exercises for leg day

A true leg day, with the appropriate exercises and intensity, separates the contenders from the pretenders.

A true leg day separates the walkers from the talkers.

And a true leg day will decisively reveal what type of lifter you are and what type of resolve you have.

During a true leg day workout, you are guaranteed to face some adversity.

I’ve witnessed some lifters, who had the look of a contender, get badly exposed as a complete pretender in the midst of a brutal leg day.

I’ve witnessed some lifters talk about how tough they are only to quit 3 sets into a real leg workout.  That is the absolute definition of fake hustle.

What Makes Leg Day So Hard?

Leg day is so hard because lower body exercises are infinitely tougher than upper body exercises.

Weighted dips are a phenomenal exercise, but in no universe are dips tougher than barbell squats to the bucket (deep below parallel).

Weighted pull-ups are also a great exercise, but in no universe are they harder than doing barbell bulgarian split squats.

No matter how hard your upper body workout is (our upper days at The Center are demanding) they will always pale in comparison to your lower body workouts.

What You See Is Not Always True

A true leg day will be punishing.

But a lot of the “leg day” workouts you see littering your social media feeds are a complete exercise in deception.

These are just some of the moves and things you typically see in the current generation of social media “leg day” workouts:

1) Partial, bad form squats with too much weight.

2) Half-rep lunges where the back knee doesn’t touch the ground.

3) Quarter rep leg presses with way too much weight.

4) Bands on everything to build a big bubble butt (bands have their place in the game, but they are not the entrée).

5) An over reliance on easy lower body moves like leg extensions, leg curls, and hip adductions/abductions.

6) “Workouts” that lack intensity and purpose.

7) “Workouts” that focus on taking selfies instead of doing real work.

8) An emphasis on bad movement selection during workouts.

The only folks who can get some benefit from these farcical workouts are the lifters who are on the juice.  

The Best Exercises For Leg Day

The best exercises for leg day are the ones that will not only improve your lower body, but also strengthen your mental toughness.

The lower body exercises presented today will be divided up by the muscle group.  

Your legs contain your quadriceps, your hamstrings, your glutes, and your calves.

The vast majority of these exercises will hit multiple muscles at once.  But I will list an exercise under the category of the muscle it typically hits the hardest.


Barbell Hip Thrusts
• Bulgarian Split Squats (barbell or dumbbell)
• Hip/Back Extensions (barbell or dumbbell)
Reverse Lunges (barbell or dumbbell)

Glutes (Non-Gym)

Sprinting (flat surface or hills)


• RDLs
• Glute Ham Raise
• Deadlifts (conventional and sumo)
Hip/Back Extensions (barbell or dumbbell)

Hamstrings (Non-Gym)

• Sprinting (flat surface or hills)


Barbell Hack Squats
• Barbell Squats (below parallel and can also be done with the safety bar, cambered bar, or buffalo bar)
• Walking Lunges (barbell or dumbbell) 
• Bulgarian Split Squats (closer stance)
• Roman Chair Squats
• Sissy Squats
• Low Prowler Walks Or Low Prowler Sprints


• Standing Calf Raises (with a safety bar in a power rack or on a standing calf machine)
• Seated Calf Raises 

True Leg Day Workouts

If you want to build real strength and bigger legs, the first step is to stop following these gimmick social media workouts.

These Instaworkouts are going to lead you straight into the dustbins of fitness oblivion.

I have provided a 3-week workout program to get you started below.  You can follow this program for two training cycles (3 weeks on/1 week deload).

