If your goal is to have strong, firm and defined legs, you should bet on the exercises that work the lower body muscles. It is possible to acquire muscle mass in the legs in a short period of time. But what is the magic formula? It is simple. Increase the intensity of your legs workout. According to an investigation disclosed by the Journal of the Applied Physiology, increasing intensity in extension exercises develops muscle mass in the quads in a short amount of time (3 weeks).
Your workout plan (choice of exercises, number of sets and reps) should meet your goals and your recovery ability.
If your goal is to acquire strength, you can choose to do 3 to 6 reps per set, with about 4 or more sets per exercise.
If you goal is to increase muscle mass, you can choose 6 to 12 serious reps, with about 2 or more sets per exercise. When you perform these exercises, do it slowly and in a controlled way, always using an adequate load to your physical condition. However, try to progress gradually increasing the weight and/or the number of reps throughout the time.
With this exercise you will work the quads and the tibialis anterior.
How to perform: Sit on the equipment and place your feet under the rolls. Your legs should form a 90º angle with your knees. Lift your legs until your knees are extended. Get back to the initial position.
If your feet are faced up, every part of your quads will be worked equally. If the feet are facing down, you will be emphasizing the internal quad. If the feet are facing outwards, the muscle you will work out the most will be the external quad. Take a 30 – 60 second break between sets.
Position: lying down
With this exercise you will be working the hamstrings, glutes and calves.
How to perform: Lie down on your tummy and place the heels under the machine rolls. As you lift the rolls, bend your knees and take your knees to your buttocks. Slowly, get back to the initial position and repeat the process.
The positioning of your feet will determine the area you will be working. By placing your feet forward you will be exercising every thigh muscle. If they are positioned outwards, the aim will be the outer area of the hamstrings. Take a 30 – 60 second break between sets.
With this exercise you will be working your quads, glutes, hamstrings and adductor muscles.
How to perform: Sit down, put your feet on the platform and keep your feet shoulder-wide. They should form a 90º angle with the knees. Push the platform with your feet but don’t extend or bend them too much to avoid injuries. Get back to the initial position, pushing your knees towards the thorax.
To work the calves, put the tip of your feet in the low part of the platform with your ankles turned outwards. Keep the torso straight, extending the quads and knees. If you put your feet on the top part of the platform, you will be working glutes and hamstrings. To work the thigh you should place your feet shoulder-wide. If you separate your feet you will work the internal quad area, adductor muscles and the sartorious muscle. In case you choose to keep your feet together, you will be working the external quad area and the adductors. Take a 30-60 second break between sets.
With this exercise you will be working the quads, glutes, adductor and the soleus.
Stand straight facing your back to the bench. Put the barbell over your shoulders and hold it on the sides. Extend one leg backwards and support the upper part of your foot on the bench. Keep the torso straight during the squat.
How to perform: Perform the squat bending your knee and the front leg’s quad ‘till the knee of the leg that’s in the back almost touches the floor. The front part of the knee should point in the same direction as the tip of the toe throughout the movement. Get back to the initial position, extending the quads and the leg knees onwards until you stand. Repeat and switch legs.
READ ALSO: 10 useful tips to develop the calves
With this exercise you will be working the quads, essentially.
Standing, place your feet shoulder-wide. Hold on to a bar or somewhere else where you can hold on to. Keep the waist and the quads straight and aligned when you perform the movement. The knees should be in the same direction as your feet. If you want to increase difficulty, hold a dumbbell or a disc against the chest.
How to perform: Bend the knees to allow your body to fall back as your knees go to the front. Let your heels go up and down as you stand on your tiptoes without letting them touch the ground. Get back to the initial position, extending the knees as the heels come back from the ground and repeat the movement.
Exercises with ankle straps
These exercises will work the quads and the inner and outer thigh.
Sit on a bench and lift one leg at a time, simulating a kick. To perform this exercise (standing) you should bend your leg back, touching your thigh with your calves. Take a 30-60 seconds break between sets.
Exercises with an elastic band
Exercises with an elastic band have the same effect as exercises performed at the leg press machine, adductor or abductor. Hold the elastic with your hands and place your feet on top of them, extending and bending the knees, as if you were pushing the platform. To perform adduction and abduction exercises, strap each tip of the elastic to the ankle and, sitting in a chair, do the open/close legs movement like you to in the machine. Take a 30-60 second break between sets.
Stand on your feet and on the tip toes on top of a step. Hold a barbell over your shoulders, behind your neck.
How to perform: Get on your tip toes and slowly push your heels down. Perform the movement slowly. Take a 30-60 second break between sets.
O.R. Sevnnes, M. de Boer, M.V. Narici, Early skeletal muscle hypertrophy and architectural changes in response to high-intensity resistance training, Octobre 12, 2006, adaptation of the original version
Shannon Clark, 5 Intense Exercises For Strong, Shapely Legs and Glutes!, February 12, 2009, adaptation of the original version
Greg Zulak, You’ve Got To Squat – If You Want To Muscularize Your Thighs Fast, April 19, 2006, adaptation of the original version
n/d, Treino de pernas, n/d, adaptation of the original version
n/d, Agachamento Sissy, n/d, adaptation of the original version