The following 14 leg exercises for men are separated into multiple categories. The first category includes complete/complex leg exercises that work the quads, hamstrings, and glutes altogether. The second category includes quad specific exercises. The third category includes hamstring specific exercises. The fourth category includes calf specific exercises.
All leg exercises include accompanying demonstration videos. For specific pre-designed workouts that fit your schedule view EMG’s Workout Routines for Men. Below the exercises and infographic, find four leg workouts as well as links to EMG’s other muscle specific guides.
Page Table of Contents
- 1 Leg Exercises for Men
- 2 Leg Exercises Infographic
- 3 Leg Exercises Video Playlist
- 4 Pre-Designed Leg Workouts
- 5 Additional EMG Exercise Sets
Leg Exercises for Men
Complete/Complex Leg Exercises for Men
The squat is one of the primary leg exercises for building both size and strength in the legs. With a proper and full range of motion, it works the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. The typical stance for a squat is slightly wider than shoulder-width. The user may angle their toes outward and use a wider stance if working the inner part of the leg is desired. Users must be very careful when performing the squat, as it is very easy to be injured when performing it. A key aspect to pay attention to is to not round the back at any point in the exercise. A good technique for assuring not to round your back is to keep your head back and look toward where the ceiling meets the wall throughout the motion. Another key aspect is keeping balance through this exercise. To help with balance, the user should keep his weight on his heels. To test this, the user should be able to wiggle his toes easily at any time during the squat. The typical stance for a squat is slightly wider than shoulder-width.
The dumbbell squat is a variation on the squat. It is one of the leg exercises that may be preferred by those with back problems or those who do not have access to a squatting rack. Unlike a regular squat where the weight is supported across the upper back and shoulders, the weights used on the dumbbell squat are limited by the dumbbell the user can hold. It is not recommended to use straps to do heavier weight; if heavier weight is desired, a regular squat should be performed. Because of the weight discrepancy, the dumbbell squat should be performed at a slightly higher rep range, though not much more, since it is still a strength exercise.
The front squat is a variation on the squat. This exercise takes the weight off of the user’s back and puts it across the upper chest and shoulders. The benefit to this switch is that the weight no longer bears down directly on the spine. This is beneficial to more than just those with existing back pain. The front squat also works the quads more than a regular squat. The one downside to the shift in weight position is that the glutes and hamstrings are worked less than the squat.
Smith Machine Squat
The smith machine squat is a variation on the squat. What makes the smith machine squat more appealing to some users is that it limits the risk of injury when performing leg exercises. One of the risks of performing a squat is that the user will lose the weight either forward or backward. Since the smith machine controls the weight during the movement, the user does not have to worry about balance. This control can also allow the user to get deeper into the movement, really hitting the hamstrings and glutes. There are two downsides to performing a smith machine squat. The first is that the rigidity of the motion may be uncomfortable for less flexible users. The second, as with all smith machine exercises, is that the stabilizer muscles are not being worked because the machine is controlling the horizontal movement of the weight.
Machine Leg Press
The machine leg press is one of the primary size and strength building machine leg exercises. It primarily works the quads. It also secondarily works the hamstrings and glutes. The degree to which these secondary muscles are worked depends on how deep the user lets the weight come. The longer the range of motion on the machine leg press, the more the secondary muscles are worked. As with the squat, the typical foot position is shoulder width apart with the toes pointed forward. This foot position may be varied to change the way the muscle is worked. A wider stance works the inner muscle more. The feet may also be moved upward if the user wants the machine leg press to put more focus on the quads. This exercise comes in two variations. The first involves pressing the foot plate away from the user to move the weight stack while the other involves pressing on the foot plate to move the backrest. Both variations work the muscle in the same way.
The hack squat is a variation of the squat. Similar to the front squat, this exercise shifts the weight so that it is not bearing down directly on the spine. This exercise therefore works the quads more than it works the hamstrings and glutes. The user may also move the feet forward in order to work the quad around the knee more.
The dumbbell lunge is one of the more complete and diverse leg exercises, working the quads, hams, and glutes in one motion. In order to work all this muscles, a full range of motion must be reached. It is not recommended to touch your knee to the ground unless you are starting off with very light weight. The impact of slamming your knee into the ground can be painful and could risk internal injury. While the dumbbell lunge is most often by stepping forward and then returning to the starting position, this exercise can be varied by walking forward with the weights until the number of reps are completed or until a set distance is reached.
