Leg Day Athletic Workout
Updated: Aug 11
Did someone say Leg Day? RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!
Don't be that person, ever! Leg day for men should be as religiously sacred as chest and arms days are. Women, on the other hand, have no issue with Booty, I mean, Leg day.
Nobody wants to have Hulk's upper body and look anorexic from the waist down. You'd look like you came straight out of Cartoon Network.
So, If you've exhausted your quiver of exercises and are looking for something fresh, or if you're looking to shock your leg muscles back to life, read ahead. I've tailored a complete athletic workout that will surely get you out of your rut.
WARNING: if you're a beginner, do the variations on each exercise. Don't let your ego get in the way. Exercise smartly and safely.
Let's Review The Checklist
Keep proper form while doing all the exercises. Do not sacrifice form. Keep your ego in check. Trust me, progression yields results. Ego yields injury.
Building on the advice above, make use of the progressions provided with each listed exercise.
If you value your safety and progress, never skip the warm-up and the cool down.
Don't workout on an empty stomach. This is not a fasted cardio workout. Make sure that your last meal was around two-hours prior to exercising.
First things first: Warm-up
You shouldn't have a say in this one. Warming up the target muscles before you tackle the body of your workout is essential for a safe and effective training session. I cannot stress this enough.
Warming up pumps the blood and oxygen, and loosens up the muscles and the joints. If you start lifting heavy weights with a muscle in a resting state, you increase your risk of injury and tightness in that muscle.
To get you ready for a leg day, follow along with this list of warm-up exercises:
jog in place for 30 seconds
jumping jacks for 30 seconds
Slow-paced high-knees for 30 seconds
scissors for 30 seconds
Lunges with a twist, 10 on each leg
Lateral lunges, 10 on each leg
Hurdles, 10 on each leg
Quad stretch (3-second hold on each side for 5 reps each)
Front to back leg swings, 10 on each leg
Dynamic pigeon stretch (3-second hold on each side for 5 reps each)
Leg day exercise 1: Deadlifts
Usually, the posterior chain gets overlooked due to the simple fact that we can't see those muscles while facing the mirror. However, those muscles play a major role in different biomechanical aspects such as maintaining our posture. Therefore, we start with a deadlift.
This could be a barbell deadlift or a trap-bar deadlift, the way I like doing it. If you're going with the barbell, there are two possible variations:
The conventional Deadlift: Toes facing forward, legs shoulder-width apart, back straight with a slight anterior pelvic tilt (push your butt out instead of tucking it in). Hinge at the hips to knee level. Grip the bar and drive upward harnessing the power from the hips (drive up with your glutes and hamstrings instead of your lower back, thank me later), drop it down slowly and with control, repeat.
Sumo deadlift: In a sumo squat position (legs a bit wider than shoulder-width, toes pointing outward), back straight with a slight anterior pelvic tilt, hinge at the hips to knee level. Grip the bar and drive upward harnessing the power from the hips, drop it down slowly and with control, repeat!
The difference between the two techniques lies within the emphasis on certain leg muscles: sumo deadlifts stimulate the quads more which leads to better quad development while the conventional deadlift is more demanding on the spinal erectors.
If you're doing it on the trap bar, you follow the same steps of a conventional deadlift. The trap bar deadlift alleviates a lot of the tension on the lumbar region of the back that is caused by the conventional and the sumo deadlift. So, if you've got lower back issues, this variation might be best for you.
Rest: 2-3 minutes between each set
The rep range aims to build strength in the legs. That translates into loading the bar with a higher weight volume than what it is necessary for 10 reps. Rest is crucial for maximum strength. If you feel like 2 minutes isn't enough, take as much rest as needed to fully recover between sets.
If you're a beginner, you should start with a weightless bar. The barbell/trap bar weighs 45 lbs. The same rules apply.
Leg day exercise 2: Bulgarian squats dumbbell jump-overs
You're like "Bulgarian dumbbell jump... What?". It's easier than the name suggests. Placing 2 dumbbells a couple of inches apart (where you can land comfortably in between them without knocking them over), get in a Bulgarian squat position. Using the momentum generated from your arms, jump over the dumbbells laterally as explosive as possible bringing the knee up to your chest in the process.
This exercise should enhance your explosiveness and power in your lower body. The side-to-side jumps, contrary to a normal Bulgarian squat jump, work your stabilizers as you jump laterally, open up your hips, and boost your change-of-direction abilities.
rest: 90-120 seconds
Depending on your current skill level and injury history, you can choose from the following three variations:
Bulgarian split squats: Same exercise, except we're taking the explosiveness and the rotational element out of it. One leg on top of a surface (increasing range of motion), bend the knee of the leg that's doing the work until it's parallel to the ground, then push yourself up through your heels. Depending on how far out the knee of the leg that's doing the work is, the load can either be more emphasized on the quads (knee driving forward), or on the glutes and hamstrings (knee not driving past the toes).
Walking lunges: In a standing position, take a step forward, bend the knee of the leg that's forward and, as you push back up with your heel planted on the floor, step the other leg upfront. Repeat the movement for 12-15 reps on each leg.
Reverse lunges: If you have a knee injury or knee pain, this is the variation you should go with. Instead of stepping forward to perform the lunge, step backward.
