7 Most Effective Exercises to Get Bigger Legs

How to get bigger legs? That is the question…

Since you are reading this, it is safe to assume that you’re a skinny guy (or girl) who has just started lifting and is looking for ways to get bigger legs and bid farewell to those chicken legs.

Legs are one of the hardest body parts to train. 

When I first started lifting, I was one of the few that went too hard on leg day. In fact, I loved leg days so much that my legs became my best body part.

It got to a point where my lower body was significantly more developed than my upper half. Quads, hams, glutes, and calves – never were I branded “chicken legs”, and I’m here to help you avoid that too.

In this article, you will learn the fundamentals of leg training and all the important details about getting bigger legs.

get bigger legs

Why train your legs?

Training legs creates a massive anabolic response (a net gain in protein balance) that affects your whole body. 

Since it is a huge body part, it increases the release of testosterone and growth hormone that directly affects your muscle-building abilities.

Not only does it positively affect your legs but your whole body. Thus, lower body training gives you big legs and a big upper body. Now, that’s a win!

Leg training significantly improves your athleticism. 

Try and think of any sport where you won’t benefit from having powerful glutes, hams, or quads. Not even boxing is an exception to the benefits of leg training.

If you want to be bigger overall, faster, and stronger then getting thicker legs will help you get there.

Nutrition for Bigger Legs

You can never develop bigger legs without optimal training and nutrition. Training provides the stimulus and nutrition is essential for a proper response.

In training, we essentially try to break down a muscle. After the workout, the initial recovery process signals the body to adapt to the “beating”. 

How? It tells the body to repair the muscles and make sure they are bigger and stronger than before so they can take yet another beating session.

With proper nutrition, we give the body the proper tools aka nutrients to repair the muscle. It plays a huge role in gaining quad, hams, glutes, and calf mass; not to mention overall muscle growth.

When you provide incomplete tools, the body won’t be able to properly respond to the stimulus. Hence, you’d be stuck chasing your tail and not progress at all with regard to your leg development.

We lift heavy weights to force an adaptation. That adaptation manifests itself as bigger and stronger leg muscles

Since the goal is to gain muscle mass on those pencil-thin legs of yours, you must be in a caloric surplus. This means you must consume more calories than you need.

For the best chance of gaining muscle over fat in the course of your bulk, you should get at least 40% of your calories from protein from meats, eggs, or plant-based sources such as tofu and lentils. 

The rest can be filled in with calories from carbohydrates and fats, depending on your preference.

A study on off-season bulking showed that getting around 40% of your calories from protein is most ideal for maximizing muscle gain and minimizing fat acquisition. 

The Four Lower Body Parts You’ll Train

Your leg muscles are divided into four divisions: the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

The part most people focus on is the quadriceps or quads. This is, simply put, the “four-headed” muscle in the front of your thigh. They are in charge of extending the knee or keeping your legs straight.

The hamstrings are the back part of the thigh. Similar to the function of the biceps on your arms, they flex the knee joint or bend your leg.

The glutes rotate, adduct, and abduct your femur at the hip joint. They straighten your legs at the hip.

Lastly, the calves are for plantar flexion or simply, getting on your tippy-toes.

quadriceps, hamstrings
glutes, calves

What You Need to Know Before Getting Started

Since you are a beginner to leg workouts, what we want is to hit every single one of those above-mentioned muscles in a single training session.

Plus, since they are bigger muscles, you must be mentally prepared to take on significantly heavier weights. 

To get through a brutal leg day, mindset is key. 

Leg training will require more from you than any upper body workout will.

The training movements will be divided into two movements: push and pull. 

Primarily, your quads and calves require push movements. Your hams require pull movements. And, the outlier is the glutes, which can be trained with push and pull movements.

We will have main lifts, these are compound movements that use more than a single leg muscle. And, we will have accessory lifts, these are more focused movements.

For the main lifts, we’ll be using the squat, leg press, and Romanian deadlifts as key movements.

For accessory lifts, leg extensions, leg curls, calf press, and glute bridges will be our go-to.

So, we have a total of about 6 movements. And before you complain, six movements are enough.

What we want is to stimulate, not annihilate your leg muscles. So, the most important thing is to do them properly to get the most out of each set.

Do not ego lift. Pick a weight that you can do for 6-10 repetitions. 

This rep range is ideal for both strength and size development.

 It lets you lift at an intensity enough to have you learn the proper technique as well as still provide the much-needed tension on your leg muscles for optimal stimulation.

The Exercises and How To Do Them

Squats

We will be using the most popular variation of the squat, the back squat. From the name itself, the bar will be resting on your upper back while your arms hold them in place.

This targets the quadriceps primarily. At the bottom of the movement, you then recruit the glutes to get “out of the hole”. Use a squat rack for this.

Unrack the bar and take a couple of steps back. Keep a neutral spine. Before descending, brace your abdomen, this is not the same with the arch your back cue that some coaches teach.

Arching your back creates tension and a lack of core stabilization which creates a weak kinetic chain. It opens you up to a myriad of potential injuries if you are not careful.

In the descent, hold your breath while bracing to create intra-abdominal pressure that helps you stabilize the movement.

When your thighs are parallel to the floor, push up while keeping the same position. Exhale slowly yet forcefully by pursing your lips. Repeat this and stop one rep short of failure.

squats

Romanian Deadlifts

It is best to use the dumbbells with this one. Using a straight bar will recruit more of the lower back, and that is not our target muscle now, is it? 

Dumbbells help you feel or place the tension more on the hamstrings and glutes, which is where we want the lifting to occur. 

With the dumbbells brushing over your thighs, bend your knees just slightly. Here, you will already feel tension on the back of your thighs.