The lifting split can be:

Training Cycle 

Day 1-Lower Body

Barbell Squat 3 x 7/5/3

Wk1: 3 x 7 
Wk2: 3 x 5
Wk3: 3 x 3

Barbell Hack Squats SS Barbell Hip/Back Extensions 3 x 10/8/6
Barbell Hip Thrusts SS GHR 2 x 8
Seated Calves 4 x 12

Day 2-Upper Body and Medium Sprints

Incline Barbell Press SS Weighted Hammer Grip Chin-Ups 3 x 7/5/3

Wk1: 3 x 7 
Wk2: 3 x 5
Wk3: 3 x 3

Flat Dumbbell Press SS Rack Pulls 3 x 10/8/6
EZ Bar Skullcrushers TS EZ Bar Curls TS Lateral Raises 2 x 8

6 x 80m

Day 3-Lower Body

Barbell Bulgarian Split Squat 3 x 7/5/3

Wk1: 3 x 7 
Wk2: 3 x 5
Wk3: 3 x 3

Safety Bar Squat 2 x 10/8
Barbell Hip Thrusts SS GHR 2 x 8
Seated Calves 4 x 12

Day 4-Upper Body And Medium Sprints

Standing Overhead Press SS Chest To Bar Chin-Ups 3 x 7/5/3

Wk1: 3 x 7 
Wk2: 3 x 5
Wk3: 3 x 3

Seated Overhead Press SS Chin-Ups 3 x 10/8/6
Weighted Dips SS Incline Dumbbell Curls 2 x 8
Dumbbell Pullovers SS Lateral Raises 2 x 10-12

100m x 1 
120m x 1 
150m x 1 

Rest Times:

• For your sets of 3 x 7/5/3 rest 30-45 seconds between moves and 2-2:30 minutes between sets
• For your split squat sets of 2 x 10/8 rest 60-90 seconds between legs and 2-2:30 minutes between sets
• For your sets of 3 x 10/8/6 rest 30-60 seconds between moves and 2-2:30 minutes between sets
• For your sets of 2 x 8-12 rest 30-45 seconds between moves and 1:30-2:00 minutes between sets
• For your calf raise sets of 4 x 12 rest 1 minute between sets


• You should leave only 1-2 reps in the tank on your exercises.  Each set should be hard.
• These sprinting workouts are not designed for speed development.  You will sprint after you lift to maximize your fat loss efforts.
• You can perform these sprinting workouts on the track, a turf field, or a hill.  Using the treadmill doesn’t count.
• If you are unfamiliar with sprinting, please read my article or download my sprinting eBook.
• Your speed in the sprinting workouts should the best effort you have available.  I don’t expect you to emulate Usain Bolt, but I also do not want you jogging.
• TS is tri-set.


If you truly want to find out what type of lifter you are and what type of mettle you have, it’s time to consistently do these leg day exercises.

Not only will you build mental toughness, but you will also build some impressive wheels.

Overall, muscle building is a difficult process, but you truly have to earn your leg muscle.

Trust me, you don’t want to live your life looking like Johnny Bravo walking around on a pair of flimsy stilts!

I’ll holla at you next time.
The People’s Trainer,

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Fitman! I came across your channel to learn abt sprinting and I found a landmine of info. For ex right here- I didnt know the barbell hack squat was considered a serious lift for the quads! Boutta experiment with that real soon.

    You got a new follower brother! Peace

    • Nate,

      1) Thanks for your comments, observations, and your follow. I truly appreciate that!

      2) I’ve been using the barbell hack squat for over a decade. I have found that the barbell hack squat hits your quads harder than any other quad exercise. It is a smooth movement, can be used with multiple rep ranges, and has a great loading potential. It is the quad builder!

      • I just experimented with them earlier tonight… they are unholy on the quads like no other movement, especially the eccentric. This will be a major compound staple in my training from now on.

        Never seen 1 coach prescribe them as a serious strength/hypertrophy builder until now. Good looks man.

        • 1) The eccentric is absolutely dastardly and especially near the end of a hard set. Unholy is right because there is absolutely nowhere to rest or run during the movement!

          2) Barbell hack squats are criminally underrated for strength and growth. I emphatically recommend them for any lifter (who has no serious knee issues) who is looking to add beef to their quads.

          Thanks for reading!


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