Wanna Get Big? Check Out the Best Leg Exercises for Mass

Lexi Lutz
Reading Time: 19 minutes
best leg exercises for mass
Table of Contents

No one wants to look like they skip leg day. So, how do you plan on building your leg muscles to get that defined and muscular look? 

Let me take you through the best leg exercises for mass. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced lifter, these exercises will help you achieve your goals to build stronger and larger legs. With proper technique and consistent training, you can transform your lower body and get the results you’ve been dreaming of.

Don’t know where to start? No worries! In this article, I’ll guide you through the most effective exercises, from the mighty barbell squat to the powerful weighted hip thrusts. I’ll also share additional tips for maximizing your gains, like incorporating plyometrics and utilizing progressive overload for continuous muscle growth. 

But first, let’s dive into the top leg exercises for mass that will take your lower body strength to the next level.

The Mighty Barbell Squat

The barbell squat is an undisputed champion of best exercises for leg mass. It is a compound exercise that targets multiple muscle groups in your lower body, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. When performed correctly, the barbell squat can help you build strength, size, and power in your legs. 

To perform a barbell squat:

1. You’ll need a squat rack, a barbell, and weight plates. 

2. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, your back straight, and the barbell resting on your traps. 

3. Lower your body by bending your knees and pushing your hips back, keeping your weight on your heels. 

3. As you descend, keep your chest up and maintain a neutral spine. 

4. Once your thighs are parallel to the ground, push through your heels and extend your legs to return to the starting position. 

5. Always use a weight that challenges you, but that you can safely lift.

Proper form is crucial for maximizing your gains and minimizing the risk of injury. When performing a barbell squat, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Keep your core engaged to maintain stability throughout the movement.
  • Avoid rounding your back, as this can lead to injury.
  • Keep your knees in line with your toes throughout the movement.
  • Exhale as you push through your heels to extend your legs.

When it comes to mass-building leg exercises, the barbell squat is a must-do. Incorporate it into your leg workout program and enjoy the benefits of powerful, muscular legs.

Conquer Leg Day with the Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift is a powerful leg exercise that targets the hamstrings and glutes, making it an excellent addition to any leg workout routine. 

To perform the Romanian deadlift:

  1. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and place a barbell in front of you.
  2. Bend down at the waist, keeping your back straight, and grip the barbell with an overhand grip.
  3. Stand up, pulling the barbell up as you come to a standing position. Keep your arms straight throughout the lift.
  4. Lower the bar back down to the ground by bending at the waist and pushing your hips back.

When performing the Romanian deadlift, it’s important to maintain proper form. Keep your back straight, your shoulders pulled back, and your core engaged throughout the lift. Avoid rounding your back or bending your elbows.

For maximum muscle gain, focus on using heavy weights and performing 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps. Rest for 60-90 seconds between sets to allow your muscles to recover.

Here are some additional tips for optimizing your Romanian deadlift:

  • Use a weightlifting belt to support your lower back and help you lift heavier weights.
  • Perform the lift on a platform or step to increase your range of motion and engage your hamstrings more fully.
  • Consider using dumbbells or kettlebells instead of a barbell to add variety to your workouts.

Amp Up the Intensity with Split Squats

If you’re looking to take your leg workouts for mass to the next level, split squats are a fantastic exercise to add to your routine. Not only do they target multiple muscle groups, but they can also help improve your balance and stability. 

To perform a split squat: 

1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. 

2. Step forward with one foot, keeping your back foot firmly planted on the ground. 

3. Lower your hips until your front thigh is parallel to the ground, and then push back up to the starting position.

For an added challenge, try holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand. You can also try Bulgarian split squats, which involve elevating your back foot on a bench or box.

Benefits of Split SquatsMuscles Targeted
Improved balance and stabilityQuadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves
Increased muscle activationCore, hip stabilizers
Variety of optionsCan be performed with bodyweight or weights

Split squats are a versatile exercise that can be included in any leg workout program for mass. They are especially beneficial for anyone looking to challenge their muscles and improve their lower body strength and stability.

Get Pumped with the Leg Press

The leg press is a powerhouse exercise for building mass and strength in your legs. It’s a popular choice in the gym because it allows you to lift heavy weights with proper form and get the most out of your leg workouts. The leg press primarily targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, making it one of the nest leg exercises for bulking.

