What Is the Best Workout to Improve Leg Strength?

Full frame Woman doing squats

Developing and improving strength in the legs is a worthwhile activity, but you need to be careful exactly how you go about it. While there are a number of possible workout programs you can follow to increase strength in your legs, an optimized workout strategy will develop necessary lean muscle mass through exercises that emphasize compound, explosive motions for increasing strength. The best strength-training workout for the legs uses heavy weight and progressive sets for consistent gains.

Muscle Matters

Before you can successfully improve the strength of your legs, you need to know the muscles that comprise the lower body so that you can select exercises that correctly target them. The main muscle groups in the legs include the gluteal muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps muscles and calves. The gluteal muscles form the buttocks. The hamstrings and quadriceps muscles are opposing muscle groups that together form the thigh; the hamstrings run along the back of the thigh, the quadriceps muscles run along the front. The calves comprise the lower portion of the legs, on the back of the lower legs below the knee joint.

Lifting Exercises

A number of exercises will increase muscle mass in the target muscle groups, while also increasing strength. These include the leg curl, the leg extension, and the weighted calf raise (standing and seated). However, to develop increased strength, you need to perform compound exercises that engage all of the leg muscle groups simultaneously. Such exercises include the deadlift, the weighted squat, the leg press, and the weighted lunge. In addition to calf isolation machines, calf raises can be integrated into sets on the leg press machine.

When to Work Out

While it would make sense that the more often you work out a muscle group, the better the results, the fact is that true strength training requires a considerable amount of rest time. This rest time allows broken-down muscle tissue in the legs to regenerate with increased thickness and nerve response, thus improving strength. Schedule no more than two leg workout days each week, and get at least one full day of rest in between them.

Nuts and Bolts

Go heavy when working out the legs, and use progressive sets like the pyramid to get thorough engagement. This will develop power and improve lower-body strength.