Best At-Home Leg Workouts for Men to Build Muscle


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Leg days are typically the most demanding for lifters—and also the most effective. Because you’re hitting some of the biggest muscles in your body, these workouts generate the greatest hormonal response, sending your testosterone levels through the roof. But if you don’t have access to a full gym—squat rack, barbell, plates, machines—you’ve got to get creative. You might not be able to build the kind of mass that, say, heavy squats and deadlifts create, but you can get some great conditioning and build muscle with at-home leg workouts.

 

 

For those reasons, it’s useful to make do with what you’ve got—even if it’s just free weights and a bench. What matters most is that you’re still training the lower body well, hard, and consistently. Try these at-home leg workouts on for size. Muster up some gumption, because these are killer.

Dumbbell squat
Dumbbell squat James Michelfelder

Workout 1: German Body Comp

Equipment needed: A pair of light and heavy dumbbells, and one medium-tension resistance band.

Directions: Perform as many trisets as possible in 40 minutes (if you can complete 7, that’s a great indicator of your overall fitness).

1A. Dumbbell Pause Squat x 6 reps: Hold the heavy dumbbells at shoulder level and stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly descend into the full depth of a squat (do a proper warmup so your hips are mobile). Pause at the bottom for 2 seconds, then return to the top position.
1B. Reverse Lunge x 12 reps per side:  Hold the lighter dumbbells by your sides, then lunge backward so both knees form 90-degree angles and back knee hovers just above the floor. Drive through heel of leading leg to rise. Alternate legs on each rep.
1C. Banded Leg Extensions x 25 reps: Come on all fours, then wrap a resistance band around the back of your knees and loop ends around wrists. Assume a bear stance by hovering knees off floor, then extend knees so legs are straight, working on contracting the quads to power the movement. Watch a video demonstration here.

Bulgarian Split Squat
James Michelfelder

Workout 2: Posterior Chain Attack

Workout needed: Heavy kettlebell, medium or heavy pair of dumbbells, and a workout bench.

Directions: This workout deals with supersets and compound sets to obliterate your posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings) in the best way.

1A. Kettlebell Swing x 25 reps
1B. Glute Bridge Walks x 10 reps each side: Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart. Keep arms at your sides, palms pressing into the floor. Raise hips off floor by pushing through heels. Step one foot out at a time, coming into a long-lever bridge, feet flexed and heels digging into the floor. Keep a soft bend in your knees (hyperextending can cause injury) and a posterior tilt (front of pelvis rises) to protect your low back. Move slowly. Watch a video demonstration here.

Perform as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 1 minute between rounds.

2A. Rear-Leg Elevated Split Squats x 10 reps each side:  Hold dumbbells by your sides, then place one foot back on a bench, laces down. Lower until front leg forms 90-degree angle, then drive through heel to return to start. Perform all reps on one side, then switch.
2B. Kettlebell Single-Leg Deadlift x 10 reps per side: *Before you add weight, master this with just your body weight first.* Stand with feet hip-width apart, then shift weight onto one foot. Hinge at hips and send your butt back, extending rear leg. Only lower as far as you can control, maintaining alignment from rear leg to hips, shoulders, and head. Keep a soft bend in your standing knee. Squeeze the glute of your standing leg to stand. Once that’s familiar, hold a moderately heavy kettlebell in the hand opposite the working leg (good if your hips tend to twist) or on the same side for a greater core challenge; hold a heavy kettlebell in both hands to work on unilateral strength.

Perform as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 1 minute between rounds.

3. Copenhagen Plank – 3 x 30-second holds each side: Position a bench or stool down by your feet (you don’t want it to be too tall since you’re performing an elevated side plank from your elbow). Lie on your right side, right forearm planted on the floor, inside of your left foot resting on the bench. Raise your body off the floor, supporting your weight with your left foot and right forearm. Switch sides after all 3 sets.

Rest 1 minute between sets.

Duck Walk
Duck Walk Jay Sullivan

Workout 3: Quadzilla

Equipment needed: none
Directions: This bodyweight workout is geared toward developing the front side of your leg (aka your quads). Perform straight sets, completing all sets for each exercise before moving on to the next. Rest for 90 seconds between rounds.

1. Foot-Overs – 4 x 10 reps each side: Sit with a kettlebell (or any object) by the inside of your right foot. Place your hands on the floor straddling this working leg. Engage your hip flexor and quad to lift your foot up and over the kettlebell. Complete all reps on one side, then switch. Watch a video demonstration here.
2. Shrimp Squats – 4 x 10 reps each side: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, then grab an ankle as if you were performing a quad stretch.  Extend your other arm out to counterbalance. Hinge at your hip and lower into a squat until your rear knee touches the floor. Drive through your heel to stand. Perform all reps on one side, then switch. Watch a video demonstration here.
3. Reverse Nordic Curls – 4 x 12 reps each side: Kneel on a mat (knees about hip-width apart for beginners, wider for advanced) with hips pushed forward. Begin the reverse curl by bending at knees and leaning torso back toward heels. Keep your core and quads engaged the entire time to maintain hip extension. Lower until you can no longer maintain control, then squeeze quads to return to start. If you’re heavier, use a resistance band to assist a greater range of motion; watch a video demonstration here.)
4. Duck walks – 4 x 20 meters: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hinge a little at hips and squat as low as you can (work toward getting lower and deeper as you progress). Position your arms out in front of you or behind your head for balance. Keep a proud chest and sink your weight into your heels as you slowly walk in the bottom of the squat.

Goblet squat
Goblet squat James Michelfelder

Workout 4: Mid-Range Madness

Equipment needed: Heavy kettlebell, Swiss ball, and a medium or heavy pair of dumbbells.

