When the famous model Twiggy was walking the runways of Europe and the U.S. in the 1960s, stick-thin legs were all the rage. Today, though, an athletic physique—complete with well-developed leg—is a sought-after look. But how to get that physique?
Building leg muscle will help "thicken" your legs, while giving them a toned and defined appearance. Exercises that target the hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles will thicken your legs in all the right places.
Squat It if You Got it
Squats are the go-to exercise for building muscle in the legs, targeting the hamstring, quads, calves and glutes. There are myriad ways to do squats -- including both with and without weight -- but the basic technique is the same. Practice the technique before you add weight to prevent injury.
Lunge for Great Legs
Lunges work every muscle in the lower body. You can do them stationary, stepping one foot out and then back; walking; or to the side to get a complete lower-body workout. As with squats, master the technique first before adding weight.
Step Up Your Leg Game
With a move as simple as stepping up onto a bench, you can develop your glutes, hamstrings and quads. Lifting your own bodyweight up on one leg is no easy feat, but once you master the form and build some strength, you can add weight to really thicken your leg muscles.
Swiss Ball Hamstring Curls
By now, your whole legs have gotten a tough workout. However, your hamstrings might need a little more specific toning. You can do hamstring curls on a machine, or grab a Swiss ball and do these curls on a mat at the gym or at home. These are typically done without adding weight.
Tips for Building Great Legs
How much weight you should lift and how many reps per set you should do depends on how much muscle you want to build. Lower weight and higher reps builds smaller muscles that give a more toned look. Heavy weights lifted for fewer reps causes muscles to grow larger -- sometimes significantly. Your body type and whether you put on muscle easily also plays a role in how much muscle you'll build with either strategy.
You can get toned, athletic-looking legs just using your body weight, as long as you do enough repetitions to really "feel the burn" by the end of your set. If you're using your body weight only, work up to sets of 10 to 20 reps.
If you want to build very thick muscles in your legs, you'll need to add some weight and do lower repetitions per set. Start out gradually, and add weight so that you're doing 3 to 8 reps per set and really feeling challenged on that last rep.