Leg day exercise 3: Barbell hip thrusts
Another great exercise for the posterior chain. Not to be confused with glute bridges. The latter is performed with the back laying on the floor and thrusting the hips up. The hip thrusts are performed with an elevated back.
Lay your upper back on the edge of a bench, a stack of aerobic steps, or any about-knee-height elevated surface.
With bent legs and vertical chins, place a loaded bar on your hip bone (place a towel underneath if you feel that the bar is causing discomfort)
Thrust your hips up forming a bit over a 90-degree angle between your chins and hips. Make sure to squeeze your glute muscles at the top of the movement.
Go down to your initial position slow and in control feeling the eccentric part of the movement
Should you have an angle wider than 90 degrees, you might feel the hamstrings working a little harder.
Should the angle be less than 90 degrees, you might feel the quads working a little harder.
rest: 60-90 seconds
For this exercise, I'll be listing two variations:
Hip thrusts: either without the barbell (if you're just starting out or coming out from a rut) or with just a barbell (if you can easily do a set of over 20 reps without it)
Glute bridges: without any added weight or with just a barbell.
Leg day exercise 4: Balance Pistol squats
This is an advanced exercise for advanced trainees. In order to perform this exercise with impeccable form, you should have good balance and an extended range of motion, which you should've developed when you started your training journey.
I, for instance, do not have the range of motion and for that, I hold on to something on the eccentric part of the movement.
The point of this exercise is to further include single-leg training into the mix just like with the Bulgarian squats dumbbell jump-overs. Those two exercises would reveal which side is weaker so you could focus on those weaknesses for a balanced and symmetrical body.
Here's how to execute this exercise safely:
Stand on one leg on the Bosu ball and extend the other leg forward
Keeping your heel planted on the Bosu ball, go down eccentrically as if you're doing a regular pistol squat. Aim to go ass to grass.
Explode back up and repeat.
rest: 90-120 seconds
Pistol squats: get rid of the Bosu ball and perform the same exercise. You can use a stable surface for support if you feel like you want to increase your range of motion or place a slightly-elevated surface (barbell weights for instance) beneath your heel.
Eccentric single-leg deadlift: start this movement without any weight. When you're hinging forward and kicking your other leg backward, go down slow for 3 seconds and explode back up to a standing position, never bringing the leg that's off the floor down. You still want to work your stabilizers and both your legs individually.
Leg day exercise 5: Abductor/Adductor weighted squats
We've worked the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. It's time to focus on the small muscle groups that people tend to overlook: the Adductors and the Abductors.
This exercise still offers the benefits of squats, but we're adding a resistance band to the mix for the small muscle groups.
Attach a resistance band to the bottom portion of a pole or a similar structure. Slip the foot that's farthest away from the band inside of it. with appropriate weight in both hands, step the leg that's inside the band away, stretching the band in the process and perform a squat. On the last rep, perform an isometric hold on the leg that's inside the band. Keep it off the ground and feel the burn in your abductor's muscle.
To work the adductors, slip in the leg that's closest to the band, step your other leg away and perform a squat. As you come up from the squat, pull the banded leg to your other leg. On the last rep, perform an isometric hold on the leg that's inside the band. Keep it off the ground and feel the burn in your adductor muscle.
Reps: 8/8 (adductor and abductor for each leg = 16 squats)
Isometric hold: 10-20 sec
rest: 90-120 seconds
There are multiple variations to work the adductors and abductors effectively. Since we're exercising athletically, the variations should fall into athletic and functional everyday movements.
Standing abductor/adductor pulls with resistance band: we're taking the squats out of the equation. Also, if the band is too challenging, get rid of it or find one with lighter resistance.
Side lunge to leg lift: this shall work both muscles at the time while still getting the benefit of working your major leg muscles.
Leg day exercise 6: Single-leg weighted Calf Raises into single-leg hops
We're wrapping up leg day with the calves, superset style, to feel the metabolic pump.
On an elevated surface, perform a weighted single-leg calf raise. Once you're done with your reps, drop the weights and go straight into single-leg hops. Repeat on the other leg.
Reps: 10 reps followed by 20 seconds of hops.
rest: 60-90 seconds
bodyweight calve raises into single-leg hops: if your calves are burning after performing the calve raises, you might want to stretch your calves more often.
bodyweight calve raises into a jump rope: instead of working single-legged, work both legs at the same time until you feel comfortable with working each calf muscle at a time.
It is a crucial part of not only your recovery process but also in the increase of your range of motion, which would translate into enhanced strength.
Follow along with this stretch routine, each to be held for 20-30 sec:
standing knee pulls
standing quad stretch
wide-legged hamstring stretch
in the same stretch, rotate your spine towards your left side (left arm goes up in the air)
drop into a side lunge stretch on the left side
from the lunge position, rotate into a kneeling hip flexor stretch
Shift into a kneeling hamstring stretch
Drop into a pigeon stretch
repeat on the other side.
use a foam roller for your calves.
Congratulations, you've got jelly legs by the end of this workout, but I promise, it'll make you a better athlete.
What's your favorite exercise of the bunch? Comment below and make sure to share and subscribe for more entertaining and informative content.