Directions: This workout takes advantage of partial ranges of motion to help ingrain technique and to give the lower body musculature twice the pump for each rep performed.

1A. 1.5-Rep Goblet Squat x 8 reps: Lower to the bottom of a full-depth goblet squat, then come up to the halfway point and pause for 1 count. Lower yourself again to full depth, then stand. That’s one rep. Watch a video demonstration here.
1B. Swiss Ball 2-1 Hamstring Curl x 8 reps each side: Lie face-up and rest your feet on the ball. Bend your knees 90 degrees, rolling the ball toward you by bending your knees, then remove one leg and perform a slow eccentric curl with the leg that’s left on the ball. Return to a two-legged stance for your next rep, and repeat. Watch a video demonstration here. Don’t have a Swiss ball? Put your feet on sliders or towels and work on a wood or tile floor).

Perform as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 90 seconds between rounds.

2A. Paused-Rep Romanian Deadlift x 10 reps: Perform a standard dumbbell Romanian deadlift, but add this twist: Pause on the way up at knee level for 2 seconds on each rep. This will add time under tension and enforce a straight spine and braced core.
2B. Pulsing Walking Lunges x 12 reps each side: Hold a kettlebell or two dumbbells and perform a classic walking lunge, but before making your next stride, pulse twice. This doubles up on the quad and glute activity and leaves your legs burning. Watch a video demonstration here.

 

Swiss ball hamstring curl
Swiss ball hamstring curl James Michelfelder

Workout 5: Contrast Training

Equipment needed: Heavy kettlebell and a pair of heavy dumbbells.

Directions: The goal of contrast training is to pair or group loaded movement patterns with similar patterns that are unloaded and explosive in nature. This will effectively train the fast-twitch muscle fibers and potentiate more power and strength.

1A. Heavy Goblet Squat x 10 reps
1B. Bodyweight Squat Jump x 10 reps: Give these jumps everything you’ve got. Try to use your whole squat depth and vertical jump capability on each rep, landing with soft knees for slow eccentrics into your next jump.

Perform as a contrast set for 5 rounds. Rest 90 seconds between rounds.

2A. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift x 8 reps
2B. Kettlebell Swing x 12 reps
2C. Standing Broad Jump x 10 reps

Perform as a contrast triset for 4 rounds. Rest 90 seconds between rounds.

3A. Dumbbell Split Squat x 8 reps each side
3B. Jump-and-Switch Split Squat x 8 reps each side

Perform as a contrast set for 3 rounds. Rest 90 seconds between rounds.

TRX glute bridge
TRX glute bridge Per Bernal

Workout 6: TRX + Lateral Plane

Equipment needed: TRX or suspension trainer, medium dumbbells or kettlebells, and workout bench.

Directions: You’ll be exercising in the lateral plane, making use of side-to-side training rather than just forward and backward. You’ll complete supersets and straight sets in this routine.

1A. Cossack Squat x 8 reps each side: Stand with feet very wide apart, holding dumbbells or kettlebells racked at shoulders. Turn left foot out so the back of the heel is on the floor, toes pointed up. Now squat on your right leg, keeping the right foot glued to the floor and left leg absolutely straight. Don’t lean forward. Ensure you open up your hips to maximize mobility before this exercise. Watch a video demonstration here.
1B. TRX Single-Leg Burpee x 8 reps each side: Start in a pushup position, and place left foot (laces down) into the strap of a TRX. Lift your right leg off the floor by 10-12 inches. Perform a pushup, then immediately thrust your right leg in toward your chest, driving hips forward, planting foot on the ground. Steady yourself on your right leg, stand up straight, then jump up, landing softly. Bend back down at your waist and reverse the motion, jumping back with your right leg, keeping your left off the ground, and bracing yourself as you meet the ground with both hands. Perform all reps on one side, then switch.

Perform as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 2 minutes between rounds.

2A. Rear-Foot Elevated Kang Squat x 8 reps each side: Set up as you would for a rear-foot elevated split squat, holding two dumbbells at sides. Perform a single-leg Romanian deadlift. At the bottom of the exercise, lower your knee into a traditional single-leg squat, shifting dumbbells back to your sides. Really emphasize the distinct hip hinge before descending into a split squat. The better you can segment this, the more you’ll attack your posterior chain. Watch a video demonstration here.
2B. TRX Glute Bridge x 15 reps

Perform as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 90 seconds between rounds.

3. Dumbbell Rotational Stepup – 3 x 10 reps each side:  Hold a dumbbell by its end at your chest and stand parallel to a workout bench. Step your right foot onto the bench, then pivot as you drive through foot to stand. Reverse the motion, rotating back to start position. Perform all reps on one side, then switch. Watch a video demonstration here.

Nordic curl
Nordic curl Justin Steele

Workout 7: Nordic Triset

Equipment needed: none (weight plate or dumbbell optional)

Directions: This three-move beast of a triset requires nothing but bodyweight and a place to secure your feet. Clock out 30 minutes and rest as long as needed after each triset. See how many rounds you can crack out in 30 minutes. Aim for 6 rounds.

1A. Eccentric Nordic Curl x 8 reps: Kneel on a mat or pad and anchor feet with a bench (or have a partner hold your heels down). Engage your core and glutes, maintain a tall torso, and don’t let your low back arch as you slowly lower yourself down toward the ground, slow and controlled for a count of three. Press your hands into the ground to propel yourself back up to the starting position.
1B. Nordic Curl Hip Hinge x 10 reps: From the same setup position described above, optionally hold a weight plate to your chest. Lean forward at knees to engage your hamstrings, then curl torso toward floor with or without weight. Watch a video demonstration here.
1C. Reverse Nordic Curl x 12 reps: Follow instructions from Workout 3.


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