your hips until both knees are at a 90-degree angle while standing on one leg.
  • Aim to keep one of your knees on top of your ankle, with the other still elevated.
  • Maintain your weight in your heels at all times.

9. Cossack Squat 

The Cossack squat is an excellent exercise for developing your lower body’s strength and flexibility. The primary muscle groups it targets are the quadriceps, adductors, hamstrings, and glutes.


Challenge your hip, knee, and ankle flexibility by doing the cossack squat. Especially if you spend a lot of time hunched over a desk, opening out your hips is a real treat. Regular practice will make your legs much more flexible.

Extreme knee and hip flexion required for the movement’s proper form can help you significantly strengthen your lower body muscles. It is possible to achieve more if you add weights to your workout.

How to do a Cossack squat:

  • Step a little to the side while you stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Reverse the position of your hips. Lift one leg and slowly drop yourself to the ground while squatting on it.
  • Extend the toes of your second foot while keeping your heel firmly on the ground.
  • Squeeze your glutes and quadriceps to assist you in rising from the floor.
  • Repeat with the opposite leg.

10. Bulgarian Split Squat

If you do this exercise properly, it will work your quadriceps and glutes to the maximum. The Bulgarian split squat is one of the most efficient compound motions, although it does need some effort to master the technique. 


Bulgarian split squat enhances all the benefits of other squats we mentioned before. The exercise strengthens your lower body, speeds up weight loss, and improves overall mobility and flexibility.

How to do a Bulgarian split squat:

  • Face a knee-high platform at least two to three feet away.
  • Put your right foot on the bench, extending your right leg behind. Your hips and shoulders should be aligned in a straight line.
  • Slowly drop your right knee towards the floor while keeping your body erect. It’s best to keep your front knee at a 90-degree angle, but if you can go a little further, do it.
  • Ensure that your weight is equally distributed over the whole sole of your foot. Avoid stepping forward with the toes or pushing through the heel excessively.
  • Make a full circle back to where you were when you first started.

11. Romanian Deadlift

Strengthening the posterior chain muscles, such as the erector spinae, gluteus maximus and hamstrings, is the primary goal of the Romanian deadlift. The exercise is a powerful workout that targets the core and the legs in a single motion.


The movement offers muscular hypertrophy to glutes, hamstrings and adductors simultaneously. It means the Romanian deadlift can make your lower body bigger and stronger, along with improving your pulling power and boosting your metabolism.

In addition to increasing hamstring, glute and lower back muscular mass, the Romanian deadlift reduces the risk of injury by often using smaller weights. The semi-locked knees position is also easier and safer to target specific muscle groups with less volume and stress. 

How to do a Romanian deadlift:

  • Begin by holding the bar (or dumbbells) in your hands at your hips.
  • Slowly lower the bar by bending forward at the hips while maintaining a neutral spine.
  • Drive your hips forward to return to the beginning position whenever you feel a nice stretch in your hamstrings.

12. Stiff Leg Deadlift 

Stiff leg deadlifts are a variant of the standard deadlift that loads the muscles in the posterior chain and aims for increased strength. The lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles are all targeted by this workout.


The stiff leg deadlift is an excellent exercise for strengthening the hamstrings and calves. It is an excellent exercise for your regimen since it helps you maintain better muscular balance and prevent injuries.

Your glutes and hamstrings are likely to grow weak if you sit for long periods throughout the day. A person may suffer from back discomfort and poor posture due to lower-cross syndrome. Stiff leg deadlifts may help avoid or correct this problem.

How to do a stiff leg deadlift:

  • Using an overhand hold, lift the bar off the floor.
  • Standing shoulder-width apart and slightly bending your knees is the proper posture.
  • Keeping your legs straight and your hips hunched, drop the bar to the floor until it touches your hips.
  • Engage your glutes and hamstrings to pull yourself up. Engage your lower back and core muscles to ensure your spine is straight. 
  • Throughout the exercise, make sure the bar is close to your body.

13. Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift helps emphasize the hamstrings and hips and the glutes, lower back, and abdominals it targets. The training method ensures that your lower back will experience the least possible strain.


Sumo deadlifts need a substantially wider stance than standard deadlifts. This makes it simpler for folks to retain proper form and is also more comfortable for many. In addition, since the range of motion is reduced, lifters can use heavier weights.

There is less strain on the upper body since the sumo deadlift form places the lifter’s upper body at a more vertical angle. This reduces some of the tension in the lower back, which may help alleviate pain.

How to do a sumo deadlift:

  • Make sure your feet are wide apart as you approach the bar. Close your toes to the barbell’s collars as you lift the bar. Your toes must point away from your body.
  • Grab the barbell with both hands and hold it firmly. It’s possible to hold it with an overhand or a switch grip. Put your hands directly beneath your shoulders to ensure proper alignment.
  • Try to keep your chest up and drive your legs out as much as possible. The best way to maintain your core tight when working out is to keep your back straight.
  • Raise the barbell as high as you can. To make it easier for you to lift, drop your shoulders. This trick may help you lift more weight.
  • Return to the starting position.

