7 Best Leg Workouts for Mass

A lot of exercisers neglect their legs. They don’t train them hard enough or often enough to develop impressive lower bodies. That’s a shame because, while demanding, lower body workouts are crucial for building a pleasing physique.

So, what are the best leg workouts for mass?

When it comes to leg training, there are many exercises to choose from, and some are better than others. As a rule, the best leg mass builders tend to be compound exercises, which means they involve lots of muscles working together. In contrast, isolation exercises involve far fewer muscles.

The best leg mass exercises also allow you to lift heavy weights in relative safety. It takes heavy weights to build muscle, and safer exercises are always preferable because you can’t train when you are injured.

There are barbell, dumbbell, machine, and even bodyweight exercises that can help you build bigger, stronger legs. However, it’ll take more than the occasional leg workout to beef up your lower body. Instead, you’ll have to commit to the process and dedicate 1-2 training sessions per week to working your legs, and a missed workout is a missed opportunity for growth.

Things like your diet and getting enough sleep will also affect your progress. After all, your muscles need rest and the right nutrients to recover and grow.

In this article, we reveal seven of the best leg workouts for mass to help you on your way.

7 Best Leg Workouts For Mass

What Muscles Make Up the Legs?

Your body is made up of over 600 muscles, many of which are in your legs. While you don’t need to know all their names, it’s worth having some knowledge of the main ones. That way, you’ll have a clearer idea of which exercises do what, and that will help you choose the best movements for your fitness goals.


This is the muscle group on the front of your thighs. There are four quadriceps muscles; rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius. Known as the quads for short, this group of muscles extends your knee.


Located on the back of your thigh, your hamstrings flex your knee. There are three hamstrings; biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus.

Gluteus Maximus

Known as the glutes for short, this is basically your butt muscle. The glutes extend your hip and are the largest and potentially the strongest muscle in the human body.

Hip Adductors

The collective name for the muscles on the inside of your thigh, including adductor longus, brevis, and magnus. They are responsible for drawing your legs inward and together.

Hip Abductors

Located on the outside of your hips and thighs, these muscles lift your leg out and away from the midline of your body. The main hip abductors are the gluteus minimus and medius, and the tensor fascia latae, or TFL for short.

Triceps surae

The name used to describe the two calf muscles; gastrocnemius and soleus. These muscles work together to point your toes, which is a movement called plantarflexion.

If you want to build bigger, more muscular legs, you need to pay attention to all of these muscles.

7 Exercises to Increase Leg Mass

With so many exercises to choose from, selecting the best leg exercises is no easy task. But we’ve managed to whittle down our choices to come up with a list of the seven best mass builders.

1. Squats


Squats are arguably the best exercise for bigger legs. They involve all of your lower body muscles, placing emphasis on your quadriceps. You can do squats with the barbell on your upper back (back squats), across the front of your shoulders (front squats), with dumbbells in your hands, or with a barbell held overhead (overhead squats).

How to do it:
  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, and toes turned slightly outward.
  2. Push your hips back, bend your knees, and squat down until your knees are bent to 90 degrees or more. Do not round your lower back.
  3. Stand back up and repeat.

2. Leg presses

If squats have a disadvantage, it is that they can be hard to master. They require good flexibility and balance, and some people find them hard on their lower back. Leg presses involve a similar movement but are much easier to learn.

How to do it:
  1. Sit on the leg press machine and place your feet on the footrest. They should be between shoulder and hip-width apart. Unrack the weight.
  2. Bend your knees and lower the weight. Do not allow your lower back to round.
  3. Drive your feet into the footplate and push the weight up. Stop just short of locking your knees. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

3. Romanian deadlifts


This free-weight exercise will add mass to your glutes and hamstrings. It’s also a great lower back builder. You can do Romanian deadlifts with dumbbells or a barbell. It can also be done using just one leg, which makes it much more challenging.

How to do it:
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and your knees slightly bent. Hold your chosen weight in front of your thighs.
  2. Without rounding your lower back, push your hips rearward and lean forward, lowering the weight down the front of your legs. Do not round your lower back.
  3. Push your hips forward again, stand up, and repeat.

4. Bulgarian split squats

This challenging exercise works one leg at a time. This ensures both of your legs are trained equally. Bulgarian split squats, also known as rear foot elevated split squats, are useful for improving hip mobility and balance too.

How to do it:
  1. Stand with your back to an exercise bench. Bend one leg and place your foot on top of the bench. Hop forward, so you are in a split stance.
  2. Bend your legs and lower your back knee down toward the floor. Descend as far as your flexibility allows.
  3. Stand back up and repeat.
  4. Do the same number of reps on both legs.
  5. Make this exercise harder by holding dumbbells in your hands.

