Best Exercises for Stronger Legs – Definition, Performance and Endurance

The leg muscles are the foundation of our body.  Because of this, there are many benefits to working on them as much or even more than your other body parts.  When talking about the best exercises for stronger legs, most are referring to weight training workouts, but we will be reviewing bodyweight exercises as well.

Certain exercises for your legs focus more on strength while others focus on the definition or they isolate particular leg muscles.  We also will talk about a few critical power moves that help to strengthen the entire body along with the legs.

It’s important to train your lower body to keep up with other muscle groups to enhance your overall athletic performance.   Stronger legs will improve your overall health, keep your body in balance, and help to prevent injuries.

Benefits of Leg Exercises

A lot of people at the gym avoid leg exercises since they are more difficult, or because they can hide skinny legs under pants. 

However, true athletes know the many advantages from their best leg exercise workouts, so they focus on them often.  These benefits hold true both with leg exercises for women and leg exercises for men.

Best Exercises for Stronger Legs - animated man doing deadlift

Best Exercises for Stronger Legs

Be sure to vary your leg exercise routine since each movement hits your leg muscles differently.  It’s important to keep these muscle groups balanced and well rounded.  Switching it up like this also works to increase increases muscle growth and strength.

There isn’t a book big enough to explain every leg exercise out there, so here is a list of my favorites.

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Seated Leg Press
  • Leg Curls
  • Leg Extensions
  • Dumbbell Goblet Squat
  • Glute Bridges
  • Lunges Exercises
  • Single Leg Squats
  • TRX Leg Exercises
Best Exercises for Stronger Legs - man doing squat

Best Leg Exercises for Strength and Power

There are two important exercises for quickly building leg power and strength.  At the same time, they also bring a stronger upper body and a stronger lower body including, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and hips.  These are the leg squat exercise and the deadlift exercise.

What is a squat exercise?  First of all, it’s extremely important to use the correct form with these movements.  Not only is this one of the best exercises to build strength, but also the one that can cause the most injuries.  Unless doing bodyweight squats, the best way to perform a squat exercise would require a squat rack.

What is a deadlift exercise?  The benefits of deadlifts are numerous as well but must be done with proper form to avoid injury.  If doing heavy weight, I find that these are easiest by loading up your barbell while it rests on a squat rack or weight bench

Many squat racks or power racks come with safety bars or “spotter” arms to load your barbell on.

Start out with a small amount of weight when doing deadlifts!  To get the best at-home leg exercises, I recommend a home gym squat rack or power rack to assist with your heavy lifting.

How To Do Squats

Now there are several deviations this description, but start out with your legs about shoulder width apart depending on which leg muscle group you want to focus on.  Set your squat rack hooks about shoulder height.

Go under the bar and stand straight up with the barbell across you back, between the lower neck and shoulders.  There should be a spot that feels most comfortable for you.  They also make a round bar cushion called a squat bar pad that you can add for comfort.

Lower your body slowly by bending your knees and while keeping your back as straight as possible.  The weight pressure should be focused to go through the heels of your feet rather than your toes. 

Try to lower yourself until your thighs are parallel with the floor.  Stand up to starting position, and that’s a squat. This same movement can be done with a dumbbell set at your sides.

How To Do Deadlifts

If you are starting from the ground positions rather from a raised squat rack, put your legs shoulder width and bend your legs while keeping your arms straight to grab the bar.    It’s best to use your overhand barbell grip or an alternating grip, one under and one over.  This is the starting point.

With a steady but powerful motion, stand up with the bar while keeping your back as straight as possible.  At the top of the movement, your legs will be straight, your shoulders back, and your chest out.

If you don’t have a squat rack, these can also be done with a set of dumbells, starting with them at your side.

Best Exercises for Stronger Legs - man doing deadlift

Machine Leg exercises

Some of you may have a leg machine in your home gym, but most likely you will be doing these weight machine exercises at the gym.  Here are the 3 most popular ones.

Seated Leg Press

You’ve probably seen this one where you sit back on an angle with your feet up in the air.  The seat usually comes with a few angle adjustments to hit your legs in slightly different ways. 

Be sure to let the platform come down far enough to get a full movement.  Prevent injury by not letting the platform go all the way down.

My bonus tip on this one is to put your toes on the edge of the platform to bust out some calf raises between lex press exercises.

Leg Curls

There are two different machines you may see that use the same movement.  One is laying down and bringing your heels to your butt, and the other one that you may see is in a sitting position. 

Legs start out straight and you “curl” your legs back against the resistance.  The leg curl exercise will strengthen the back of your legs and glutes.

Leg Extensions

This may be the best exercise to strengthen the front of your legs and give them muscle definition.  In the sitting position, there will be a pad at the front of your ankles. 

