Leg Work: How to Build a Powerful Lower Body
Building a great body starts with building a strong foundation, accomplished by the development of the leg muscles.
Too often, gym goers skip right past the groundwork of a physique and go straight toward the glamour muscles of the chest and arms. However, from an aesthetic standpoint, who can really blame them. The upper body muscles get all the glory while legs are overlooked, not to mention lower body workouts are nothing short of grueling.
On the other hand if you are checking out memes on social media, there is nothing worse or funnier than seeing a buff guy with skinny legs.
From a functional standpoint the muscles of the lower body perform a number of functions at the hip, knee, and ankle joints respectively in addition to carrying around our upper half; thus, emphasizing the importance of having strong legs for the looks and also for functionality.
So before we dive right into the best lower body workout for men, let’s take a look at the anatomy of the lower body. Knowing lower body anatomy will help you maximize the results of your lower body workout. Let’s also take a look at some key tips to further your success.
Understanding Lower Body Anatomy and Tips for Workout Success
Made up of four different muscles, hints the name, the quadriceps is responsible for extending the knee and to a lesser degree flexing the hips.
Having a built upper body is fabulous, but pairing that with some monster quads is unforgettable. The best lower body workout for men just wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t include exercises for building your powerful quadriceps muscles.
However, getting those monster quads takes more than just throwing in some leg extensions at the end of a workout.
Note that there is a lot of overlap between exercises for the quads and exercises for other leg areas.
For example, squats are a great exercise for the quads, but it also highly engages the glutes and hamstrings.
Therefore, it is particularly hard outside of leg extensions to isolate the quads. However, there are a few tricks you can use to activate and target the quads more during those overlapping exercises.
Quad Building Tips: Narrow Stance and Elevated Heels
When performing compound lower body exercises such as the squat and leg press, an individual’s stance can change the emphasis of muscle activation through changing joint range of motion.
With a wider stance, the hips are more involved allowing the glutes and hamstrings to do the grunt of the work while having a closer stance limits hip activation and increases quadriceps activity.
Therefore, to emphasis the development of the quads, a narrow stance should be used when performing lower body exercises.
In addition to an individual’s stance, having an elevated heel or pressing through the balls of your feet also activates and engages the muscles of the quads.
The hamstrings span from your upper butt or ischial tuberosity down to the back of your knees.
When contracted, the muscles hamstrings are responsible for flexing the knee and to a much lesser degree extending the hip.
Impressive quads should always be matched equally impressive hamstrings not only for aesthetics, but for functional purposes as well.
As with the majority of leg exercises, there is some overlap between muscle groups.
When training the hamstrings, targeting the muscle from its origin and insertion leads to the well-rounded development of the muscle.
Hamstrings Building Tips: Origin Exercises
When it comes to working the hamstrings at their origin or from the butt down, deadlifts and their variations are king. Deadlifts are without a doubt one of the most effective exercises included in the best lower body workout for men.
Although conventional and sumo deadlifts target the glutes as well as the hamstrings, they allow for more muscular overload which in turn will give you tremendous hamstring growth.
Eliminating some of the glute work and shifting focus more towards the hamstrings can be accomplished by incorporating deadlift variations such as the straight leg deadlift and Romanian deadlift.
However, in order to completely isolate the muscles of the hamstring, it must be targeted from its insertion point.
Hamstrings Building Tips: Insertion Exercises
The two most available pieces to target the hamstrings at the insertion point are the seated and lying leg curl. Because the movement is initiated at the knee with the hip joint being fixed, it isolates the hamstring muscles allowing for one to target them specifically.
Another effective exercise to isolate the hamstring includes the use of a glute/ham raise machine. However, this is a specialty type piece of exercise equipment and is not found at many gyms.
The glutes should always be included in a sound leg workout as they are responsible for moving the hips.
Responsible for extending and abducting the largest joint of the body, the glutes are just as important in developing a strong lower foundation as well as helping to attract members of the opposite sex.
Fortunately, the glutes are inherently involved in many of the big leg compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, and leg press.
However, for isolative purposes, there are a couple exercises that only act at the hip joint.
Glutes Building Tips: Exercises Targeting the Glutes
At the top of the list, hip thrust and glute bridges are the most effective butt builders. Because they extend the hip joint, they target the largest of the glute muscles the gluteus maximus. In addition, these exercises allow the individual to lift more weight thus leading to a great amount of muscular overload and growth potential.
Besides glute bridges and hip thrusts, hip abduction exercises are another way to isolate the glutes which include both the gluteus medius and minimus. This movement can be accomplished use of hip adduction machines or with the use of bands by doing lateral band walks.
Comprised mostly of the muscles of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, these muscles are responsible for plantar flexion at the ankle joint, which means lifting up on your tippy toes.
Whether the individual has a straight or bent knee, determines which of these two muscles is being predominately engaged.
Seated calf raises target more of the soleus muscle while the gastrocnemius is the primary muscle used in standing calf raises.
In order to properly develop both the soleus and gastrocnemius, a combination of seated and standing calf exercises should be performed.
The Best Lower Body Workout for Men
Attempting to do all the different variations and exercises of the lower body in one workout would be flat out overkill. Therefore, I have created a workout plan with two different leg workouts.
A novice lifter may want to perform one leg workout per week alternating between the two while a more advanced lifter would benefit from doing both workouts within the same week.
The workouts begin with exercises meant to engage all the muscles of the legs and then progresses into more muscle specific exercises.
Best Lower Body Workout for Men: Routine #1
- Back Squats – 5 sets 5-8 reps
- Deadlifts – 5 sets 5-8 reps
- Narrow Stance Goblet Squats – 3 sets 8-10 reps
- Straight Leg Deadlifts – 3 sets 8-10 reps
- Hip Thrusts/Glute Bridges – 3 sets 10-12 reps
- Lying/Seated Leg Curls – 2 sets 12-15 reps
- Standing Calf Raises – 2 sets 15-20 reps
Best Lower Body Workout for Men: Routine #2
- Lunges – 3 sets 8 – 10 reps
- Sumo Deadlifts – 3 sets 8 – 10 reps
- Narrow Stance Leg Presses – 3 sets 10-12 reps
- Romanian Deadlifts – 3 sets 10-12 reps
- Leg Extensions – 2 sets 12- 15 reps
- Lateral Band Walks/Hip Abduction Machine – 2 sets 12-15 reps
- Seated Calf Raises – 2 sets 15-20 reps
The Bottom Line: Skipping Leg Day is a No-No
A buff upper body on top a pair of chicken legs is the result of neglecting the groundwork of your structure. Be sure to develop the framework of your physique by consistently training legs with a solid lower body workout routine. A structure is only as strong as its foundation and when it comes to your body; your legs are the strong base that holds it all up. I hope you found the best lower body workout for men helpful and wish you the best on leg day!