Quad Specific Leg Exercises for Men
Machine Leg Extensions
Machine leg extensions are one of the few quad specific leg exercises. The machine leg extension is more of an isolation exercise than a squat or machine leg press. Your knee should align with the movement point of the machine. The pad should be resting on the front of your leg just above the ankle. If the back pad is adjustable, adjust it so that when you lean back, your whole back is flat against the pad with your butt on the seat. Either grip the handles on the side of the seat or lower the weight if need be.
Hamstring Specific Leg Exercises for Men
Machine Leg Curls
Machine leg curls are one of the staple leg exercises that works the upper hamstrings, as well as the glutes at the top of the motion. This exercise allows users to isolate the hamstrings. Though commonly performed using both legs, the exercise may be done one leg at a time, depending on the user’s flexibility or if one leg is overworking the other. Those with low back problems should be careful when performing this exercise. The stretch of fully extending the legs, coupled with having to pull the weight back up from that position can cause pulling in the low back.
Standing Leg Curl
The standing leg curl is one of the hamstring leg exercises that works the whole hamstring, in addition to the glutes at the top of the motion. It is performed one leg at a time. This machine is often more user friendly for those with bank injuries than the machine leg curl. There is usually less pressure on the low back because you are standing and not stretched out as much as on the machine. The standing leg curl usually involves putting weight plates on, meaning that the user will be physically moving the weight, rather than using a cable to pull it as with performing it on a machine.
Straight Leg Deadlift
The straight leg deadlift is one of the more advanced hamstring leg exercises. It can be used to add size, strength, and explosive power in the hamstring muscle. A shoulder-width stance with the feet pointed forward should be used. While this is a power movement to be performed with heavy weight, it is still important to control the motion throughout and be sure not to overextend the low back at the top of the motion. It should not be performed by those with low back injuries. Hamstring exercises such as the machine leg curl or the standing leg curl should be used instead.
Calf Specific Leg Exercises for Men
Calf Machine Raises
The machine calf raise is one of the common leg exercises for working the calf muscle. Using a machine distributes the weight differently than a plate loaded press, so back pain should be alleviated. The typical stance for a machine calf raise is shoulder-width, with the toes pointed straight forward.
Calf Press on Leg Press
The calf press is one of the primary leg exercises for building size and strength in the calf muscles. This exercise can be formed on a variety of machines. A common place to perform them is the leg press because of the back support provided and the ability to do very heavy weights. The leg press will have safety latches on either side. While these have to be disengaged to perform a leg press, given the short range of motion involved in a calf press, they can remain in place. This provides an extra level of safety when performing the exercise with high weights. This exercise is usually performed with a shoulder-width foot position, with the toes pointed straight ahead.
Seated Calf Raise
The seated calf raise is one of the simplest leg exercises for the calf. It is usually performed with a shoulder-width foot position, with the toes pointed straight ahead. The difference between the seated calf raise and a calf press is how the weight is distributed across the leg. With a press, the calf is having to press the weight out directly. With a seated calf raise, the weight is distributed across the knees, preventing any other body part from helping the calves move the weight.
Leg Exercises Infographic
Leg Exercises Video Playlist
Pre-Designed Leg Workouts
Leg Workout #1:
|2. Dumbbell Lunges||5||10 per Leg|
Leg Workout #2:
|1. Hack Squat||4||10-12|
|2. Leg Press||4||10-12|
|3. Straight Leg Deadlift||3||10-12|
Leg Workout #3:
|2. Straight Leg Deadlift||3||10-12|
|3. Machine Leg Extensions||3||12-20|
|4. Machine Leg Curls||3||12-20|
Leg Workout #4:
|1. Machine Leg Press||3||10-12|
|2. Machine Leg Curls||3||12-20|
|3. Machine Leg Extensions||3||12-20|
|4. Standing Leg Curl||3||15 per Leg|
Additional EMG Exercise Sets
- Back Exercises for Men
- Bicep Exercises for Men
- Chest Exercises for Men
- Shoulder Exercises for Men
- Tricep Exercises for Men
- Lower Back Exercises for Men
- Circuit Training Workouts for Men