<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://ct.pinterest.com/v3/?tid=f4de1632775725aa6fdc3fb6c132e778&amp;event=init&amp;noscript=1">
Muscle Growth, Resistance Training

Best Exercises to Grow Big Legs

By Shannon Cole on Sep 12, 2023 8:30:00 AM
5 Minutes Reading Time


Leg Day–you either love it, or hate it. Either way, we all know you can’t skip it!

There are so many exercises you can turn to for working your legs, that it can sometimes feel overwhelming. Do you only do free weights? Barbell work? Or are machines the way to go?

We also need to consider all the muscle groups that make up our lower body.

  • Quadriceps: Made up of four muscles, and their main actions include extending the knee and flexing the thigh at the hip joint.
  • Hamstrings: Made up of three muscles, and their main actions include flexing the knee and extending the thigh at the hip joint.
  • Glutes: Made up of four muscles, and their main actions include extending and abducting from the hip joint.
  • Calves: Made up of two muscles, their main action is to plantarflex the foot and ankle (plantarflexion is when we point or move our toes away from our body, while dorsiflexion is when we bring our toes in the opposite direction toward our shins). 

There are many other muscles that run from our torso through our pelvis that contribute to many other movements and stabilization patterns, but these are the main ones we consider when trying to grow our legs.

This article will break down the best exercises for each of the four lower body segments listed above.


  • Squat Variations

Nothing beats the squat when it comes to sculpting the lower body. This exercise works the entire lower extremity, with the quads being one of the main muscle groups activated throughout the entire movement. I personally recommend back squats, front squats, or narrow-stance squats (which puts less emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes compared to a traditional or wide-stance).

  • Walking Lunges

Lunges are a reliable exercise that activates the quads when you extend the knee as you stand up after each rep. With this in mind, prioritize knee flexion, which means taking shorter strides.

  • Bulgarian Split-Squat

To get the most out of your quads, work on flexing your knee past your toes when you lower down.


  • Deadlift Variations

Because you are extending the hips during this movement, deadlifts are the way to go to build your hamstrings. Popular variations include Romanian, sumo, and conventional.

  • Standing Leg Curl Machine

This is the one time I’ll recommend a machine. If you really want to isolate the hamstrings, this is a great exercise that prevents other muscles from firing during the movement.

  • Good Mornings

Another effective exercise that involves hip extension, I really like good mornings when they are done slowly so that it is easier to focus on proper muscle activation. 


  • Deadlift Variations

Deadlifts are one of those exercises that does wonders for the entire posterior chain, which includes the calves, hamstrings, glutes, lats, and erector spinae. I suggest experimenting with different variations, like wide-stance, snatch-grip, and even single-leg.

  • Hip Thrusts

If you really want to focus on just the glutes, look no further. There are other exercises that target the glutes, but barbell hip thrusts really allow you to lift a lot of weight, meaning you can really get some major muscle growth that other exercises can’t compare to. 


  • Calf Raises

This simple yet effective exercise can be done sitting or standing. One thing to consider is that sitting calf raises focus more on the soleus muscle, which is deep, or beneath, the gastrocnemius muscle. The gastrocnemius is the meaty part of the calf muscle we refer to most often, so I’d recommend standing calf raises over sitting.

  • Plyometrics

Jump-training, or plyometrics, which activates the gastrocnemius, has been shown to deliver substantial results in terms of muscle growth and power development.

  • Leg Press Calf Raise

I really like this exercise as just another option if you want to try something new to change up your exercise routine!

Of course, there are other factors to consider when trying to grow your legs. But these tried and true exercises will give you the best bang for your buck when it comes to executing a successful leg day.

Leg Muscle Development Guide

FREE Flat Tummy Guide


Free Resources

Everything You Need to Know to Reach Your Fitness Goals

Learn More

Shannon Cole

Shannon Cole is an ISSA certified personal trainer and lives in the Dallas area. She is a certified nutrition coach through NASM and NCI, and is currently pursuing her M.S. in Sports Science and Rehabilitation. After obtaining her B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication she eventually gravitated to personal training, and hasn't turned back since. Her passion for athletics and fitness initially stemmed from her high school years playing golf, and her love for the sport still hasn't faded; her career goal is to obtain her Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) certification and develop strength and conditioning programs for golfers. You can usually find her working out in her garage gym, or training for the next Spartan Race with her husband.

Read more from the Mind Pump Blog

Have a question for us?

Feel free to send us an inquiry and allow up to 24 hours for a response.

Contact Us