Complete Leg Workout: 8 Exercises to Target All Leg Muscles

Leg workouts can be divided into the muscle groups you want to work, and can include squats, deadlifts, leg curls and glute bridges.

A workout for the legs usually includes specific exercises that target  the quads, calf muscles, glutes and hamstrings, for example. 3 rounds of 10 to 12 repetitions are typically indicated for each exercise. 

For best results, it is important to workout intensely, as guided by a personal trainer and to have a healthy and balanced diet that is supervised by a registered dietitian. 

Quad exercises

The main quad exercises you can incorporate into your leg workout are squats, leg extensions and leg presses. 

1. Squat

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A squat is considered to be an all-encompassing exercise, as it works the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves, making it a great leg exercise. 

It is important to perform exercise with guidance from a personal trainer to prevent injury. When performing a squat, you should ensure your legs are hip width apart, and that you lower yourself as if you were going to sit on a chair.

To increase resistance, a squat can be done with a barbell on your shoulders or with dumbbells in front of you. 

2. Leg extensions

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The extension chair is a great way to work the front of the thigh, or the quadricep muscles. You should adjust the chair to your size, so that your back is well supported and your knees do not pass your feet when sitting. +

After adjusting the machine, position your feet behind the machine bar and extend your leg, so that the bar is in-line with your knee when your leg is fully extended. Ensure you lower your leg in a controlled movement, and return to the starting position to repeat. 

3. Leg press

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A leg press is an excellent way to work the quads and can be done using the press machine, which allows flexion of the legs at 45º ou 90º. A personal trainer can better indicate which equipment is best for you to use based on your goals. 

This is another all-encompassing exercise, as it targets not only the thighs, but also the hamstrings and glute. To complete this exercise, adjust the bench and platform to your size, and push the platform away from you. Slowly return to your starting position and repeat this exercise 10 to 12 times, or as indicated by your personal trainer. 

Hamstring exercises

Some exercises that target the hamstrings are the deadlift and leg curls. 

1. Deadlift

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A deadlift targets the hamstrings and the glutes and can be done with a barbell or dumbbells. Hold the weight in front of your body, at about the height of your quads, then lower it toward your feet, making sure to keep your back straight to avoid activating your back muscles. 

While going down, keep your legs either stiff at the knees or slightly flexed, and keep your hips slightly flexed back, to activate your leg muscles. 

Another variation is the single deadlift, in which you hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand. Lift the opposite leg from the ground and hold it in the air behind you as you lower the weight toward your feet. Another variation, known as the good morning, involves performing the deadlift with a barbell supported on your back. 

2. Leg curls

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This exercise targets the hamstrings and involves lying stomach down on the leg flexion machine. The bench should be adjusted to your size, with your hips lining up with where the bench curves and your feet on the supports. Flex your legs to about 90º and slowly return to your starting position. 

It is important that the machine is well-adjusted to your size and weight capability for this exercise to avoid injury and overloading of your lower back. 

Glute exercises

Bridges and donkey kicks are great exercises for targeting your glutes. 

1. Bridges

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Bridges, or hip lifts, are often indicated to work the glutes, and can be done using just your body weight or incorporating other weights. If you are just using your body weight, you should lie on the ground with you belly up and knees bent, and lift your hips off the floor as you contract your flutes. Then lower your hips without touching the floor and repeat the same movement. 

Another way to complete this exercise is by supporting a barbell or dumbbell on the hips. If using extra weight, you should support your back on a bench and complete the same movement. 

In addition to working your glutes, bridges also target the ab muscles and quads, making it a great option to incorporate in your workout.

2. Donkey kick

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A donkey kick is another exercise that mainly works the glutes, although it can also activate the hamstrings. To complete this exercise, get down to the ground on your hands and knees. With one knee flexed, lift your heel up toward the ceiling, until it is in line with your hips. Contract your glute as you lift your heel up, and then return to your starting position to repeat. You can also perform this exercise by keeping your leg straight behind you and lifting your toe off the floor until your leg is in-line with your hips.

Another way to intensify this exercise if by using a weighted ankle band on the leg you are working, are by using a Smith machine.

Calf exercises

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The exercise that isolates the calf muscles is usually done at the end of the workout, as all the other exercises usually activate the calf muscle in some capacity. Nonetheless, it is still important to perform exercises that target just the calf muscle to ensure greater leg stability and increased strength and volume.

One exercise that works these muscles is the calf raise. Stand on a step or stair using your toes and without supporting your heels. Then lift your heels, standing on your tippy toes, and feel your calf muscles stretch. Then lower your heels slowly, past the starting position if you can to further work the muscle, and repeat the movement. 

These exercises can be done in 3 rounds of 10 to 12 reps, are as guided by your personal trainer. The number of reps you complete will vary based on your training goals.