Keeping the angle of the knee bend the same, slowly lower the weight by bending at the hips. This now loads your glutes.

Keep lowering the weight until you feel maximal tension or tightness, then stop. Never let the iron touch the floor.

From that dead-stop, flex your hamstrings to lift the weight back up. It is important that you feel your hams flexing or tightening. If done incorrectly, you’ll feel it on your lower back.

Romanian Deadlifts

Leg Press

This probably does not need much explaining. But let me give you some important cues.

First, do not lower the weight-sled so much that your butt lifts off of the pad. When that happens, you are removing tension aka work from the quads. 

What we want is to keep constant tension on the muscle so we get the most activation.

Next, never fully straighten your legs on this machine. If the weight is heavy enough, it can bend your knees in a way it is not supposed to. As a result, you can dislocate your knee joint on this exercise.

As far as foot placement, having your feet higher and close together on the footpad biases the glutes. 

Having your foot lower biases the quads. Since we are using this as a main lift, find the middle spot and spread your feet shoulder length apart so we hit both quads and glutes.

Leg Press

Leg Extensions

Any gym worth their salt will have a leg extension machine. Come on now, don’t be scared to ask that jacked and bearded-up gym bro which machine it is if you don’t know.

The best tip for this one is how you seat. 

Scoot a bit forward on the machine’s seat until your knees are not supported by it anymore. This allows you to get the biggest stretch possible on your quads while doing the movement. 

Loaded stretched movements equal high muscle activation.

Unlike the leg press, you can and should fully extend or straighten your legs on this exercise. Remember to lower the weight slowly and never lose tension throughout a set.

Leg Extensions

Leg Curls

This machine will most likely be beside the leg extension machine. Whew, no need to approach your gym crush to find out which leg torture device it is.

This machine usually positions you in a prone or standing position. 

The leg pad should rest slightly above the ankle or below your gastrocnemius muscle, your calf. This lets you get the best leverage and, therefore, have your hamstring working in the best position.

Leg Curls

Glute Bridges

You can do this with either a machine or free weights like a barbell, dumbbell, or a weight plate. 

Make sure your gym crush is looking when you do this movement… or not; I don’t want to assume the dynamics of your relationship. Anyway, this is a glute-dominant movement.

With this lift, you simply put weight on the crease of your hips while facing the ceiling. Make sure your back is propped up on a bench and your legs are bent.

Then, thrust the weight towards the ceiling; your back should now be parallel to the ground and your knees bent 90-degrees. Hold it for a second then lower it slowly.

Glute Bridges

Calf Press

This is the simplest leg movement to grow the most underdeveloped muscles we’d see on any fitness bro or sis – the calves.

If using a machine, simply slip under the shoulder pads and tip-toe off of the floor. The same goes with using free weights. 

The important part is to lower the weight slowly. 

Then, at the bottom of the movement, initiate the lift slowly so you don’t rely on the elastic effect of your Achilles tendon which will defeat the purpose of this exercise.

If you are wondering why I took so much time explaining the movements, remember this: Intensity builds density.

You can only perform an exercise with the right intensity when you know the proper way to do the movement.

And when you can lift intensely and intently, you can effectively stimulate and, hence, build dense slabs of muscle on your chicken legs.

Calf Press

The Workout Plan

ExerciseSetsReps
ABack Squat46-8
BRomanian Deadlift48-10
C1Leg Extension38-10
C2Leg Curl38-10
DGlute Bridge48-10
ECalf Raise58-10
*C1 and C2 are supersets. This means you perform the second exercise immediately after the first with no rest.

There it is, a simple leg workout routine for you to do once a week. Yes, once a week. Again, the aim is to stimulate the muscle enough to promote growth, not to annihilate it into oblivion and backtrack on progress.

Having a week off helps the muscles recover better and fully, then be ready for the next leg-thrashing workout.

This training advice and routine is only half of the information you need towards bigger, thicker, and chunkier legs.

 I know your eyes are probably tired but read on. The other important half is below, I’ll keep it short this time.

Pre and Post-Workout Nutrition for Bigger Legs

In every meal, you must have a protein source. This is needed to keep your muscles “fed” so they can recover quickly. Protein is the single most important factor for muscle growth; so, keep that in mind.

Pre-training, it’s best to consume a high-carbohydrate meal or mass gainer shake. Since legs are a huge body part, you will definitely need full stores of muscle glycogen to be able to finish the workout.

Even when broken down into the four components, they still are comparatively large. Hence, they will use up a large amount of glycogen in a single training session.

Post-training, your muscles are depleted of glycogen. This means you are also depleted of energy to optimally recover from the workout and energy to go about with your other tasks for the day.

Thus, you must also consume carbohydrates along with your protein source. A steak and rice meal would be a nice reward for being able to finish a brutal leg day. 

If you’re pressed for time, you can also drink a couple of scoops of your preferred mass gainer.

The Bottom Line

Let’s face it, gaining mass in your legs, especially one that makes people’s jaws drop in awe, is no simple feat. 

But if you do achieve this, then not only is your body more anabolic and primed to build muscle overall, you will also be better at any sport you play.

I hope that with this article you would be able to bid goodbye to your weak, frail, and skinny lower body and build juicier, stronger, and muscular legs.

Lastly, if you want a quick way of getting in your indispensable combination of protein and carbs, then you should definitely get a mass gainer. 

Check out my top picks of mass gainer reviews for skinny guys so you can pick which one will work best for you and your fitness goals.

Imad Deryan

My name is Imad, and I struggled to gain mass in the past due to my metabolism and being very skinny. In this blog, I share the best reviews and advice when it comes to gaining weight and mass, for all the people that are struggling like I was.

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