But, as with any exercise, proper form is essential when performing the leg press. To avoid injury and maximize your gains, follow these tips:

  • Adjust the seat to ensure that your knees are at a 90-degree angle when your feet are against the platform
  • Keep your feet flat against the platform and shoulder-width apart
  • Push the platform away from your body, exhaling as you extend your legs
  • Lower the platform towards your body, inhaling as you perform the eccentric or negative portion of the movement
  • Never lock your knees at the top of the movement, and avoid bouncing

Remember to always warm up before performing the leg press or any other leg exercise.

If you’re focusing on leg workouts for muscle mass and growth, consider using progressive overload. Increase the weight gradually over time while maintaining proper form to Challenge your muscles and help them grow. Here’s an example of a leg press workout that you can try:

ExerciseSetsRepsRest Time
Leg press48-1090 seconds
Barbell squats312-1560 seconds
Lunges312-1560 seconds
Seated leg curls312-1560 seconds

As always, adjust the weight and rep ranges to your fitness level and goals.

Power Up Your Glutes with Weighted Hip Thrusts

If you’re looking to round out your leg workout routine and target your glutes, the weighted hip thrust is your exercise! This move strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back and promotes overall hip health, making it a critical component of any well-rounded leg workout program

To perform a weighted hip thrust:

1. Start by sitting on the ground with your back against a bench and a barbell resting on your lap. 

2. Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, then drive through your heels as you raise your hips off the ground until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. 

3. Hold this position for a beat, then slowly lower your hips back down to the ground. 

4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

To progress this exercise, gradually increase the amount of weight you use or incorporate resistance bands or chains to increase the difficulty. You can also try single-leg hip thrusts or place your feet on an elevated surface to target your glutes from a different angle. You’ll be surprised how much of a challenge these slight variations can be. 

Take a Step Forward with Weighted Lunges

Weighted lunges target multiple muscle groups, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, making them an ideal choice for those seeking to pack on leg mass and strength.

To perform weighted lunges:

1. Begin by selecting a pair of dumbbells or a barbell that you can handle with control. 

2. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the weights at your sides. 

3.Take a large step forward with one leg, keeping your torso upright and your chest lifted. 

4. Lower your body down until your back knee almost touches the floor, and then push through your front heel to stand back up. 

5. Repeat on the opposite side to complete one rep.

There are several variations of weighted lunges that you can try to keep your routine fresh and challenging. For example, you can perform walking lunges, reverse lunges, or curtsy lunges. You can also add more resistance by increasing the weight you’re using or adding a plyometric jump to each lunge.

weighted lunges

When incorporating weighted lunges into your leg training routine, be sure to use proper form and a weight that challenges you without compromising your control. Aim for 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps per leg, resting for 60 seconds between each set. With consistent practice and progressive overload, you’ll be on your way to building powerful, defined legs in no time!

Incorporating Plyometrics for Explosive Leg Power

Wanna take your leg training to the next level? Consider incorporating plyometric exercises into your routine. 

Plyometrics are high-intensity, explosive movements that can help promote muscle mass and explosive power in the legs.

Popular plyometric exercises for the lower body include box jumps, jump squats, and bounding exercises. These exercises focus on explosive power and can help you develop speed, strength, and agility in your legs.

When incorporating plyometrics into your leg workout, it’s important to start slow and gradually increase the intensity over time. Begin with simple exercises, like jumping jacks or jump rope, and gradually work your way up to more complex movements.

It’s also important to perform plyometric exercises on a soft surface, like a gym mat or grass, to reduce the impact on your joints. Take frequent rest breaks and focus on maintaining proper form throughout your workout to minimize the risk of injury.

By adding plyometrics to your leg training routine, you can take your muscle-building efforts to the next level and develop explosive lower body power.

Utilizing Progressive Overload for Maximum Leg Gains

To build muscle mass in your legs, it’s important to use progressive overload in your leg workouts. This means gradually increasing the weight, reps, or sets of your leg exercises over time to stimulate continued muscle growth and prevent plateaus.

One effective way to implement progressive overload in your leg workouts is to focus on increasing the weight you’re lifting. 

For example, if you’re currently doing barbell squats with 100 pounds, try increasing the weight by 5-10 pounds each week until you reach your desired weight. This gradual increase will help your muscles adapt to the new stress, promoting growth and strength gains.

Another way to implement progressive overload is to vary the number of reps and sets you perform for each exercise. 