5. Real barbell hack squats

While most gyms have a hack squat machine, the original barbell version of this exercise is arguably better for building more leg mass. After all, it’s named after a famous wrestler and strongman called George Hackenschmidt, who was famed for his massive legs.

How to do it:
  1. Load a barbell and place it on the floor behind you. It should be about 7-9 inches off the floor. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
  2. Squat down and grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip. Your palms should face backward.
  3. Without rounding your lower back, stand up and pull the barbell up the back of your legs.
  4. Set the weight back down and then repeat.

6. Pistol squats

Pistol squats are an advanced bodyweight exercise that can help add mass to your legs without the need for training equipment. They’re ideal for home exercisers and anyone who prefers not to lift heavy weights. As well as being good mass builders, pistol squats are also useful for developing better balance and flexibility.

How to do it:
  1. Stand with your feet together. Shift your weight over onto one leg.
  2. Squat down and extend your non-working leg out in front of you for balance. Reach forward with your arms for the same reason.
  3. Stand back up and repeat.
  4. Try to do the same number of reps on both legs.

7. Deadlifts


Deadlifts work your entire lower body with an emphasis on your glutes and hamstrings. Deadlifts are a powerful exercise that allows you to lift heavy weights. This makes them ideal for building serious leg mass.

How to do it:
  1. Place tour barbell on the floor. Ideally, it should be mid-shin height or about 7-9 inches off the floor. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes under the bar.
  2. Bend down and grab the bar with an overhand or alternating grip. Your hands should be around shoulder-width apart.
  3. Straighten your arms, drop your hips, brace your abs, and arch your lower back slightly.
  4. Extend your legs and stand up, pulling the bar up your legs. Stand up straight but do not lean back as doing so increases the strain on your lower back.
  5. Lower the bar back down the floor and repeat.


If you’ve got questions about leg training, we’ve got the answers!

How many times a week should I train my legs for mass?

Because the legs are such a big muscle group, training them can be exhausting, and leg workouts take a lot of time to recover from. Because of this, most people should train their legs once or twice per week, and never on consecutive days.

If your leg workouts are too grueling, try training your quadriceps on one day and your hamstrings another day. This allows you to “divide and conquer” and will make your leg workouts more manageable.

How quickly can I build leg mass?

The muscles that make up the legs are highly trainable and will grow if you work them hard and often enough. However, it’s impossible to say how quickly you’ll build leg mass because there are lots of variables to consider. Those variables include:

  • Nutrition – does your diet support the muscle-building process?
  • Sleep – are you getting enough?
  • Genetics – are you naturally muscular, or are you slim?
  • Gender – men usually build muscle faster than women
  • Age – muscle growth tends to be slower for older people

However, providing you train hard, eat well, and get plenty of rest and sleep, you should see changes in your leg size reasonably soon after you start training them seriously.

What sets, weights and reps are best for building leg mass?

The most commonly recommended workout parameters for building leg mass are:

  • 6-12 reps per set
  • 2-4 sets per exercise
  • 3-5 exercises per workout
  • 67-85% of your 1RM (moderate to heavyweights)

While you can train outside of these ranges from time to time, you’ll get better results if most of your workouts are within these guidelines.

Are leg extensions and leg curls good for leg mass?

Leg extensions and leg curls are single joint or isolation exercises. Leg extensions work your quads, while leg curls focus on your hamstrings. While both exercises can be demanding, they are not as good for building mass as the compound exercises we’ve listed in this article.

That doesn’t make them bad exercises, and they definitely have their uses. But, for building mass fast, compound exercises are always best.

Will doing cardio make my legs bigger?

While you’ll undoubtedly feel your legs working during cardio, the resistance is usually very low. After all, you’ll probably do your chosen cardio activity for 30 minutes or more. This means they are not very useful for building muscle mass.

In fact, doing too much cardio could stop you from building muscle. Heavy strength training causes muscle catabolism or breakdown, and your muscles get bigger when you rest and recover. Adding lots of cardio to your workouts could interfere with recovery.

So, no, cardio won’t make your legs bigger and could make them smaller if you do too much of it.

Bottom Line

Like a lot of things that are worth achieving, building leg mass is far from easy. It’s going to take time, dedication, determination, and sweat to beef up your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

But every workout you finish and every painstaking rep you complete will take you a step closer to your goal.

There is a reason that so many gym-goers have underdeveloped legs; they’re put off by the work needed to increase their leg mass. That’s why good leg development is so appreciated. People in the know understand what it takes to build an impressive lower body.

Build your leg mass workouts around the seven exercises listed in this article. Work your legs hard, be consistent, and eat and sleep like a pro. In time, you too will have legs you can be proud of.


Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for a fitness qualifications company. In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos.

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