Leg exercises work the gluteal muscles (the muscles that makeup the buttocks), the quadriceps (the large muscle group on the front of the upper leg), the hamstrings (the large muscle group on the back of the upper legs), and the calves (the muscles on the back of the lower leg).

Leg exercises are separated into four primary categories.[1] The first category includes leg exercises that work the quads, hamstrings, and glutes altogether. The second category includes quadriceps specific exercises. The third category includes hamstring specific exercises. The fourth category includes calf specific exercises.

Combination Exercises to Work the Quads, Hamstrings, and Glutes

The squat is one of the primary leg exercises for building both size and strength in the legs. With a proper and full range of motion, the squat works the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Most of the leg exercises that work quads, hamstrings, and glutes are variations of the standard squat with the exception of the dumbbell lunge.

  • Squat
  • Front Squat
  • Hack Squat
  • Smith Machine Squat
  • Machine Leg Press
  • Dumbbell Squat
  • Dumbbell Lunge

Quadriceps Specific Leg Exercises

  • Machine Leg Extensions

Hamstring Specific Leg Exercises

  • Machine Leg Curls
  • Standing Leg Curls
  • Straight Leg Deadlift

Calf Specific Leg Exercises

  • Calf Machine Raises
  • Seated Calf Raises
  • Calf Press on Leg Press

Exercise InstructionsEdit


Steps to perform the squat[2][3]

  1. Grab the bar with a medium grip. Put your feet directly under the bar, get under it and put it between your traps and rear shoulder muscles (“low bar”). Chest up, upper-back tight.
  2. Unrack the bar by Squatting up. Take one step back with one leg, one with your other leg. Stand straight with your knees and hips locked for maximum stability. Keep your upper-back tight.
  3. Take a big breath, hold it and Squat. Do this by pushing your knees to the side and your hips back and down. Squat until you break parallel – your hip crease must go below the top of your knee.
  4. Hold your breath at the bottom. Don’t stop but quickly reverse the movement by driving your hips straight up. Keep your knees out, your chest up and your upper-back tight.
  5. Lock your hips and knees at the top. Exhale and rest a second. Then take a big breath, hold it and Squat your next rep. After your fifth rep, rack the weight by stepping forward.