For example, if you currently perform 3 sets of 8-10 reps for your leg press, try increasing the number of sets to 4 or increasing the reps to 12-15. By changing up the volume of your workouts, you’ll challenge your muscles and promote greater muscle growth.

Remember to keep track of your progress and adjust your workouts accordingly. If you’re hitting your reps and sets with ease, it’s time to increase the weight or volume. However, if you find yourself struggling to complete your current workload, it may be time to decrease the weight or volume until you can build up your strength and endurance.

Progressive Overload StrategiesDescription
Increase WeightGradually increase the weight you’re lifting each week to stimulate muscle growth
Vary Reps and SetsChange the number of reps and sets you perform for each exercise to challenge your muscles
Track ProgressKeep track of your progress and adjust your workouts accordingly to continue making gains

The Importance of Proper Nutrition for Leg Muscle Growth

When it comes to building leg muscle mass, proper nutrition is just as important as exercise. Consuming the right foods and nutrients can help support muscle growth, enhance performance, and optimize recovery.

Protein is the most critical nutrient for muscle growth and repair. Aim to consume 1 – 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day, spread evenly across meals.

  • Good protein sources include:
    • Lean meats (chicken, turkey, beef, etc.)
    • Fish and seafood (salmon, tuna, shrimp, etc.)
    • Eggs
    • Dairy products (milk, cheese, Greek yogurt, etc.)
    • Plant-based protein sources (tofu, tempeh, beans, and legumes).

Carbohydrates are a critical energy source for muscle growth. Aim to eat complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Fats are essential for healthy hormone production and function. Consume unsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts, and seeds, limiting intake of saturated and trans fats.

Avoid processed and high-sugar foods, as they can negatively impact muscle growth and overall health.

proper nutrition for leg muscle growth

Top Nutrients for Leg Muscle Growth

NutrientFunctionFood Sources
ProteinBuilding blocks for muscle growth and repairLean meats, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, legumes
CarbohydratesEnergy source for muscle growthWhole grains, fruits, vegetables
FatsEssential for hormone production and functionUnsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds

Rest and Recovery: The Secret to Leg Muscle Mass

As much as we want to push ourselves during leg workouts to achieve maximum muscle growth, it’s important to remember that rest and recovery are just as crucial to getting those gains. Without proper rest, your muscles don’t have the chance to repair and grow, which can hinder your progress.

In fact, overtraining can actually lead to muscle loss and an increased risk of injury, so it’s important to give your legs the time they need to recover. This means taking at least one or two rest days a week to allow your muscles to fully recover from the stress of your workouts.

Quality sleep is also essential for muscle growth and recovery. During sleep, your body releases growth hormones that help repair and build muscle tissue. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep every night to ensure that your body is getting the rest it needs to promote muscle growth.

Make sure you’re stretching and foam rolling regularly to alleviate soreness and increase blood flow to your muscles. Additionally, fueling your body with proper nutrition, including protein and healthy fats, can also aid in muscle repair and growth.

Remember, rest and recovery are just as important as the actual workout when it comes to building leg muscle mass. Don’t overlook these crucial components of your leg training program, and you’ll see improved gains and overall performance.

Putting It All Together: Designing an Effective Leg Workout Program

When creating a workout plan with effective leg exercises for mass, it’s crucial to choose exercises that target each muscle group in your lower body. The goal is to pick exercises that foster both muscle growth and strength while minimizing the risk of injury.

I recommend incorporating 2-3 compound exercises and 1-2 isolation exercises in your leg workout program. 

Compound exercises such as barbell squats, Romanian deadlifts, and split squats target multiple muscle groups simultaneously, while isolation exercises such as leg curls and calf raises allow you to focus on a specific muscle group.

Volume and frequency are also important factors to consider. For beginners, I recommend starting with 2-3 sets of each exercise, gradually increasing the number of sets and reps as you become more experienced. Aim to train your legs 2-3 times per week, allowing for adequate rest and recovery time between workouts.

When designing your leg workout program, keep in mind the principles of progressive overload. Continuously increasing the weight, reps, or sets of your exercises over time can help to promote muscle growth and strength gains.

Finally, proper nutrition and adequate rest are crucial to support muscle growth and repair. Make sure to consume a balanced diet rich in protein and carbohydrates to fuel your workouts and provide your muscles with the nutrients they need to grow. 