14. Barbell Hip Thrust

Barbell hip-thrust primarily targets glutes and hips as well as dumbbell swing. It’s possible to perform this exercise both with and without weight.


An athlete’s special hip position throughout the exercise leads to maximum glutes activation. This exercise is an excellent choice if your main target is firm buttocks.

Glutes muscles work in pair with hip flexors. Hip flexors can make your posture poor by creating anterior pelvic tilt if your glute muscles are not strong enough. You may practice barbell hip thrust and train your glutes to prevent it.

Glutes are very functional muscles. They keep the body upright, push it forward, and are responsible for pelvis stabilization, hip rotation, etc. No wonder strengthening these muscles leads to better mobility and overall fitness improvement.

How to do a barbell hip thrust:

  • Place your feet flat on the floor and rest your back on the bench behind you. Your upper back should be resting on the edge of the chair.
  • Bend your knees while keeping your feet level on the ground and your back straight.
  • It’s time to rise. Try to keep your back straight. Feel your hips extending by contracting your glutes.
  • Come back to the start.

You may also like: 11 Best Hip Thrust Alternatives.

15. Nordic Ham Curl

This exercise is one of the best ones for working your hamstrings. Bending your knees and bringing your heels toward your butt while keeping your body motionless is the goal of this exercise. A leg curl machine is often used to do the workout. However, there is a bodyweight alternative for those who don’t have equipment.


The back of your thigh does the lifting for you during a hamstring curl. The hamstrings and glutes are worked in this exercise, which results in increased muscle mass.

You’re less likely to be hurt or experience discomfort if your hamstrings are strong. As a result of the workout, your knees will be more stable, and your hamstrings will be better able to bear the stress of any workouts.

How to do nordic ham curl:

  • Put some soft padding on the floor and put the barbell on the support. You will need both items to prevent pain while exercising and to fix your legs.
  • Get kneeling on the padding and put your legs under the barbell. If you have a partner, you may ask him to hold your legs while working out.
  • Lower yourself slowly while keeping your knees and head in line. When you can no longer lower yourself using just your legs, put your hands in front of your torso and use them as a support.
  • Squeeze your hamstrings to return to the beginning posture. If required, use your hands to lift.

16. Standing Calf Raises

The calf raises works the gastrocnemius muscle, which is responsible for the elongation of the foot. It is also the most readily apparent of the two calves’ muscles. You will need a calf raise machine to perform this movement.


The exercise helps you bulk up your calf muscles. While some of us are born with large calves, others must put in a lot of work to achieve this goal. It is possible to increase the size of your calves by doing standing calf raises. 

The exercise aids in the development of strong calves, and strong calves contribute to the stabilization and mobilization of our ankles.

The lower body’s explosive power may be improved through standing calf lifts. Although our glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings are responsible for most of our lower body’s explosive power, our calves may also contribute significantly.

How to do standing calf raises:

  • With the pad of the calf raise machine at the needed height, place your shoulders under the pads and position your toes facing forward.
  • Make sure your feet are secure on the block’s top with your heels extending off of it. Push the weight up, initiating the movement by extending your hips and knees.
  • Raise your heels as you breathe out by extending the ankles as high as possible.
  • Ensure that your knees do not move, and there should be no bending during the movement.
  • Inhale, and slowly lower yourself.

17. Cable Pull Through 

Cable pull-through is a strength training exercise. It’s often regarded as one of the most effective and isolated ways to load your glutes. As you may have guessed, this exercise requires a cable machine.


The movement provides a super-isolated position for the glutes. It aids in maximizing the tension on targeted muscles. Cable pull-through emphasizes the exercise’s eccentric portion, allowing full glutes activation.

A cable pull-through is a move that is suited for novices because of its basic technique. It may serve as a vital hip hinge motion for more advanced athletes.

When you do a cable pull-through, your muscles are always under stress. Muscle activation may vary by the amount of time spent working out.

How to do a cable pull-through:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. You should be facing away from the machine.
  • Grab the rope with a neutral grip. Ensure you keep your back straight.
  • Take a few steps outside and stretch your hamstrings by leaning forward.
  • Begin pulling movement, squeezing your glutes and feeling their work.
  • Let your hips go through the whole range of motion as you return to the starting position.


The legs’ strength is one of the main conditions for attractive sportive looks. But it goes far beyond aesthetics. Trained legs can improve the quality of your life in general because most everyday activities involve the leg muscles’ work. Maybe you’re not sure where to begin. We’ve got you covered! Try these 17 best leg exercises, and you won’t regret it.

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