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Muscle Building Home Leg Workout

Updated on December 15, 2011

Make those Quads Burn

This is a workout out intended to increase muscular size, strength and endurance for all the muscles of the upper and lower legs. It is simple enough to do with a basic set of weights at home and a place to do step-ups. The idea is to “sculpt” the legs with slower motion, approximately 2 seconds up and 2 seconds down. Explosive movements have their purpose, but not here. Throughout the movement you should concentrate on feeling the muscles working. :

Exercise Equipment

Whether you are a beginning, intermediate or advanced trainee, it does not take a lot of equipment or fancy machines to give your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calf muscles an intense workout. If you do not have a set of barbells and/or dumbbells, you can do this routine with just your body weight, but eventually you will need to add weight to continue progressing.

All you need is a standard or olympic set of barbells or dumbbells. It doesn't even have to be both, and it certainly does not have to be new. Some examples are below, but I recommend checking Craigslist or the local classified ads for used equipment or sales. Not always, but sometimes there are some real bargains.

You will also need a place to 'step-up' on. It should be high enough to put the brunt of the exercise on the quadriceps, but not so high that your knee is placed beyond a 90 degree angle. For me, a couple of 8" tall cinder blocks or the edge of the bathtub works great, and this ends up being about 16-18 inches tall.

Steppin' Up with proper form.
Steppin' Up with proper form.

The right way; less strain on the knee

The wrong way-the knee is too vulnerable

Finish and step down with back leg

The Workout

Warm up. It is essential to warm up to prevent injuries no matter what your age. Period. There are lots of ways to do this, but I prefer rotating every joint in my body and doing some light biking. Alternatively, start very gently with the following routine:

-Swinging arms quarter squats to a deeper position every 10-20 reps, repeat two to three times.

-Body weight squats (to parallel) x 25

-Side Lunges ("speed skaters") x10-15 each way.

Then do:


-Step-ups (using body weight, dumbbells or barbell, least amount of foot assistance as possible.)

Do these on your cinder blocks, a strong stool, side of bathtub, etc. Maintain the 90 degree angle of the knee to the torso. Remember, any more will overly stress the knees. Less of an angle, such as on a lower step is fine, as long as it is not so low as to re-direct emphasis to the calves. 

Beginners, 2 sets of 12-20 (more assist from ‘dormant’ leg).

Intermediates: 3-4 x 20, 12, 6 (minimal ‘dormant’ leg assistance), 12.

Advanced: 5 x 20, 12, 6, 6, 12.


-Back Squat + Stiffed Legged Deadlift (* If you do not have a barbell, use kettlebells, dumbbells or long resistance cables. If no weights, grab some gallon milk or water jugs, water softener salt, rocks, your child, you get the idea…and yes I’m being serious! Lighter weights will just mean more and stricter reps for the time being.)

Do these two exercises back-to-back. To eliminate wasted time moving from one exercise to another, set up a pair of dumbbells to move to following the back squats.

Beginner: 2+2 x 12/12, 12/12.

Intermediate: 3+3 x 12/12, 12/12, 8/8.

Advanced: 4+4 x 15/15, 10/10, 8/8, 6/6.

 **For stiff legged deadlifts, keep knees ever so slightly bent and move with a slow and smooth motion. The hamstrings are emphasized on this exercise and easily injured with jerky/fast movements.

Beginners finish this workout with Toe Raises holding the barbell on your back, or the dumbbells at your sides. Do 2 x 15-20 repetitions. If necessary, drop the weight and use the edge of a step or curb. Holding the weight steady, raise up onto the balls of your feet and lower. That's 1 repetition.

Intermediates do 3 sets of Toe Raises for 15-20 and super-set with split jumps for 5-10 between each set.

 Advanced do 3-4 sets of Toe Raises 15-20 and superset between each set with box or squat jumps. Do as many as possible until they are not explosive.

Advanced trainees may want to add more volume to the workout, in which case they can do:

Lunges: 4x12 each. I prefer these with dumbbells at my sides, mainly because my balance is terrible when I lunge with a barbell on my back! For an added challenge, hold the dumbbells overhead in a locked out position and perform walking lunges.

If you have the time, a good way to cool down from this workout is to go for an easy 10-15 minute bike ride or brisk walk. It's always a good idea to stretch for several minutes and drink lots of water after a workout as well.

Start off slowly and do a thorough warm-up before adding intensity. Maintain perfect form for every exercise. If the form is sloppy, you're risking injury and the muscles are not getting maximum benefit.


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