Also, prioritize rest days and quality sleep to allow your muscles time to recover and adapt to the demands of your leg workout program.

By incorporating these strategies into your leg workout program, you can effectively target all muscle groups in your lower body and promote muscle mass and strength gains over time. So, get ready to sweat and start building those tree trunk legs!


What are the best leg exercises for mass?

The best leg exercises for mass include the barbell squat, Romanian deadlift, split squats, leg press, weighted hip thrusts, weighted lunges, and plyometric exercises. These exercises target different muscles in your lower body and are effective for building leg size and strength.

How do I perform the barbell squat correctly?

To perform the barbell squat correctly, start by placing the barbell across your upper back and shoulders. Lower yourself into a squat position, ensuring your knees track over your toes and your back stays straight. Push through your heels to raise yourself back up to the starting position. It’s essential to maintain proper form and avoid rounding your back or letting your knees cave in during the movement.

What is the Romanian deadlift and how can it help build leg mass?

The Romanian deadlift is a strength exercise that targets the hamstrings and glutes. To perform the Romanian deadlift, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the barbell or dumbbells in front of your thighs. Hinge at the hips, keeping your back straight, and lower the weight as far as your flexibility allows. Push through your heels to return to the starting position. The Romanian deadlift is excellent for developing strength and size in your lower body.

Why are split squats beneficial for leg mass?

Split squats are beneficial for leg mass because they target multiple muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. To perform a split squat, step into a lunge position with one foot forward and the other foot back. Lower your back knee toward the ground, then push through your front foot to return to the starting position. Split squats can be performed using bodyweight or with added weights for greater intensity.

How can the leg press help me build leg mass?

The leg press is a popular exercise for building leg mass because it allows you to load up the weight and target the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. To perform the leg press, sit in the machine with your back against the pad and your feet on the platform. Push through your feet to extend your legs fully, then lower the weight back down. It’s essential to maintain proper form, keeping your knees in line with your toes and avoiding locking out your knees at the top of the movement.

What muscles do weighted hip thrusts target?

Weighted hip thrusts primarily target the glutes, but they also engage the hamstrings and quadriceps. To perform a weighted hip thrust, sit on the ground with your upper back resting on a bench, place a barbell or a dumbbell across your hips, and drive your hips upward until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement, then lower back down with control.

Are weighted lunges effective for building leg mass?

Yes, weighted lunges are effective for building leg mass. Weighted lunges target the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. To perform weighted lunges, hold a dumbbell or barbell in each hand, step forward with one leg, lower your back knee toward the ground, and push through your front foot to return to the starting position. Weighted lunges can be performed as walking lunges or stationary lunges.

How can I incorporate plyometrics into my leg training routine?

Plyometrics can be incorporated into your leg training routine by adding explosive exercises such as box jumps, jump squats, and lunge jumps. These exercises improve leg power and muscle mass. It’s important to start with proper form and gradually increase the intensity and height of the exercises to avoid injury.

What is progressive overload, and how can I apply it to my leg workouts?

Progressive overload is the gradual increase in resistance, volume, or intensity of your workouts over time. To apply progressive overload to your leg workouts, you can increase the weight you lift, add more sets or repetitions, shorten rest periods, or incorporate advanced techniques like drop sets or supersets. Progressive overload is crucial for building leg mass and strength.

How does proper nutrition contribute to leg muscle growth?

Proper nutrition is essential for leg muscle growth. Consuming enough protein helps repair and build muscle tissue, while carbohydrates provide the energy needed for intense leg workouts. Additionally, healthy fats and micronutrients support overall muscle function and recovery. It’s crucial to maintain a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods.

Why is rest and recovery important for leg muscle mass?

Rest and recovery are crucial for leg muscle mass because they allow your muscles to repair and grow stronger. Without adequate rest, you increase the risk of overtraining, which can lead to muscle breakdown and hinder progress. It’s important to incorporate rest days into your leg training program and prioritize quality sleep for optimal muscle recovery.

How can I design an effective leg workout program?

To design an effective leg workout program, you should consider exercises that target all major muscle groups in the legs, vary your training volume and intensity, and prioritize progressive overload. Additionally, ensure proper warm-up, cool-down, and stretching to prevent injuries. It’s recommended to consult with a fitness professional or personal trainer to tailor a program that fits your specific goals and fitness level.




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