Simply raise your legs until they are straight out and then lower them back down.  Be sure that the back of the seat is adjusted properly according to your height.

Best Exercises for Stronger Legs - man doing goblet squat

More Key Exercises for Leg Strength

Here are a few more popular yet important leg strength exercises to put in your exercise routine.  These are the important leg exercises that you can do without squat racks or exercise machines.

Dumbbell Goblet Squat

These are performed with the same proper form as the squats are described above.  However, you will be taking a single dumbbell, holding one end with both hands like you would a goblet. 

Start by standing straight up with the top of the dumbbell end to your chin and proceed from there with a squat. The same movement with a kettlebell is called a kettlebell squat.

Glute Bridge Hip Thrust

Lay with your backside on the ground with your upper back elevated.  Then lay a weighted barbell or dumbbell across the most comfortable spot you can find in your hip area.  Then raise your hips up in the air as far as you can go, then back to your butt on the ground. 

This glute exercise will give you “buns of steel”.

Best Exercises for Stronger Legs - woman doing lunges

Lunges

This is a highly underrated leg exercise that is great at building functionally strength, balance, core, and tone making the benefits of lunges numerous. 

The different lunge variations can be done with dumbbells, barbells, or simply as a bodyweight exercise.  Some of these exercise movements can be done using resistance bands.  There are too many deviations of the lunge exercise to list, but here are a few good ones.

  • Walking Lunge – You will see this type of lunge the most often.  Simply take one long step in front of you with one foot, while bending the other knee almost to the ground.  Stand back up and repeat again.
  • Bulgarian Split Squats – This is another form of a lunge that will definitely give you results.  Put one foot behind you up on an elevated platform with the top of your foot laying on the platform.  The other leg will be in front of you.  Simply squat your leg by bending the knee as far as you can go, then returning to the starting position.  Try 10 reps for each leg.
  • Split Squat – The split squat is fairly easy.  Just put one leg in front of the other and bend both knees towards the ground, then back up.  Do several repetitions, then repeat the movement with the other foot in front.
  • Dumbbell Step Up – This can be considered a lunge exercise as well.  Get a sturdy platform or a plyo box about 12″ high to start, then take turns alternating by standing up on it one leg at a time.
Best Exercises for Stronger Legs - man doing air squat

Best Home Leg Exercises Without Equipment

If your not a gym member, or don’t have a home gym of your own, there are some great bodyweight exercises that are sure to strengthen your legs.  The best home leg workouts can be done without a home gym setup.  These exercises can also be great for the park or for a beach workout.

Bodyweight works well for these exercises, but can also be done holding a set of dumbbells for an added challenge.

Lunges

The same barbell and dumbbell lunges above can also be effective just using your bodyweight.  These include split squat lunges, jump squats, walking lunges, side lunges, reverse lunges, squat lunges, dumbbell stepups, and Bulgarian split squats.

Single Leg Squats

This is one of my new favorites but can be both difficult and challenging.  Once you are able to do several of these, the leg strength dividends will pay off.

I’m going to recommend doing these as a single leg doorway squat.  Stand in the doorway facing the door jamb, but standing a little bit to one side.  Grab the door trim with one or both hands.  Bend one knee as far as you can go down while keeping the other leg up in the air. 

You will find that the best way is to lean back while doing this because pulling on the door trim will help to assist you in getting back up.

TRX Squats, Jumps, and Lunges

For under $200.00 you can add plenty of bodyweight suspension strap exercises.  This system comes with an instruction guide and a TRX  phone app.  Click on this link for more information on which one is the most practical TRX system.

Best Calf Exercises

Best Exercises for Stronger Legs- woman with muscular calves

Don’t forget about your calves, and there are dozens of effective calf exercises to choose from.  Here are a few good ones to keep in mind.

  • Standing Calf Raise
  • Sitting Calf Raise
  • Farmers Walk on Toes
  • Single Leg Calf Raise
  • Donkey Calf Raise
  • Calf Press
  • Box Jump
  • Jumprope

The Strongest Legs Wrap Up

Now you have the best leg exercises for stronger legs.  There are tons of leg exercises at home, outside, or at a gym that you can use.  We haven’t even scratched the surface.

If you don’t have access to exercise equipment or weight sets, I’ve even listed some bodyweight exercises for getting a great home gym leg workout.

As you can see from the leg exercise benefits listed, your legs are the largest and most important body part or muscle group.  Legs are the starting point for all of your body’s’ power and performance.

Exercising your legs properly will prevent injury, give you functional strength, balance, keep you healthier overall, and strong legs look amazing.

⇒ If you have any questions or comments about the best leg exercises or building stronger legs, please leave a message below and I will respond.

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