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Squats, Leg Press, Hack Squats, Knee Extensions, Hamstring Curls, Stiff-legged Deadlifts

Standing, Seated, Donkey, Calf Press

Legs, for some reason everyone hates the dreaded leg workout, but love it or hate it, it's got to be done, or you will become one of those "UBO" (Upper Body Only) types.  That said, I actually enjoy training legs, there's no other bodypart that allows you to move as much weight.  Intense leg workouts also have a synergistic effect on the whole body and cause growth hormone and endorphins to be released, benefits all the muscle groups.  Rule number 1: DON'T PUT OFF YOUR LEG WORKOUTS!


Squats:  The king of leg exercises, this works all the muscles in the upper leg and indirectly, most of the upper body muscles too!

One rep:  Start in standing position with a barbell across your shoulders and feet slightly apart.  Always look straight ahead or slightly up to force your back straight and slowly bend the knees until you are in a squatting position.  Take a deep breath and push down with your feet thrusting yourself back to the starting position, letting your breath out in the top third of the motion.  Keep control of the weight at all times.  Remember not to look down (very important).

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Leg Press:  These are the next best to squats and can be done in the same workout or as an alternative, if squats for some reason bother you.

One rep:  Place yourself in the leg press machine with your feet slightly apart (foot position may be varied from close to wide and up and down).  Lift the platform (sled) off the supports, turn the supports out of the way and slowly lower the weight until your knees touch your chest.  Take a deep breath and push the weight hard away from you letting your breath out in the top third of the motion.  Do not use momentum and do not lock your knees at the top of the lift.

See video here!

Hack Squats:  These really isolate the quadriceps muscles, and they do a number on your glutes (butt) too.  These are kind of like a "reverse leg press".

One rep:  Position yourself in the hack squat machine with you feet a little bit forward and slightly apart (foot position may be varied as in leg press).  Lift the weight off the supports and move the supports out of the way.   Let your body drop slowly until you are in a deep squatting position, take a breath and push back to the starting position letting out your breath in the tip third of the motion.

Knee Extensions:  These isolate the quadriceps muscles (front of thigh) and are best used at the end of a workout to finish off the legs.   Not recommended if you have knee problems.

One rep:  Sit down in the machine with the foot pad hitting  just above your instep.  Straighten your legs (kick them out) and let them come back down slowly.

Hamstring Curls:  These work the back of the upper leg and can be done on the same day as the "quads" (front of upper leg) or on a different day.  Sometimes after a good quad workout there is no energy left for anything else.  There are 3 basic types of machines for this which are lying, seated, and standing.

One Rep:

Lying:  lie on your stomach on the machine with your ankles under the padded rollers.  Hang on to the handles at your sides and lift the weight by bending your legs at the knee.  Bend your legs all the way up, then slowly lower back down.

Seated:  Sit in the machine and adjust it so your legs are fully extended (but not locked out) on the padded roller and the other pad is firmly pressed into your thighs.  Bend your legs as far as they, or the machine will go and let them return to the starting position slowly.

Standing:  These are done one leg at a time.  Press your thigh against the pad and hook your ankle under the padded roller and bend your leg, at the knee, as far as possible and return to the starting position.   These are the least effective of the three.

Stiff-legged Deadlifts:  These hit the hamstrings a different way from leg curls and are a good compliment to them.

One rep:  Stand in front of a loaded bar with your feet just under it.   Bend the knees slightly and bend forward at the waist gripping the bar in a over/under hand grip (one hand over, the other under, this prevents the bar from rotating out of your hands).   Keeping your head up and your back tight, straighten up to a standing position pulling your shoulders back at the top.   Lower the bar the same way, just touch the floor and lift again.  It's a good idea to stare at a point on the wall in front of you and keep your gaze there throughout the lift.



Calves are one of the most neglected bodyparts but are extremely important for overall balance.  No matter how big your quads are, if you don't have calves you don't have legs!  There are 3 main exercises for calves and all involve the same motion, which is to point the foot, or raise you up on your toes.  The exercises are:

Standing Calf Raises:  The overall best exercise for calves, if you only do one, make it this one.

One Rep:  Stand in the machine with the pads on your shoulders and just the ball of your foot on the block.  Set the level so you have to bend a bit to get under the pads.  Straighten your body lifting the weight up a few inches, this is the starting position.  Raise yourself up on your toes, squeeze for a second and lower yourself back down.

    If you don't have a calf machine you can do these in a power rack standing on a block with a barbell on your shoulders, as in a squat.  Lean forward letting the bar slide along the rack for balance.  If you don't have a rack, or don't want to scratch yours, you can do one-legged standing raises on a step holding a heavy dumbbell in one hand and balancing yourself with the other.

Seated Calf Raises: 

One Rep: Sit in the machine with your toes (or the balls of your feet) on the block and the padded bar on your thighs.   Lift the weight using your calves and remove the support.  Lower the weight as much as possible and raise it again.
    If you don't have a seated calf machine you can sit on a bench with your feet on a block.  Place a barbell across your knees (you can use padding or a piece of wood to rest it on) and do calf raises from there.

Donkey Calf Raises:  These can be done two ways, one with a machine or with your partner sitting on your back.

One Rep: (machine)  Place you toes on the block,  bend over forward, and  slide your rear under the pad.   Keep the pad as low as possible on the back,  just enough so it won't slide off.  Adjust the machine so your legs are bent about 6 inches at this stage.   Straighten your legs and lower your calves all the way, then raise back up.

Leg Press Calf Raises (Calf Presses):  These are very similar to standing but are done in a leg press machine using the angled portion at the bottom of the platform.

One Rep:  Sit in the leg press machine and position your feet at the very bottom of the sled with your heels hanging off the edge.  Straighten out your knees and lower your calf all the way.  Keeping the legs straight (not quite locked) Push with your toes to raise the weight, squeeze at the top of each rep and go as heavy as you can.

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