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The Best Leg Exercises for Muscle Definition

author image Miguel Cavazos
Miguel Cavazos is a photographer and fitness trainer in Los Angeles who began writing in 2006. He has contributed health, fitness and nutrition articles to various online publications, previously editing stand-up comedy and writing script coverage as a celebrity assistant. Cavazos holds a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and political science from Texas Christian University.
The Best Leg Exercises for Muscle Definition
Man doing barbell squats Photo Credit Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

Your lower body contains the largest muscles in your body, and well-defined legs can substantially improve your physical appearance. Leg training is also a critical element of your overall physique, because legs provide a foundation for the rest of your body. The best leg exercises for muscle definition maximally activate the most prominent muscles in your legs. Start with lighter weights, and perform each exercise with strict form.


The quadriceps is a group of four muscles that forms the front of your thighs. Squats are the best exercise for overall quadriceps definition. Parallel squats are among the best exercises for targeting vastus lateralis definition. The vastus lateralis is the largest quadriceps muscle, which runs along the outside of your thighs. Full squats are also among the best for overall quad definition, particularly for targeting the vastus medialis, which makes up a majority of the your inner thigh muscle mass.


The hamstrings is a group of four muscles that forms the back of your thighs. Your hamstrings are primarily responsible for bending your knees, and extending or straightening your hip joints. Contracted-position hip hyperextension exercises are the best leg exercises for hamstring definition, according to electromyography tests, which measure the amount of electrical activity produced by contracting muscles. Contracted-position hip hyperextension exercises include back extensions, 45-degree hyperextensions, reverse hyperextensions and straight-leg bridges.


Your gluteus maximus is primarily responsible for extending your hips and moving your thighs out to the side when your hips are bent. The best leg exercises for lower gluteus maximus definition hyperextend your hips against an aposterior load, which imposes front-to-back resistance. Bent-leg hip hyperextension exercises further maximize gluteus maximus activation by minimizing the contribution from your hamstrings. Straight-leg aposterior hip hyperextension exercises include glute bridges, hip thrusts and single bent-leg reverse hyperextensions. The best leg exercises for upper gluteus maximus definition are seated hip abductions, which require a hip abduction machine that applies resistance as you spread your legs and move your thighs out to the sides.


The gastrocnemius is the most prominent lower leg muscle. Plantar flexion ankle movements activate your gastrocnemius. Plantar flexion involves pointing your toes away from your body, and flexing your calf muscles. Heavy lever calf raises that quickly exhaust your calves are among the best exercises for building gastrocnemius definition, according to electromyography analysis. However, a combination of heavy low-repetition and light high-repetition training might maximize your calf definition, depending on your genetic predisposition for calf development.

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