effective compound exercises to build bigger legs

6 Compound Exercises to Build Bigger Legs: It’s Leg Day!

You can do many exercises to gain muscle, lose weight, or simply improve your fitness, and in this sense, it’s essential to strengthen the lower and upper body. Still, you probably know a friend who spends hours at the gym doing upper body workouts and completely neglects the leg day – and we’re on a mission to stop that!

Therefore, we decided to share 6 of the best exercises to help you get bigger legs. We will focus on compound exercises for the lower body, which can be done anywhere – with load or bodyweight – and work all muscle groups to ensure you have a complete and efficient leg workout. Are you ready? Let’s go, it’s leg day!

As always, we would like to remind you that if you have any kind of health problem, or come from a long period of sedentarism, consult your doctor or a personal trainer. The mechanics behind leg exercises may seem simple, but they can hurt you if you don’t know what you’re doing!

Why you shouldn’t skip the leg day

Let’s make it simple: when training your legs, you are strengthening the biggest muscles in your body. Stronger legs keep your body balanced and can improve your posture, besides boosting your performance for various physical activities – including even upper body exercises.

In addition, working your legs helps your body to increase the production of hormones directly linked to building muscle mass, such as human growth hormone (HGH), and testosterone. Lower body exercises can also help your body to increase cortisol levels – hormones responsible for responding to stress and fat metabolism.

Furthermore, the last thing you want is to realize that, over time, you’ve progressed on your fitness journey, but your upper body is much stronger than your lower body because you kept skipping leg days. Imagine that all the time and effort you put into building your upper body muscles will have to be applied again to strengthen your lower body. We are talking about months or years of hard work, so it’s not worth it!

Are compound exercises better for building bigger and stronger legs?

A scientific study has shown that free weight exercises induce greater hormonal responses to resistance exercise than machine weight exercises. Therefore, high-intensity free-weight compound exercises may allow your body to produce more hormones responsible for building muscle mass, strength, and fat distribution, among others.

Another advantage of compound exercises is that they engage different muscle groups simultaneously, which may help you stimulate more muscles in a single workout. Imagine that your current leg workout has an isolated exercise specific to your glutes and another for your quads, for example. We would be talking about 6 to 8 sets to stimulate these muscles. The difference is that by doing a squat – a compound exercise – you also stimulate the same two muscles with a single exercise.

The strategy of incorporating more compound exercises into your workout helps a lot, especially when you don’t have as much time to train!

The best compound exercises to get bigger legs

First, it’s important to mention that if you are at the beginning of your fitness journey or are not used to doing compound exercises, we highly recommend hiring a personal trainer. Compound exercises engage different muscle groups simultaneously, which can be more challenging than isolated exercises.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, get help from a professional. You should start slowly so that you always prioritize the quality of movement over the load.

Squats: Benefits, variations, and muscles worked

The main muscles engaged when performing a regular squat are your glutes, hip flexors, and quadriceps. It can also help to strengthen your core (abs and lower back), calves and hamstrings. Squats are exercises that continue to be effective even over the years, being one of the key movements for developing muscle mass and strength in the legs.

There are several options for squat exercises, and they are one of the most complete exercises in any leg workout – so it’s an excellent choice for muscle growth! Here are three variations of this move:

1. Barbell squats

barbell squat

The barbell squat will engage glutes, hamstrings, and quads and strengthen your core. To perform the exercise correctly, you should keep your legs shoulder-width apart, resting the barbell on your back, close to the traps. You should puff up your chest and engage your core to ensure your spine remains neutral and stable throughout the entire movement. The movement consists in bending your knees until they are parallel to the floor and pushing the weight up.

Remember to breathe and control the movement so your back doesn’t bend at any time!

2. Goblet squat

goblet squat

Because the weight is placed in front of the body, there is more engagement in the core and quads. During the exercise, you will also feel your core, arms and shoulders activated. You should position your legs wider than your shoulders and hold the dumbbell with both hands to perform this movement safely. Again, your spine should be in a neutral and stable position. You should bend your knees and lower yourself until the dumbbell touches the floor.

3. Kettlebell pistol squat

kettlebell pistol squat

This excellent one-sided exercise improves your hip mobility, balance, and stability. This variation will help you build solid glutes, quads, hamstrings, hip adductors, calves, and core muscles.

You should hold one kettlebell with both hands under your chin to perform it, lifting one leg and squatting down with the other. You should try returning to the starting position without touching the other leg to the ground, keeping your spine neutral and stable. It’s essential to pay attention to your posture and your breathing!

4. Sumo squat

This exercise will focus more on your hip adductors and abductors. The advantage of this variation is that many people can have more flexibility to perform the squat since there is a greater opening between the legs.

You should position your feet wider than shoulder width, holding the load in the same position as the barbell squat. You should bend your knees, lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor, and push yourself back to the start position. Make sure you breathe, and your spine is in a stable and neutral position.

Remember: You should never arch your back while squatting!

Deadlifts: Benefits, variations, and muscles worked

Deadlifts are another excellent option for leg compound exercises with free weight, especially engaging your hamstrings, glutes and back muscles. It also gives you a great core workout, a complete movement that will help boost your muscle gains while strengthening your body. Here are our favourite variations:

5. Barbell deadlift

barbell deadlift

It is an excellent option for beginners as it is the most straightforward deadlift variation to perform. We also like the barbell variation better because it seems easier to increase the load than dumbbells.

You should stand behind the barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart to perform this movement. Hold the bar firmly, placing your hands shoulder-width apart, bending your knees slightly and leaning your torso forward. Remember to keep your spine in a neutral position with a tight core. After leaning your torso, pull up until you get back to the start position, keeping your arms straight and squeezing your abs and glutes at the top.

You must keep the barbell close to your body the entire time!

6. Single-leg deadlift

You will feel your core and hips on fire to keep your body balanced! The logic of the movement is the same as the barbell deadlift, but this time, you will lean your torso while balancing your body weight on a single leg. Every time you lean your body forward (reaching a perpendicular position to the ground), you should lift one of your legs – keeping your spine in a neutral and stable position.

The key is to control the movement, so you shouldn’t arch your back!

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